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Dealing With Desegregation:Three Studies

Three current books from university presses examine school-desegregation and busing debates of the past decade.

Paul R. Dimond, a civil-rights lawyer, gives an inside account of school suits in Columbus, Dayton, Detroit, and Wilmington. Two political scientists, Richard A. Pride and J. David Woodard, look at the attitudes of blacks and whites toward busing in Nashville. Daniel J. Monti offers a sociologist's analysis of desegregation in St. Louis.

The following excerpts provide a sampling of the authors' views.

Avoiding the 'Fundamental Dilemma'

"In opposing busing without providing any alternatives and obscuring the discriminatory underpinnings of segregation in America, the Justice [Lewis F.] Powells of the [Supreme] Court and the country seek to allow the American people to avoid the fundamental dilemma posed by pervasive racial segregation in metropolitan America. Until that condition is directly faced, the hard lessons of the segregation cases of the 1970's will have yet to be learned. Over time, desegregation of compulsory systems of public schooling may, or may not, prove a part of an overall remedy. The efficacy of such 'forced busing,' however, has never been the important issue."

From Beyond Busing: Inside the Challenge to Urban Segregation, by Paul R. Dimond (University of Michigan Press, P.O. Box 1104, 839 Greene St., Ann Arbor, Mich. 48106; 411 pp., $29.95 cloth).

'Subcultures and Symbols'

"When aspects of the busing plan were being reconsidered by the Metro School Board in 1979 and by the district court in 1980, race relations seemed at a low ebb, not among children but among adults. Conflict centered more often on subcul,9ltures and their symbols than on strictly educational services. School closures, especially the fate of Pearl High School, dominated the agenda, not because of the educational services the affected schools did or did not offer, but because of their symbolic importance to both the black and white communities. Both blacks and whites came increasingly to fight for racially homogeneous schools."

From The Burden of Busing: The Politics of Desegregation in Nashville, Tennessee, by Richard A. Pride and J. David Woodard (University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tenn. 37996-0325; 302 pp., $24.95 cloth).

'Stylized Displays of Conflict'

"Reforms like desegregation ... soften the effects of annoying problems in our social order without undermining the authority and legitimacy of important institutions. ... School desegregation, in terms of its modest accomplishments and provocative nature, is reminiscent of 'ritualized rebellions' in primitive societies. These stylized displays of community conflict appear to turn the 'natural order of things' upside down. ... After a while, however, things return to their normal state. Members of the community have expressed their recognition of inequality while ensuring that customary economic and political routines are allowed to continue."

From A Semblance of Justice: St. Louis School Desegregation and Order in Urban America, by Daniel J. Monti (University of Missouri Press, P.O. Box 7088, Columbia, Mo. 65205-7088; 221 pp., $24 cloth).

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