Letters to the Editor, May 17

May. 16, 2014 @ 03:09 PM

Compass measures neighborhood well-being

The old saying goes “knowledge is power,” and Durham residents looking for detailed information on their neighborhoods now have a new tool at their fingertips.

The Durham Neighborhood Compass is a web-based mapping tool designed to help users identify areas of need and opportunity in their neighborhoods. It features more than 40 measurements of neighborhood well-being and city/county service provisions. Compiled from local government and Census Bureau data sets, these indicators reflect community input, research and surveying and evolving best practices for assessing neighborhood quality of life.

You may be wondering why the city and its partners designed such a tool. The answer is simple. We want to infuse policy and community efforts with a clear sense of where public service can have the greatest impact. Open access to this extensive range of data removes barriers to locating information. Fact finding that may have taken weeks can now be completed in just minutes through one tool. Armed with reliable and accurate data, residents, nonprofits, businesses, elected officials, and city, county and public schools staff can work together to identify issues of concern in neighborhoods and take appropriate action.  

I invite you to check out the Durham Neighborhood Compass at http://Compass.DurhamNC.gov and give us your feedback while you’re there. By working together, we can make data-driven decisions to identify needs and opportunities in our neighborhoods, and truly make Durham a great place to live, work and play.

Constance Stancil

Director, Neighborhood Improvement Services Department

City of Durham

Googling to stupidity?

I heard a disturbing statistic recently regarding what has to be a trend indicating the dumbing down of society.  Seems 25 percent of high school graduates cannot read at the appropriate level, and around 38 percent of those same graduates cannot do basic math.

Keep in mind -- these are “graduates.”  Our phones are getting “smarter,” but our brains appear to be going in the opposite direction.  We can access the answer to almost any question via Google, but can’t process basic skills required for productive living.

Although the Bible doesn’t actually state, “man will get wiser and weaker,” the context of that statement is regrettably becoming a fact.  Sure, there are likely contributing factors aside from smart technology that add to this dismaying formula, however, when someone has to be told they can’t drive safely while looking down texting, something has gone very much astray.

The United States is no longer the leading hub for intelligence, and no matter how “smart” our devices become, they can’t and shouldn’t ever be relied upon or substituted for old-fashioned reasoning, computation and communications skills.  (I wouldn’t be surprised if the next stat informs us “we are able to compose and send text messages at amazing speed, but are not able to spell adequately.”)

Life and true progress require thinking -- individual thinking, not “social thinking.”  Spending a lot of time on Facebook won’t fill your brains with facts.  Googling the answer doesn’t mean you know the answer.

John I. Mayo