cover image The Other Boston Busing Story: Whats Won and Lost Across the Boundary Line

The Other Boston Busing Story: Whats Won and Lost Across the Boundary Line

Susan E. Eaton. Yale University Press, $17 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-300-08765-9

In 1966, the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity in Boston bused 220 inner-city Boston black children to schools in seven largely white suburban areas. By 2000, METCO was busing 3,100 kids to 32 suburbs. The program's endurance and expansion over 30 turbulent years of race politics is reason enough to make it the focus of detailed analysis. Eaton, a civil rights researcher at Harvard and coauthor of Dismantling Desegregation, chose to study METCO by interviewing former students whose firsthand memories break up Eaton's sometimes tedious sociological prose and give more depth to the analysis. One former student, Sandra, wonders aloud if she'd really gotten a better education in the suburbs, concluding, ""other people think I did and that matters."" We hear Marie's amazement that white suburbanites thought of her as a ""poor little black girl"" when her family was actually quite wealthy. Just because you're black, Marie says, ""you are assumed to be poor and deprived and low-class and so sort of backward."" While there were dissenters, METCO parents generally found busing to be a practical way to get their kids a good education and learn how to cross racial borders. In the end, METCO remains one of the few viable models for voluntary school desegregation. By detailing everything from her method of selecting participants to how she recorded interviews even including a copy of the interview protocol Eaton is bidding for serious attention from the social science community. Still, general readers who are seriously interested in race relations or education reform will want to read this book. (Apr.)