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School decentralization, "as it's been tried so far, has been a half-measure because nobody wanted to make fundamental enough changes in the lives and incentives of adults," reports Paul Hill of the University of Washington, one of two principal investigators in a six-city study that included Chicago (Education Week, September 10). According to the University of Chicago's Anthony Bryk, the other principal investigator, "Most of the districts started with a chop-the-top philosophy," leaving few administrators to help guide and support individual schools. Worse, until 1995 the chopped top had little power to make sure improvement was happening.

As early as 1993, says Bryk, "we had identified a significant subset of schools in Chicago that looked to us to be dead in the water. But they basically could hide under decentralization because there was no viable mechanism to identify those schools and to intervene in them."

Tie me down! From the American Bar Association, announcing an upcoming Chicago event: "ABA Conference on Sexual Harassment Takes Multi-Discipline Approach."

In the reign of Richard I. "Mayor [Richard J.] Daley took pride in the fact that the planning department was politically pure," writes planning consultant Marjorie Macris of her years in Chicago, in the book Planners on Planning. "Occasionally when he was accused of filling city hall with patronage employees, he would observe, 'Just look at the planning department. They're so unpolitical, they practically don't even vote.' The elevator operators, all precinct captains, recognized the planners when they entered the building by their tweed jackets instead of shiny navy blue suits, their absence of white-on-white shirts and pinkie rings, and possibly their vague facial expressions. 'Tenth floor?' the operators would ask tolerantly."

"Although I am well past the peak ages of criminal activity and no longer fit as many 'profiles' as I did in my youth, police harassment remains an occasional feature of my life," writes Salim Muwakkil in In These Times (October 5). "There is the routine humiliation of being stopped and frisked while visiting white friends in certain neighborhoods. My black male friends and I find gallows humor in receiving traffic tickets for 'driving-while-black.' Even now, I'm a party in a class-action lawsuit against Illinois State Police for harassment of African-American motorists."

"Private health insurance coverage has slowly but steadily declined," reports the U.S. General Accounting Office in a July 24 report. "Between 1980 and 1995, the population under age 65 covered by private health insurance declined from 79.5 to 70.5 percent," and declined even faster among children, early retirees, and near-poor families.

Happy birthday to the universe! The Du Page chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, noting that one 19th-century authority pegged the date of creation at noon, October 23, 4004 BC, plans to celebrate the universe's 6000th birthday by hosting a "panel discussion on the constitutional and scientific problems of creationism ("The Illinois Brief," Fall).

"I was driving down Michigan Avenue on the way to a tennis game with William Rehnquist, the chief justice of the Supreme Court," attorney Marshall Holleb tells Herbert Mitgang in Doubletake (Fall), "and pointing out some of the sights--the Sears Tower, the outdoor sculpture, and some of the buildings designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Suddenly, I spotted Studs Terkel coming along the street with his shock of gray hair and red-checked shirt. 'And there's another Chicago landmark,' I said, 'Studs Terkel.' Rehnquist said, 'Stop the car--he's my favorite author! I'd like to meet him and tell him so.' They shook hands and chatted for a few minutes. So here is this supposedly heartless jurist praising Studs Terkel, a well-known liberal."

Yes, that's my state! I'm from Illinois! Er--why do you ask? "Number of Illinois death-row prisoners released since 1977 after their convictions were overturned: 9. Number of Illinois prisoners executed since then: 8." (Harper's Index, October).


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