Why Rod Dreher Really Isn't Wild About the Woodrow Wildcats

My last few dog-walking tours over the weekend have revealed to me that Rod Dreher, editorial writer at The Dallas Morning News, is the New Great Satan of Old East Dallas and Lakewood. I think I’m jealous.

Lord. I had people coming off their porches at me to complain about him, waving rolled-up Points sections from their Sunday papers. Dreher had an op-ed piece in the paper yesterday about a campaign to get parents in Ancient East Dallas and Lakewood to put their kids in Woodrow Wilson High School, a public school.

He pointed out that the campaign is aimed at white people, which it is, and then he went on to describe Woodrow as two schools: a white one and a minority one, which it is. In fact, I was all with him for the first half of his piece. But Dreher then veered off into a take that I can only describe as painfully convoluted and racially neurotic.

He seemed to be painting a picture of the white people who send their kids to Woodrow as somehow racist, because their kids are mainly in the advanced placement classes and the kids of color are mainly not. Then he twists off again into a thing about how the white families at Woodrow seem to think white folks like Dreher are chicken-shits. He quotes the Woodrow principal as saying, "Parents choose private schools out of fear."

And then ... I guess … look, his piece is very difficult to follow because, like a lot of what he writes, it doesn’t have a consistent logical thread. But he seems to be saying that Woodrow parents aren’t so great, either, because Woodrow is internally segregated.

At this point in any discussion of Woodrow I need to make full disclosure of a potential conflict of interest in my personal situation: I personally think Dreher is an idiot.

But let me say this about that. The Woodrow-Lakewood parents are an odd interesting mixed bag. Some of them are very progressive: Woodrow has the wonderful Ballet Folklorico program in part because white Lakewood parents pushed for it, knowing that the school’s extracurricular programs could not and should not go on being all-white.

But lots of Lakewooders are less than progressive about it too. They’ve been going to the school for generations. I don’t think some of them are especially liberal. It’s more like, “By God, that’s our school, and if they want to take it away from us, they’ll have to pry this moldy Wildcats banner out of our cold dead heads.”

Frankly, in the long run, in terms of who will stay the course in the long battle for diversity and progress, I’m gonna bet on those clammy-handed Bobcat dead-enders every time.

So what does this all come down to? Easy. I can tell you. Woodrow is 18 percent white. It’s 12 percent black kids, some from newer apartment complexes in East Dallas, some from the very toughest stuff in South Dallas down where Dolphin Road becomes Hatcher Street. And it’s 68 percent Mexican kids, many of whom are recent immigrants within the last few years from Guanajuato and other central Mexican states.

There’s gang stuff, but there also are a lot of poor, hard-working serious families of all ethnic stripes, very much including poor whites.

And there are a bunch of white kids there, many of them middle-class, some rich, and they go on to Stanford and UVA and Yale and the University of Dallas and UT and Austin College and A&M and Kansas and OU and all kinds of cool places.

Woodrow is not perfect, but it tends to be a wonderful experience for the kids who do well there. News reporter Michael Landauer, by the way, has a much more closely reasoned, far smarter rebuttal of Dreher than this over on The News' opinion blog.

For my own two bits' worth, you know what Dreher’s problem is really? He’s from a small town in Louisiana. And he doesn’t think his white kids can survive in a diverse school.

So here’s how I answer that. You have to picture me with my thumbs stuck up under my armpits and my knees bent. I’m walkin’ around. And I am making the wok-wok-wok chicken sound.

You got, it buddy. WOK WOK WOK!!

That’s it, man. That’s the story. --Jim Schutze

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze