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Why Busing Didn’t End School Segregation

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Oak Hill Middle School students say goodbye to METCO students heading back to Boston on the bus.

Kieran Kesner for NPR

America’s desegregation era is long gone, but one voluntary school busing program in Boston has persisted for nearly 50 years.

The program is known as METCO — the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity — and buses students of color from the city into more affluent, mostly white suburbs for school.

I know the program because I did it in the ’80s — traveling nearly an hour back and forth between home and school every day. I recently returned to Boston to check in on the program and traveled on that same route with Bryan Bailey, a 13-year-old who goes to school in Newton, Mass.

Bryan is one of nearly 3,300 students this year that participate in the state-funded, 18 million dollar program that pays out roughly 5,000 dollars per kid to the suburban towns that take part.

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Education and Brown M&Ms

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You have heard the jokes about the “Red M&Ms” when referring to people with outrageous demands or acting like divas.  This story had been so convoluted, that many people (including myself) had thought that at some point, a rock band, had asked for only red M&Ms, but in fact, this story was wrong.  Listening to a podcast this morning, they had mentioned that the band Van Halen had actually requested in their contracts that all of the Brown M&Ms be removed from the bowl, but according to them, there was a hidden reason behind this (From

Buried amongst dozens of points in Van Halen’s rider was an odd stipulation that there were to be no brown M&M’s candies in the backstage area. If any brown M&M’s were found backstage, the band could cancel the entire concert at the full expense of the promoter. That meant that because of a single candy, a promoter could lose millions…

To ensure the promoter had read every single word in the contract, the band created the “no brown M&M’s” clause. It was a canary in a coalmine to indicate that the promoter may have not paid attention to other more important parts of the rider, and that there could be other bigger problems at hand.

Whenever the band found brown M&M’s candies backstage, they immediately did a complete line check, inspecting every aspect of the sound, lighting and stage setup to make sure it was perfect. David Lee Roth would also trash the band’s dressing room to prove a point — reinforcing his reputation in the process.

Van Halen created a seemingly silly clause to make sure that every little detail was taken care of. It was important, both for the experience of the fans and the safety of the band, to make sure that no little problems created bigger issues.

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