Like the European left, the American left is obsessed with social engineering. The chief difference is that the American left couches its attempts to use government power to enforce social ideals in moralistic terms. This secularization of New England Puritanism gives many movements of the left an evangelical tone that call to mind Fundamentalist Christian revivals. Like Fundamentalist Christians, many leftists prefer emotional screeds to rational argumentation and will not listen to any evidence contrary to their position. An example of this is the issue of school busing that has recently become an issue in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The use of school busing to promote “racial balance” is clearly one of the failed experiments of the American left. I am from Rutherford County, Tennessee, just to the south of Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County. When busing was introduced into Davidson County Schools in 1970, many children, even small children, had to get up at four a.m. in order to be bussed across town. Many white families fled to adjoining counties such as Rutherford or Williamson. Private schools sprang up like wheat as wealthier families rushed to pull their children out of the public school system. Over the years, Davidson County Schools became re-segregated, and this scenario has repeated itself in other places where school busing has been tried—in some cases children were bused across county and school district lines. None of these decisions to bus children had popular support; rather, they were imposed by the federal judiciary, which in effect acted as a dictatorship to force a reorganization of society according to its will. The attempt failed, just as earlier attempts to force racial segregation failed.
What the left fails to understand is the organic nature of human communities. Normally a community is born when individuals voluntarily settle into an area. Over the years the community changes as people are born, die, move, and others move in. Overly rapid change tends to disrupt community harmony—arguably, the extreme mobility of American society is not good for stable communities. Although a community is more than the sum of the individuals that make it up, and the traditions a community develops over time help hold it together (as traditional conservatives recognize), the decision to join a community is ultimately a free and voluntary choice (as libertarians recognize). To interfere with such choice by forced resettlement (as the Soviet Union tried, especially under Stalin) or by forced busing, upsets the order of the community and can only lead to conflict or the ultimate destruction of the community.
I was blessed to have gone through the Smyrna, Tennessee school system for twelve years. There are high school classmates I knew all those twelve years. For a child, such stability is important, as is seeing familiar sites on the ride to and from school every day. This is true for children of all races. Neighborhood schools promote a sense of community, and left-wing attempts to destroy neighborhood schools in the name of some abstraction such as “racial balance” is bad for children from every race and cultural background.
The voters of Raleigh recognized this when they voted in a school board that supports neighborhood schools. But the Fundamentalist Left, led by the NAACP, has led an emotional protest claiming that the plan promoting neighborhood schools is “immoral” and “evil.” These leftists support school busing to promote “racial balance.” They have not learned from the failures of school busing and other attempts at social engineering from the past. They are like Christian Fundamentalists, who, confronted with scientific evidence for biological evolution, state that that evidence must be invalid because evolution is evil. Both leftist social reformers and Christian Fundamentalists can only resort to angry, emotional appeals rather than putting their ideas to the bar of reason and experience. Such appeals are really attempts to intimidate. The predominately leftist news media publicizes the protests of a few hundred people and ignores the will of the vast majority of the voters of Raleigh. Those who support neighborhood schools should not reply in kind, but continue to appeal to reason and experience. But they should be willing to speak up and not allow intimidation tactics by the left to silence their voices.