“I think 90 is the ideal class size,” University of Chicago law professor David Currie tells the University of Chicago Chronicle (June 7). “I know some of my colleagues prefer smaller classes, but I believe you need a critical mass. With 90 students, there is bound to be someone who has something interesting to say that I haven’t thought of.”

Gas prices aren’t high enough to suit the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, writes Steve Buchtel in its newsletter “Bike Traffic” (June/July). More to the point, he writes, “our increases in gas prices aren’t fed back into projects that provide alternatives to driving. They’re fed into Exxon’s balance sheet…. To really affect oil companies, we should set gas taxes high enough…[so that they could be used to build] world-class bike and transit facilities.”

“We have repeatedly seen apparently meaningful structural [school] reforms dissipate like dew in sunshine,” writes Charles Payne in his chapter of the new Chicago Assembly book Education Policy for the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities in Standards-Based Reform. “In the late 1980s, for example, there was widespread confidence among researchers and educational activists that changing governance structures–decentralizing, democratizing, empowering everybody–would lead to real change…. After more than 15 years of experimentation, it is clear that the relationship between changing structures of building-level power and improving education is not necessarily a direct or reliable one. Take Chicago as a case in point. Part of the rationale for school reform in Chicago was that empowering parents could create more accountable schools. Thus, the reform law gave parents six out of the eleven seats on each local school council, including the chair.” Did it help? Not much. “Principals who learned to adjust to the new situation probably became more powerful than they were before parents were formally empowered. Parents have a numerical majority on the councils, but parent members are least likely to come to meetings. If they do come, they are the least likely to participate. If they do participate, there is a substantial likelihood that the professionals on the council will pointedly ignore them. In several respects, parents do not have the social capital, including the self-confidence, to take full advantage of the formal change in the arrangement of power.”

Students nourish plant killers, according to “Dunescape” (Spring), newsletter of the Indiana Dunes Environmental Learning Center: “Galerucella beetles arrived at Michigan City [Indiana] High School on April 11, 2001, as part of the DuneSCOPES high school program. Students will be raising the beetles for biological control of purple loosestrife in the wetland area of West Beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Students were surprised by how small, and yet voracious, the beetles are.”

“Conservative Catholics, who are aghast at fellow believers’ willingness to ignore the Pope on matters like contraception, blithely ignore in their turn papal pleas to renounce the death penalty,” writes Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books (June 21). “And I have not seen Bible-quoting fundamentalists refer to the one place in the Gospels where Jesus deals with capital punishment. At John 8:3-11, he interrupts a legal execution (for adultery) and tells the officers of the state that their own sinfulness deprives them of jurisdiction. Jesus himself gives up any jurisdiction for this kind of killing: ‘Neither do I condemn you.’ George W. Bush said during the campaign debates of last year that Jesus is his favorite philosopher…. Mr. Bush clearly needs some deeper consultation with the philosopher of his choice.”