Lessons for the DISD

Thank you for another incisive editorial concerning education (“Publisher’s Page,” July). Recently you spotlighted the need for public attention on the selection process for Nolan Estes’ successor. The July edition’s editorial follows the first editorial with the impact of an investigative report. Too often editors ooze vague and groundless drivel and never follow up to force answers from public officials.

Your examples make graphic the fact that the education bureaucracy finds community relations and undisciplined but pacified students more important than educating young adults.

Like government, public education has no bottom line. Testing is the only bottom line the public can have. Without testing, the public will continue to be deceived by bureaucratic double talk, statistics, and public relations.

John R. Leigh


I’ve been asked many times why I’ve enrolled my daughter in private school, despite the financial burden. But at age 6, she rarely sees a written word which she is unable to pronounce, and she solves simple arithmetic problems easily. Part of her advanced knowledge is a result of the carefully selected staff and programs of the Child Care Association of Metropolitan Dallas. DISD should take some lessons from them.

I was constantly bored during my eight years as a student in Dallas schools. The classes were much too large, and, as a result, one had to be either brilliant or backward in order to receive personal attention. Conformity was demanded as it makes it easier on the faculty; any expression of individuality was viewed with dismay. Having been brought up to believe that I was valuable as a unique personality, I found it hard to adapt to being treated as a nonentity.

When DISD realizes that its function is to teach our children to think, maybe I’ll trust mine to them. In the meantime, they can bawl and squall all they want about the criticism they receive, but those of us who were “educated” in DISD are not sympathetic. We know there’s something wrong, even if we don’t know too much else.

Susan Shaddock


As a Dallas English teacher, I assume that you have automatically categorized me along with those who make excuses about why our schools are not any good. I think your position is dogmatic and unfair. You grouped all teachers and administrators together in your article, and I am quite certain no one interviewed me on the subject.

If what you say is true about the Functional Literacy Test being a meaningless tool, then I agree with you completely that, as a halfway measure, it won’t work. It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg. However, I also feel that you left out some important data from the study in Emporia, Virginia. How many students got frustrated at being held back and dropped out, thus raising the overall scores by their absence?

I think that we all need to stop pointing fingers, unless we’re ready to turn our hands around and point at ourselves. When I walk into my classroom, I know that ultimately I am the only person responsible for what happens there. It is also very true that my students need to bring clear heads and positive attitudes with them into my class, and that I cannot do for them.

Leslie Carter


Mr. Allison responds: To answer Ms. Carter’s specific point, the dropout rate in the Greenville County School System, which since 1973 has eliminated social promotion at all grade levels, has declined by 40 percent. Since Ms. Carter seems concerned about student motivation, I suggest that she examine the reasons why. I find the answer to be quite simple. Students are not motivated when they are passed from one grade to the next without regard for achievement. And there is no sense of achievement where there is no standard against which performance can be measured.

Greenville County began a number of interesting reforms when it eliminated social promotion. Grades have been divided into semesters; there are now 24 grades. Students who are flunked are not held back in the same class with the same teacher as before. All students at each grade level who fail to pass standardized tests for that level are placed in separate classrooms. They are encouraged to think of their assignment not as a failure, but as another chance to achieve.

This may seem like a too-simple solution to what many educational theorists would have us believe is a very complicated problem. But the Greenville County program confounds its critics with the evidence. It works. I look forward to the day when those happy words can be applied to the Dallas Independent School District.

With a simple idea to express, Assistant Superintendent Yvonne Ewell’s high style sits very uncomfortably (“Letters,” July). Her theme could be put in short, concrete terms. Some of those phrases have caught on with some writers; they seem to be used to impress rather than inform.

Your note after her letter was priceless, as was the editorial on the Dallas Independent School District. Keep up the pressure.

Carolyn Campbell


Family Reunion?

In the July issue, your restaurant reviewer gave a better rating to Antares, on top of Reunion Tower, than any received so far. And he tailed to mention the restaurant’s policy of tacking a 15 to 20 percent tip on the final tab without bothering to tell the customers.

If D is going to continue to give raves to most things at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, it seems only appropriate that you reveal the fact that your magazine is owned in large part by Ray Hunt, who is the developer of Reunion.

And for you to give a grudging thumbs down to the $1.50 elevator ride to the tower as if you were appeasing your readers is not enough.

Henry King


Have a little more faith, Mr. King. Our reviews have nothing to do with who owns the magazine or who advertises in it. Our opinions are our own.

Guzzling Puzzling

Although I never solved Peggy Oglesby’s puzzles, 1 still thank you for returning them to your publication. I sure as hell enjoy the challenge.

David W. Gibbons


Nobody’s Perfect

My nomination for the Not-Fit-To-Judge award goes to Rowland Stiteler, who, in his “Best and Worst Washington Correspondents” article consistently misspelled Roy Bode’s name “Bodie.”

That Stiteler spelled Bode’s name the way it sounds, and not the way it is written, leads me to believe that he has never seen Bode’s byline, which means he probably never bothered to read any of Bode’s work, but relied solely on word of mouth in researching his article. For shame!

Tim Dickey


The Busing Controversy

I had to laugh as I read Wick Allison’s comments on the bus transitway issue (“Publisher’s Page,” June). It is hilarious that anyone could be so naive or just plain stupid as to be taken in by Folsom, Schrader, and the council.

Five will get you ten that the bus transit-way will eventually end up along the MKT Railroad right-of-way. The transitway will be located on the Central Expressway only if the council feels it is feasible. My suggestion to the Turtle Creek residents is to either start packing or make room in your den for a bus.

Sandra Williams


Your June comments concerning the proposed Turtle Creek bus transitway were very meaningful to me both as a former resident of Northern Hills and as a native of Rosebud, Texas, transitway opponent David McAtee’s home town.

In Rosebud, as in most small towns, people show their concern in local government by getting involved, letting their opinions be known, and voting. I’m sure that a contributing factor in David McAtee’s involvement was that he grew up in such a town.

Throughout Dallas there are many people from small towns who feel that their voices cannot be heard in such a large city. In this respect, David McAtee taught many of us an additional lesson.

Thomas H. Souther


Hockaday Girls

Congratulations to Prudence Mackintosh on her excellent article “Why Hockaday Girls Are Different.” In one phrase about “washing your grandmother’s hollow handle silver knives in the dishwasher,” she tells us more about a person than most writers do in an entire character sketch.

I sympathize with her closing reflections on whether the past has to be judged purely on present usefulness. It’s obviously good that wealth can allow one to value the things of the past, but it’s not so good that wealth can shield those who value only a convertible with a bar in the back seat.

My guess is that she has more positive than negative feelings about Hockaday and all it represents just because there is something to be said for tradition and refinement in a fast-food society. But recently, I saw a report on a third-generation plumber from San Francisco who is going to Moscow for the Tchaikovsky competition. One wonders if thirdgeneration Hockaday girls can show accomplishments equal to the time and care given their education? Or is that a legitimate question?

Blanche Henderson Brick

College Station

Housing Hot Spots

Having been recently transferred to Dallas by way of Los Angeles and Philadelphia, my wife and i were understandably pleased to note that our home is located in one of your housing “Hot Spots” (June).

We were, however, disappointed that our neighborhood of Cottonwood Creek was not included among your magic names, since it includes all the plus features that corporate people must have for equity growth.

Our pride in our area is typical of people we have met there and, despite the present fuss over the Preston developments, it is comforting to know there is an established and attractive alternative.

Richard Hall


Iron Mike

Fine piece on Mike Shapiro (“Is Mike Shapiro Getting Soft?” July). But you overlooked one of Mike’s finest attributes, his strong and often brave commitment to quality television journalism. I know of no local television station in the nation capable of matching the drive and professionalism of Channel 8’s news staff.

Mike has always managed to shield his news department from those sticky little problems that come up due to cross-ownership. I remember doing a story on the opening of DFW Airport. We found some officials of the USO complaining about the lack of space for them. A USO board member, who also happens to be a ranking executive of the Dallas Morning News, tried to kill our story. But it ran in its entirety after Mike told his corporate colleague to mind his own damn business.

Bob Sirkin

ABC News



Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.