TODAY'S LESSON IN HOW to get ridiculous about racial integration comes from New York City, where the Board of Education is said to be "seriously considering" assigning all new or rehired teachers on the basis of where they live. That doesn't seem terribly unreasonable, you say, but -- get this -- the proposal is to send teachers with addresses in predominantly white neighborhoods to schools in minority areas and those with addresses in largely minority neighborhoods to schools in white areas. Even before contemplating the ludicrous possibilities of this proposal, however, we should note that officials there consider this hare-brained scheme an improvement over the last plan that the New York City board considered. What this tells you is not a great deal, though -- for the original proposal had white teachers choosing their schools from one box of assignments and black and Hispanic teachers picking from another box (and who knows what they did about drinking fountains).
That divide-and-assign plan grew out of negotiations last year between the school board and the Federal Office for Civil Rights: The board agreed to increase te number of minority teachers and to spread them evenly throughout the city's 1,000 schools by 1980. A Federal District Court judge declared the plan invalid on procedural grounds -- no public hearings had been held -- and soon afterward the board stopped assigning by race. But since then a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that public hearings weren't necessary and the case is now back before the lower court.
Quite apart from the total wrongness of that first plan, the latest scheme is a beaut: areas in the city's five boroughs -- as well as certain suburban sections in Westchester County and New Jersey -- would be classified by their racial patterns. Then, the address of each teacher candidate would be checked out to make the assignment. We haven't found out yet, but presumably a teacher found to be living in a well-mixed neighborhood would either move or split the work week between two schools. And if a neighorhood's complexion shifts, we assume that so will the teacher's job.
However beneficial it may be for students to have teachers of different races and ethnic backgrounds, this is absurd. Next, some agency will decide that the real problem is "socio-economic isolation" or some-such -- and teachers will be assigned on the basis of average personal incomes of their neighborhoods, as divided by the number of people over 65 who have graduated from the school in question since the last census. Why not just teach the kids -- and find the best, most dedicated people possible to do it?