By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
School for scandal
As a guest-substitute language-arts and college-prep teacher at Townview Magnet Center ["The truth about Townview," March 14] for an extended assignment shortly after the school opened last September, I got a bird's-eye view of the excitement, concerns, and challenges the students and teachers experienced as they embarked on a brand-new year at a very special school.
My students were candid about their opinions as they wrote of their likes and dislikes about their new school for a language-arts composition assignment. They were apparently just beginning to notice the problems that were soon to erupt into front-page headlines as the wonderful Talented and Gifted (TAG) School attempted to blend with the other five mainstream magnet schools contained at Townview, but as a teacher, I noticed right away.
In one of my PSAT elective classes (where students study how to do well on college entrance exams), only one student passed a difficult vocabulary test: She quickly completed the test and made a 100 while all the other students failed the test after struggling on it most of the period. It was an awkward moment for her and everyone in the class--even me--when the grades were revealed. The other students seemed amazed and confused at the exam's outcome.
Encouraging and nurturing excellence is unrelated to race; academic success comes in every color and is largely dependent on many factors, including parental inspiration, exemplary study habits, and a thirst for learning.
Without an environment that challenges the excellence that distinguishes the academically accomplished student, these brilliant but angry minds can often be seen to languish and ultimately deteriorate into apathetic young men and women who drift and then are lost forever. The fact that minority students--African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-Oriental--constitute the majority of the TAG school students at Townview is proof positive that the protests that disrupted this educational facility have been self-serving and agenda-driven.
Though no one should doubt John Wiley Price's dedication to his perceived goals, neither he, nor former Townview principal Ora Lee Watson, nor any other one person or interest group should be allowed to obliterate the only DISD high school rated exemplary by the Texas Education Agency: a jewel to be polished, not crushed.
The Observer's article on Townview's problem was a thorough and, from what I observed, accurate analysis of the dilemma facing Townview. Acknowledging the simple but inescapable fact that some students are considerably more academically accomplished than others--for whatever reasons--is a reality no amount of protesting, rationalizing, or ignoring will change.
I am simply appalled over Laura Miller's overtly biased report on the Townview magnet-school situation. She presented the usual banal, white-supremacy propagandist point of view in which the whites are magnanimous saints and the blacks are bombastic villains.
The Dallas Observer and Laura Miller have lost both respect and credibility with me. This invidiously contrived report is a poor example of fair and objective journalism. The real truth about Townview is yet to be told.
I graduated from TAG in 1989. When I went on to SMU, I was better prepared academically than many students, even those from prestigious private schools. But beyond that, I was prepared for life. At SMU I fought racial injustice by protesting the Confederate flag's use by one of the fraternities there, I majored in African-American Studies and minored in Asian Studies, and I am a proud member of an African-American sorority. I am also white. Does it sound like TAG created a racist out of me?
While I was at TAG, Ms. Feibelman was a history teacher. She was a "throw away the textbook" kind of teacher who taught us that the people making history are not always the ones writing it. She encouraged cultural exploration and taught everyone to be proud of their roots. Does this sound like an elitist teacher?
TAG students and parents do not suggest they are better than others. They simply demand that their special needs and talents be met. Is this any different from students at the Arts Magnet? Would John Wiley Price suggest that the brilliant jazz students there be required to sit in classes with students who were not on their level? Would that create a better environment for either group?
I grew up in Dallas watching Mr. Price and his flock of followers stick their opportunistic feet in their mouths all the time. I never did anything, though, and now TAG and its students are paying the price. I did not fight stupidity head-on, and now it has grown and festered into a disease that threatens something I cherish. You can bet I will not let it happen anymore, even if I have to do it from afar.