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Mayor Rawlings, If You Want Better Schools, Why Not Ask a Mexican?

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Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is allowed to ramble on at some length about public schools in a blog piece by Robert Wilonsky on today's Dallas Morning News web page. It's a Q&A. Rawlings comes across, as usual, as a smart decent man who cares.

But is he the right smart decent man who cares? And what does he care about? That's what I always wonder when I see this stuff.

In the piece Rawlings makes reference to a long litany of help-the-schools groups over time. The hot one now is something called Commit! That's their name. Commit! Something to do with the Chamber of Commerce. Makes me want to form a group called No! You Commit!

Smart aleck, right? Not helpful? Right. OK, here is all I have to say. We've got all these groups calling for more accountability and more collaboration and more leadership, stuff like that. Not to paint too broadly or anything, but I think we can summarize that as things white people like. If I were to come up with a name for that, I would call it, "Ask a White Person."

Last time I looked, the student body of DISD was 87.1 percent poor and 68.2 percent Hispanic. In Dallas that means Mexican-American. So it seems like we should have some big help-the-schools group called, "Ask a Mexican."

Just saying. Isn't that the shortest route to creating a school system that the populace will trust? What kind of stuff in a school system would make poor and working class people of Mexican heritage really buy in?

Hey, I'm not writing off the rest of the student body, which is 25 percent black. Ask a Black Person! As the proud parent of a DISD graduate, I'm not even writing off my own ethnic group. Ask A Pushy Weird White Person Who Didn't Move to Plano Like He Was Supposed To! We make up 4.6 percent. I like us the best, because ... you know ... we're just us!

I'm semi-serious here. Why don't I see an enormous outreach and commitment to finding out what the core constituency wants out of the school system? I think we all know the Chamber of Commerce is not the core constituency.

The thing white people always say is, "You know, those Mexican parents just won't get involved in American public schools." Kind of like: So screw them. Well, let me ask you a question. Frito-Lay didn't say, "Those Mexican people won't get involved in potato chips, so screw them." They found out that they would pay for tortilla chips, so they made tortilla chips.

Isn't that what we want to do with the schools? In order to make public school successful, don't we have to market them to their target demographic?

I don't know what would appeal. You get a lot of answers. Try asking a determined upwardly mobile immigrant family about English as second language. It's like, "First year here from Mexico, yes, second year, no."

That's why you have to ask.

I'm not tearing down Rawlings. I'm just saying ask a Mexican. Is that so hard?

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