The first is Prudence Mackintosh’s “Neighborhood Association.” She tells the story of living in the same house in Highland Park for roughly 40 years, and the important role that her neighbors have played in her life. Though our neighborhood is different from Highland Park in some ways, anyone who resides in a home here will likely recognize Mackintosh’s indebtedness to her older, wiser neighbors as a new homeowner, and her frustration that the definition of “neighbor” has become diluted with the rise of the internet and the loss of older, quainter homes:
“The face of my neighborhood is changing, and it’s not just that the Mediterranean McMansions are winning architecturally. Bulldozers arrive almost weekly to scrape my favorite homes, the ones with welcoming porch swings, interesting histories, bois d’arc paneling, and wooden stair rails polished by the hospitable comings and goings of four generations. In their place, we get fortress-like structures that often house two people who live there only part of the year. I used to be bothered by the lack of scale and the excess of wine cellars, fitness rooms, and media centers, but now what concerns me more is the air of isolated self-sufficiency that these monuments give off. ‘Who needs neighbors?’ they seem to say.”
The second is Mimi Swarz’s “Super Collider,” which takes a close look at Houston ISD superintendent Terry Grier over the course of a year, and overviews the problems plaguing the school district, which is even larger than Dallas ISD. It shouldn’t have surprised me that HISD’s challenges and warring factions run almost parallel to Dallas’. This is a crucial read for anyone intrigued by the topic of public education in large urban settings, and is even more interesting considering that Dallas is still searching for a new superintendent.
“The modern history of American public education is a toxi-comic combination of politics, fads, paranoia, and failure. Everyone and no one has the answer for how best to educate children, particularly poor children, and the fact that they aren’t getting an education is almost always someone else’s fault. Ever since ‘A Nation at Risk,’ the groundbreaking report published in 1983 by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, warned of ‘a rising tide of mediocrity,’ politicians and educators alike have been searching for a magic bullet that ensures our kids are college-bound or at least, in the new parlance of the times, ‘workforce-ready.’ “
Spoiler: The story doesn’t find the magic bullet, on the off chance that it does, indeed, exist.
The last is one of the questions posed to the Texanist in his unorthodox advice column:
“This is going to sound crazy since I live in central Dallas, but my back fence neighbor’s chickens are driving me insane. The keepers are a nice young couple, and they give me fresh eggs every week, but the chickens start crowing before the sun comes up, and it’s very annoying. How can I lodge my complaint with them in a way that will not endanger my supply of free eggs?”
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Oak Cliff.