Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dangerous omission from the "21st Century City Conference" at Dallas City Hall on 11/12/10

The plans for the 21st Century City Conference, on November 12, 2010 at Dallas City Hall, paint a wonderful view of our city, but leave out our schools!

As you search online and read the press releases for the conference, they build on the statement on the Conference web site: "The 21st Century City Conference addresses the enormous shift taking place in the way we build out our cities. We seek a more humane city, one that allows for the complexities of diverse lifestyles while offering serene and quiet places that feed the soul. We want a city that is vibrant and alive and we want, once again, to learn from nature."

That sounds great, but how do we prepare the people who will be our citizens for most of the 21st Century?

An atmosphere for planning the next century within which such an omission of public education happens may help explain why less than 50% of the full Dallas ISD 9th grade enrollment are ever represented in the number of diplomas given out four years later. This atmosphere is not new.  This graduation rate has been below 50% well over 20 years! The good news is that in spite of it the percentage of those graduating DISD schools is improving! It almost broke 50% with the Class of 2010, and will break that 20+ year old barrier with the Class of 2011!

While improvement is good to see, we still have a major crisis. It is a complex crisis that at least needs to be mentioned at any "21st Century City Conference" about Dallas.  These students, and the many who drop out of school, are the future taxpayers, workers, inmates, and leaders in Dallas. We need fewer inmates and more workers and leaders.

Remember, only a small fraction of that minority who actually graduate DISD high schools are prepared for college work. We have a long way to go.  We must make education more of a central part of life in Dallas for everyone. It should be an identified part of any conference planning for the next century. 

Any discussion of the future design and architecture of Dallas that does not include at least a mention of school design in the conference plans is missing what is probably THE major building block for the future. Attention must be given to having school buildings that are centrally located in their communities, well designed, and built following the highest standards of sustainability. Dallas should never again have newly built schools with leaking roofs within 10 years!

The 21st Century City Conference plans speak about seeking "a more humane city."   Such advances for Dallas will never happen if public schools are not included in the search!