Too many Dallas students can’t read, and as the examples on page 103 show, too many of them can’t write. A national problem is well on its way to becoming a local disaster, because illiterate students simply cannot be fed effectively into the economic life of the city. That means more unemployment, especially among young black males, and that means a steadily increasing deterioration of our inner city. One problem leads directly to another; a city is a network of connections which tie us together in a social contract.

The Dallas public schools have flailed at the problem, and floundered. Under Nolan Estes we have had three reading directors in four years. Small fortunes have been spent on experimental programs and evaluations. But the decline continues, and the city is beginning to suffer.

Contributing editor Joe Holley thinks we still have a chance, and his report makes me think he may be right.The trans-mittal of knowledge through the written word is an essential means of maintaining the social fabric of a community from one generation to another. As Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins wrote recently, “The ability of the mind to convert little markings on paper into meaning is one of the ways civilization receives its basic energy.”

At D Magazine we intend to watch and monitor this and other problems faced by the Dallas public schools in the coming year. All the cliches are true: education is the cornerstone of the good societv. In Dallas we’ve been fortunate in enjoying the good life for a long time. The battle to maintain it is now being fought in our 250 Dallas public schools. It is a fight we cannot afford to lose.

Ironically, just as Republicans captured the sheriffs office in Dallas County for the first time in history, all vital signs from the same election began to show the futility of their party’s continued existence. To be fair, of course, the Republicans didn’t win the sheriffs job, Clarence Jones lost it. But we’ll give GOP leaders credit where they don’t deserve it, if only because they need it so badly.

It doesn’t make, in the words of George Wallace, a dime’s bit of difference. A perceptive editorial by Robert Bartley in the Wall Street Journal this summer argued that economic conservatives, grouped under the Republican Party, have failed significantly in making their case to the social conservatives of this country: the blue-collar Catholics, the middle class blacks, the aspiring ethnics, the Southern Dixiecrats. Those conservatives, who perhaps constitute a majority of the nation’s voters, simply cannot bring themselves to form more than a tentative association with the GOP, and then only when confronted by the prospect of a George McGovern – or, in the case of Dallas County conservative Democrats and independents, by the incompetence of a Clarence Jones.

I’m talking politics now, not ideas. There is little doubt in my mind that the ideas most Republicans cherish have a wide appeal throughout the nation; even with Gerald Ford as their spokesman, those ideas managed to attract a sizeable vote in 1976.

It’s in their politics that Republicans have failed, and I see three reasons. First, Republicans generally prefer prestige to power. I don’t know why, but I suspect it has to do with the reasons one becomes a Republican to begin with. Given the choice between an invitation to a formal White House dinner (before January 20) and 500 patronage jobs at the county courthouse, your local GOP chairman would rush for the airport every time.

Second, Republicans generally don’t like to make waves. Consequently they rarely do. When one finally does, a Ronald Reagan, it is an emotional experience for everybody. Nobody quite recovers, and that reinforces the inbred Republican conviction that such things are bad form. This makes for dullness.

Third, Republicans are never really comfortable with non-Republicans. A blind man could pick out the black at any Republican gathering: he’s the one being treated to smothering attention.

Today the Republican Party speaksonly for a small segment of the American middle class. The rest are seeking avoice. They will find it, not in the Democratic Party of Jimmy Carter, but intheir own. Republicans should be prepared to follow, since they have shownthemselves so woefully unprepared tolead.


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