“This is not a dumbing-down of teachers. This is raising up the standards,” says Brian Perryman, director of the Chicago district of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Washington Post National Weekly, January 3). He’s referring to a new program under which INS will issue 50 special six-year work visas a year to teachers of math, science, and foreign languages recruited overseas to teach in the Chicago Public Schools. According to school board president Gery Chico, the city’s first three recruits are a Chinese scientist, a Palestinian physics teacher, and the head of a British school in Colombia. “We want to go out and hire better-qualified teachers,” he told the Post’s William Claiborne, “and if foreign countries are the only place we can find them, then we have to look there.”

Antidote to hysteria. Total number of international terrorist attacks in 1987: 666. In 1998: 273, the lowest number since before 1979. (U.S. Department of State report, “Patterns of Global Terrorism 1998,” April 1999).

“Older cities’ decline can best be understood not as the consequence of adverse social and economic forces (the usual explanation), but as a colossal failure in marketing,” contends west-suburban consultant John Gann Jr. in the Heartland Institute’s Environment News (November). “Rather than fight growth in their hinterlands, city governments should upgrade their services and facilities to suburban standards and make it easier to live and do business within their boundaries. And they should initiate active marketing programs to sell the substantial benefits cities still offer–benefits that even today’s toniest cornfield subdivisions can’t come close to duplicating.”

Appreciation. “The more I learned about philanthropy,” writes Hyde Park native and sometime Reader writer William Upski Wimsatt in his new book, No More Prisons, “the more I realized that practically every ‘grassroots’ organization and community leader I had ever heard of gets a lot of their money from a very small number of cool rich people. Grassroots organizations don’t usually like to talk about it. They talk about how they are of the people, by the people, for the people, and to a large extent that is true. They do depend on $25 contributions and the support of a wide base. But take away that one behind-the-scenes cool rich person and most of these grassroots organizations are fucked.”

Technology made me fat. “In an agricultural or industrial society, work is strenuous; in effect, the worker is paid to exercise,” write Tomas Philipson and Richard Posner of the University of Chicago Law School. “Technological change has both lowered the cost of consuming calories and raised the cost of expending calories, thereby contributing to the rise in obesity in two ways: it has lowered both the real price of food and the physical expenditure of calories per hour worked” (National Bureau of Economic Research working paper 7423, November).

Isn’t that a relationship? Philip Hefner of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science in ZCRS Reports (November): “The United States…is one of the world’s most religious societies, and also the most scientific and technological. Our national character is decisively shaped by both. At the same time, Americans really have no vocabulary or public ideas that relate religion and science. We tend to think in terms of ‘warfare’ and ‘creationism vs. evolution.'”

The last liberal-arts student. “Why would a nice girl like me want to take so many extremely difficult courses [AP physics, chemistry, statistics, calculus] in high school if I don’t plan on continuing in those fields?” wrote Evanston Township High senior Lucia Stella Smith in the Christian Science Monitor (November 9). “It is exactly because I don’t plan to pursue these subjects that I focus on them now….For a lot of the subjects I study, what I know come high school graduation will be what I know for the rest of my life. Period. I can either learn now why a cannon ball lands where it does or forever hold my peace. Soon enough I will have to specialize. For now, I want to learn as much as I can about as many different subjects as possible.”