As easy as it is to associate the phrase “Chicago public schools” strictly with dire news stories about underfunding, dropouts, and so on, there’s no shortage of reasons to take pride in our educational system. Its alumni include great authors, world-class athletes, movie stars, and as of last month an incipient First Lady–not to mention both Hugh Hefner and Amelia Earhart.

And don’t forget the musicians. The CPS Alumni Web site, which claims to be the country’s first of its kind for a public school system, has posted a mix of songs by CPS alumni on iTunes. It’s mainstream and heavy on the hits, and of course it only scratches the surface–but I’m not about to complain that the choices are too obvious, since in this case the obvious choices include Nat “King” Cole, Gene Chandler, Herbie Hancock, Lou Rawls, Sam Cooke, Minnie Riperton, the Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield, Quincy Jones, Benny Goodman, Bo Diddley, Ella Jenkins, Chaka Khan, Rickie Lee Jones, Dinah Washington, Mel Torme, Shel Silverstein, Von Freeman, and Kanye West. Oh yeah, and Styx.

It’s a good concept. I look forward to seeing more done with it.