Monsters

Confessions of a white middle-class parent

OK, I'll tell you a little tiny bit about the squeaky-wheel thing, but this is not going to be a full confession. Woodrow is like any other school with limited resources. Certain activities are going to be totally taken over by the children of obnoxious, overbearing, ruthlessly self-seeking squeaky-wheel parents if you don't get in there yourself and be obnoxious, overbearing, ruthless, self-seeking and squeaky.

But see, you'redoing it for your baby. Those other horrible people are doing it for, just, well, you know. Theirbabies.

One day you look in the mirror, and you think, "Oh, my God, I've become a monster." Then you give yourself a big thumbs up and get to work making sure your kid is included in the French trip.

Mike Moses' attitude toward white middle-class DISD families: Gringos go home.
Mike Moses' attitude toward white middle-class DISD families: Gringos go home.

I got the impression, in my few one-on-one conversations with Dr. Moses, that he was by no means warmly disposed toward the tiny minority of white middle-class parents who stubbornly remained in his school system. He spoke with disdain about white people whose attitude is that they have stayed in DISD when they could afford to go elsewhere, and therefore they think the school district owes them something.

Oh, I know, I know. White people are so embarrassing sometimes. But here's the thing. If we have to wait for all white people to be smart and politically cool, that's going to take way, way, way too long.

Meanwhile, I sometimes think that when white middle-class people are being obnoxious, other people should take out pens and pads and begin taking notes. There are some advantages to this obnoxious thing.

Jesse Diaz, the Latino activist, told me once that he and his cohort were aware that whites and even middle-class minorities were attempting to take over the PTAs in certain schools in order to win advantages for their own children.

Yup. That's how it's done.

There is always going to be something starkly unromantic about the middle class. Always worrying and grabbing. Never truly insouciant, like Ben Affleck. They have no Palm Springs élan, nor do they have the Steinbeckian glory of the poor and dispossessed.

But pushy middle-class people also happen to be the people who get the garbage picked up on time. You can't get the garbage picked up from Palm Springs.

Mike Moses may resent them for giving him a hot-foot once in a while, as in the recent battles over teacher transfers at Pershing Elementary School. But educrats don't produce good schools. The New York Daily News was exactly right. Our school headquarters at 3700 Ross, like the Tweed Courthouse in New York, has been full to brimming with professional educators for decades. What have they accomplished? The test scores in Dallas are dismal.

I have come to believe that there is an unspoken psychological and moral deal in Dallas. The public schools have been deeded by default to poor minorities.

When the business community wants to help, its mission is missionary and vocational. The professional educators like Moses are comfortable working on achievement at the low end because that's where they own all the expertise, as opposed to the high end, where it's all about parents ragging on them.

So there we have it. What on earth are these dumb white people doing sticking around? Are they like those Japanese soldiers who were still holding out on atolls in the Pacific 10 years after the end of World War II? Did somebody forget to give them a ride home?

Maybe it just reflects the city. The middle class in Dallas is not exactly thriving. According to the most recent available census data, households in Dallas earning between $35,000 and $100,000 make up less than half of the city's population. Perhaps more to the point, our middle-class families represent a smaller portion of the total than the middle-class families in Detroit--about 37 percent here to just less than 40 percent there. So is the deal not only that the middle class does not belong in the Dallas public school system but really doesn't belong in Dallas?

We better hope not. The one way to make sure that doesn't happen is to get them back into the schools.

Woodrow was great for our kid. He had wonderful teachers there and a very strong principal who ran a tight ship. He got a good education, got into a great university with good placement in his freshman courses.

And now we, his parents, are obnoxious. Obnoxious and proud. (This article appears while our son is out of town for the week.)

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