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Maybe schools should all teach the same thing at the same time. The newsletter of the Illinois Association of School Boards (December 26) summarizes a survey by the University of Chicago's David Kerbow of 13,000 public school sixth-graders in Chicago. "In a typical Chicago elementary school at any given point in time, Kerbow says, only half of the students are enrolled in the same school after a three year period." Worse, "the more often a student moves in elementary school, Kerbow found, the further behind that student falls academically." As a result, "in schools with high mobility rates, the pace of instruction for all children begins to slow after first grade as teachers increase the amount of time they spend reviewing material for new students." Kerbow himself writes, "Without a certain level of stability, it is unclear how school-based educational programs, no matter how innovative, could successfully develop and show long-term impact."

The words get in the way (I): What kind of hormone was that? A recent press release from the American Academy of Pediatrics in suburban Elk Grove Village was headlined, "AAP Advises Members on Ethical Growth Hormone Use for Children."

The words get in the way (II): When I left they were still arguing about NAFTA. One of several reasons state Natural History Survey biologists give for the drastic decline in prairie chicken numbers in southern Illinois: "intense interactions with pheasants" ("Illinois Natural History Survey Reports," January/February).

Chicago police officer Patti Black, who works in Englewood, "still spends most of her time driving, watching, and waiting, the same as always. The difference with community policing is that she is confined to a smaller area, and she knows who belongs there and who doesn't," writes Jonathan Eig in the American Prospect (November-December). "She spots a man who is wanted for a parole violation. He does not run when Black approaches. 'You were supposed to pick me up yesterday,' the man says, and the officer admits she forgot. The man doesn't want to start serving his sentence right now because he's not appropriately dressed, so he and Black agree that she will pick him up the next day. The officer is so familiar with the parolee and his family--and outstanding warrants are so common here--that Black is confident he'll keep his word. She understands that respect and goodwill benefit her more than force. Once, when a suspect resisted arrest and began punching her, neighborhood gang members rushed to her defense and helped subdue the man."

Don't ban fortune-tellers in Chicago, writes Charles Chi Halevi in "Chicago Journalist" (January). Instead, "license them. And the only way they can qualify for their license is to display competence in their profession; by predicting the winning number for the lottery's grand prize, twice in a month."

Things certain black and Hispanic politicians don't want to know. A team of Columbia University political scientists, writing in the American Political Science Review (December), has found that minority interests are best represented when minority votes are distributed equally in all electoral districts, not concentrated to provide a few "safe" seats. "The marginal gain [in getting more minorities in Congress, for instance] from placing more minority voters in any given district is less than the marginal loss from the electoral effect elsewhere. In other words, the most important objective for minority representation in these areas is to elect Democrats, either black or nonblack. Majority-minority districts make little sense in this context...as they create greater possibilities for electing Republicans in other districts."

Just another nice day in Lombard. One of a series of motivational posters published in the western suburb: "Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed...Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle...when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

"Like virtually anything that gets the attention of a sufficient number of Americans, AIDS has become big business," writes Jeffrey Reynolds in In These Times (November 25). "Some AIDS activists criticize the quilt for gobbling up scarce resources that would be better used for care, treatment, research and more explicit forms of education. Corporate America, however, knows a good investment when it sees one. The impressive roster of Gold, Silver and Bronze corporate sponsors confirms the quilt's status as a marketing dream....The quilt did seem to signify that AIDS is at last being taken seriously by a broad cross section of the public."

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