He was a friend. He gave me great advice: join Junior Achievement. JA trains teenagers in the basics of starting a business. I declined. Now, 60 years later, I teach high schoolers how to start businesses. Strange.
There was only one Asian on campus: Lily Sunada. I never knew her. I don't recall ever seeing her.
We were in Manhattan Beach, a middle-class suburb two small towns south of the Los Angeles city line. I could walk to the L.A. airport . . . or walk home at 10 p.m. if I missed the bus, which I did once.
I knew that there was a high school in Los Angeles that was mostly Jewish: Fairfax High. It closed on Yom Kippur. It was not known for being good at any sports. It was known for its academics.
At Boys State, the American Legion summer program in politics -- Bill Clinton is its most famous alumnus -- I met Joel Gora. He was at Fairfax. He had just been elected Lord High Commissioner. The gentiles had student body presidents. Not Fairfax. Lord High Commissioner sounded really important. I was impressed. That was in 1958.
Two decades later, the Jews were no longer at Fairfax. They were in private schools.
Forced integration happened. Busing happened.
I read an article on this by Steve Sailer. I never knew about it. I left California in 1975. I had never lived in Los Angeles.
It should come as no surprise that hard-core liberal Jews were behind the integration, and run-of-the-mill Democrat Jews fought it.
Very quietly, whites left the schools. Jews were among the defectors.
Back then, Catholics tended to go to Catholic schools, and Protestants lived in independent school districts like Pasadena, San Marino, and Orange County.
Moreover, San Fernando Valley Jews were highly enthusiastic about public schooling. One of my older memories is hearing from my Jewish teammates on my baseball team at the local park that Catholic schools were kind of un-American. Jews went to public schools to demonstrate their commitment to civic Americanism.
But then, very quickly, they stopped.
Yet that massive historical example that happened 38 years ago at the heart of the world capital of the entertainment industry has largely been lost in the mists of time.
Sailer posted a link to an article on a Jewish Website (http://www.jewishjournal.com/cover_story/article/a_brief_history_of_jews_in_public_schools_20091130). This is an article for Evernote. Save it.
The Jewish exodus from LAUSD [Los Angeles Unified School District] reached its peak during the desegregation movement of the 1970s. After the ACLU filed a lawsuit in 1963 to end segregation in L.A. schools, the LAUSD board created voluntary integration programs, introducing magnet schools and giving district schools the option of busing students from lower-performing facilities to higher performing schools. In 1976, the California Supreme Court charged state school districts with enforcing integration. In response, two years later the L.A. school board began a sweeping mandatory busing program that would reassign more than 60,000 students, transferring minority children from downtown and South L.A. to predominantly white schools in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, and vice versa.
Students often were bused up to an hour away from where they lived, and the move caused a public outcry among both whites and minorities over what many parents saw as "the end of neighborhood schools," according to former LAUSD school board member David Tokofsky. Racist and classist prejudices also turned some white families away.
In the first year of forced busing, the district lost 25,000 white students, recalled Shel Erlich, the former longtime head of the LAUSD communications office. In the second year, an additional 17,000 left. In 1981, after only three years, California residents voted down all mandatory busing programs and the plan in Los Angeles was suspended.
But the damage had been done -- in the late 1970s, Erlich said, the district was about 30 percent white; now, that number hovers below nine percent.
"[Busing] drove a huge number of Jews from the public schools," said local author and Jewish Journal columnist Bill Boyarsky. "Parents were not comfortable sending their children to a school where their kid might be the only white person in the class."
Jewish leaders had taken both sides of the busing debate. Educator Jackie Goldberg, who would later win seats on the Los Angeles City Council and the California State Assembly, headed the controversial Integration Project in the late 1970s that pushed for mandatory busing. Activist and later U.S. Congresswoman Bobbi Fiedler, on the other hand, led the vocal Bustop movement in the Valley that fiercely opposed busing and challenged the program in court.
This was one more liberal experiment that failed. In the name of racial integration, it produced academic segregation. It was NIMBY in action: "Not in my back yard." The non-whites got the school buildings, and the whites got out.
By the time the busing period ended, school overcrowding and sinking test scores were rising issues in the public school sphere, and most white and Jewish families didn't return to the system, historians say. Private schools flourished; Jewish day schools proliferated in the 1970s and 80s.
Falling test scores. Why? Because the highest achievers left, and the low achievers remained. Surprise, surprise!
It was all done quietly. There were no cries of "racial bigots are leaving!" It's not wise to call Jews racial bigots. There will be negative repercussions. So, everyone agreed to avoid talking about what was obviously happening. "Don't ask. Don't tell."
I have never seen anything written about this until now, a generation later.
What is the lesson? If liberal Jews refuse to sacrifice their kids to the integrated public schools in Los Angeles, the way that liberal Democrats in Congress refuse to send their kids to Washington's integrated public schools, there cannot be integration. Talk is cheap. Private schools are expensive. "Segregation lives!" No KKK. No burning crosses. Just silent re-segregation.
"Your kids have to go to school with their kids."
"No, they don't." Not in Los Angeles, and not in Mississippi.
This is why the Khan Academy offers hope to self-disciplined kids in ghetto schools. They can get a good teacher into their lives. They can get a structured program that is not geared to the lowest common denominator, after the previous lowest dropped out in 9th grade.
I found out something interesting last week. There are school districts whose Wi-Fi blocks out YouTube videos. This blocks out the Khan Academy.
Fairfax High was no threat to Los Angeles in 1978. It was destroyed by ideology. The public fought back in the courts. Too late.
The public schools are doomed in the large cities. They are dying. Their graduates are stigmatized. Yet the public schools have been America's only established church ever since the 1830's. The faith that supported them is fading. It cannot withstand the implications of its own creed: neutral education for all.
It isn't neutral, and it isn't free.
Khan Academy isn't neutral, either, but it is free.