Careless Wish

When Lee Jackson interviewed for the job of Dallas schools superintendent two weeks ago, minority advocates picketed, angrily blasting the board's consideration of the Dallas County commissioner and former state lawmaker.

Jackson apparently lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. Something just wasn't right about the Dallas County judge, something we can't put our finger on...What could it be?

Oh, screw it. You know it. Buzz knows it. Jackson's not black, and he's not Hispanic. He's white. White, white, white, white, white. And a Republican to boot.

Of course, referring to anyone by his or her race is rude, so while it's no secret that black and Hispanic community leaders wanted a superintendent who looks a bit more like them, they couldn't just say that outright. Rather, they couched their wish in racial code by demanding an "educator" rather than a voguish nontraditional candidate like Jackson without experience running schools.

"No educator, no peace," read one placard that greeted Jackson on the way to his interview at 3700 Ross. Of course, DISD's previous two chiefs, Yvonne Gonzalez and Waldemar Rojas, were experienced educators, and no one is likely to describe their tenures as peaceful, but never mind that. The protest surely made an impact: Trustees voted 6-3 on September 28 against hiring Jackson. Now, the school board is primed to give minority advocates exactly what they asked for--just not what they want.

Currently under the DISD microscope is Mike Moses, former Texas Education Agency commissioner. He is an educator's educator, having served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent across Texas before Gov. George W. Bush appointed him to head the TEA in 1995. In other words, he has enough experience to know better, but he still has a shot at the job.

Bush has made Texas' improving education record a major focus of his presidential campaign, further buffing the luster of Moses, who stepped down last year to take a job with the Texas Tech system in Lubbock. But there's no getting around it: Moses isn't black, and he isn't Hispanic. He's...well, you know, that other thing.

And the minority community is stuck.

"We may have painted ourselves into a corner," says Lee Alcorn, former president of the Dallas NAACP, who now heads the Coalition for the Advancement of Civil Rights. "We were so strong with the educator thing, it really wouldn't look that well to say, 'We wanted an educator, but we really want a black educator.'"

Alcorn is critical of Moses for reasons other than race: He blasts Moses' ties to the GOP. "Republicans in general haven't shown an interest in educating children from an ethnic background," he says.

Nonetheless, he predicts the board of trustees will move quickly to hire Moses. To him, that's still better than the alternative. "If it's a choice between Mike Moses and Lee Jackson, I would take Mike Moses in a heartbeat," Alcorn says.

So sorry: Buzz would like to offer a sincere apology to the staff of WFAA-Channel 8 for referring to them as whores in a piece we wrote two weeks ago about the rollout of the CueCat, a device intended to make Web surfing easier.

It turns out that members of WFAA's news team are not, in fact, whores. They are merely sluts. For a true example of unalloyed, hey-sailor-come-get-it, strap-a-board-to-your-butt-so-you-don't-fall-in whorishness, we must turn to the pages of the Morning News. The newspaper's breathless, voluminous coverage of the CueCat made WFAA's three consecutive nights of reporting look chaste in comparison. The newspaper devoted the cover of last week's Personal Technology section and this Sunday's front-page lead story to the device, which, as far as technological advances go, rates somewhere up there with penicillin, to judge by the Morning News and WFAA.

In case you didn't read deeply into the newspaper's stories, Belo Corp., owner of the Morning News and WFAA, has invested nearly $40 million in DigitalConvergence, the makers of the CueCat. The device connects to personal computers. With it, users can scan bar codes embedded in stories to call up Web pages with more information about whatever it is they are reading in the paper. (You can also scan product bar codes to go to company Web sites.) Connect your television to your computer, and audio signals in WFAA broadcasts can automatically take you to Web sites as well.

Also buried deeply in the Morning News story on Sunday were reports that some privacy watchdogs are concerned that the CueCat will allow DigitalConvergence to keep track of what you are scanning. Critics complain that each scan sends a unique identification number back to DigitalConvergence.

Doug Davis, chief technology officer for the company, says that number is merely used to collect general demographic data on who's scanning what, but using it to identify any individual is virtually impossible.

Buzz finds that reassuring. We'd hate to think anyone out there might know that we're so geeky we'd even use a CueCat, let alone use it to scan the bar code on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to look for new recipes.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams