A federal judge recently found the principal of a North Dallas elementary school guilty of 1940s-style racial and ethnic segregation. In a civil suit, Judge Sam Lindsay ruled that Preston Hollow Principal Teresa Parker had systematically herded black and Latino kids into segregated classrooms to appease affluent white parents. At last, Scott Parks has a smart column about the Preston Hollow Elementary School case in today's Dallas Morning News.
Unlike much of the News' generally timmy-timmy-timid coverage of this devastating court case, Parks' column goes into detail on the vicious effects this segregation had on children of color. It's exactly what does not come across from the self-righteous Letters to the Editor sent by embarrassed white parents in Preston Hollow. How hard would it be for them to put the shoe on the other foot? How they would feel if the school put all the blue-eyed, white-skinned kids in some kind of short-bus slow class?
Just last night I read a great piece by Paul Tough in The New York Times Magazine about what has been learned on closing the learning gap. In some schools, notably the KIPP schools that started in Houston and expanded to New York, the lesson is that poor kids can be brought to levels of achievement that are even ahead of rich white kids, on average, but it takes more of everything to do it--longer days, more teaching, more tutoring, more mentoring.
If there's a bone for me to pick in Parks' piece (you knew I'd find one) it's this statement: "Like many affluent families in North Dallas and Lakewood, Preston Hollow neighborhood parents had two choices. They could send their kids to private schools and get nothing in return for huge property tax payments to DISD. Or they could arrange things at the neighborhood elementary school so they might feel comfortable sending their kids there."
What the NYT magazine piece conveys is that there is a third very important choice: Send your kids to the public school, and then push and lobby for the district to make the school better than the private schools, especially for the poor kids. They'll catch up, and together with your own kids they will all excel. It can be done.
But if your way of making your own kids "comfortable" is to write off the potential of the poor kids to achieve excellence, then I'm afraid the word "racist" fits you like a glove.
When my son went through Woodrow Wilson High School, we saw what a fine line must be walked at these hold-out schools that still have white presences. White people, after all, come in all kinds. The ones who believe their kids get a positive benefit out of being at a public school seem to be less selfish. But watch out for the ones who think they're doing everybody a favor by sending their kids to public school!
I know some great folks who have sent kids to Preston Hollow, and then I know about John Scovell, the Ray Hunt acolyte who has always has a heavy hand in the affairs of a handful of public schools in white North Dallas.
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Anyway, Park's piece is a good read on this topic. And if you insist on finding it through the News' own Web page, here's how. (Really, just Google "Scott Parks Dallas News Preston Hollow." Much easier.) Get all of your dirty laundry. Go to Dallasnews.com. While waiting for the home page to load, sort your laundry.
Once you have the page, look below the weather. Now look beneath the main story. Now look beneath the first index to stories. Now look beneath the second index. Now look beneath the third index. Now look in the "Education" index. Click on "Education Notes."
Now do your laundry. O.K., that wasn't it. Wrong page. Click on "Back." Now wash your car. Now click on "Scott Parks" where it says "more." Now go back to school and get an advanced degree.
Now go to Google like I told you. Didn't I tell you? --Jim Schutze