“We ask more of the poor, and particularly those in public housing, than we expect from other citizens,” writes sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh in his new book on the Robert Taylor Homes, American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto. “Would residents of a suburb, to offer only one example, be expected to work largely on their own to curb gang activity, and, if they failed to do so, would most Americans then ask whether suburbs were no longer viable planned spaces of residence?…The example of Chicago suggests that government, civic, and private-sector support plays a key role in the ability of any community, not just that of public housing…. Yet in the popular deliberations on public housing in the mid-1990s, few thought seriously about the many resources available to mainstream communities–wherever they might be–that enabled these spaces to function and that allowed them to address problems with young people as well as with household hardship.”

Well-chosen adjectives. In the November 27 issue of In These Times, Paula Kamen describes Betty Dodson, author of Sex for One, as a “spunky masturbation advocate.”

Academics have no excuse for writing obscurely, argues Gerald Graff of the University of Illinois at Chicago in PMLA, the magazine of the Modern Language Association, quoted in “UIC News” (October 18): “Don’t kid yourself. If you could not explain it to your parents or your most mediocre student, the chances are you don’t understand it yourself.”

My silence is deeper than your silence. University of Illinois at Springfield historian Robert McGregor, on the downstate Cahokia Mounds (Illinois Issues, November): “In 1809, Trappist monks with a vow of silence set up a monastery on the largest mound, but left after a few years. (Perhaps they became uneasy in a silence more profound than their own.)”

Fear and loathing with a dash of realism. According to the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs (“One City,” Spring/Summer), “The dilemma is that we fear juvenile offenders, loathe their families, demonize their neighborhoods, but feel the need to love them as individuals. People resolve the dilemma by supporting the view that more discipline is required to deal with juvenile crime, but the increased discipline should be enforced in a compassionate, in loco parentis manner.”

Illinois is among the more energy-efficient states, according to figures compiled by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (“National and State Energy Use and Carbon Emissions Trends,” September). In 1997 Illinoisans used less energy per capita than we did in 1970 (2.6 percent less, while the nation as a whole showed an increase of 5.3 percent) and less energy per dollar of gross state product (down 40 percent), while emitting 17 percent less carbon per capita and 49 percent less carbon per dollar of gross state product.

“Does anybody in his right mind really believe that God made this many LD [learning-disabled] African-American males?” asks DePaul University’s Barbara Sizemore in Catalyst (October). “The answer resides in the teaching-learning process. From many studies of high-achieving predominantly African-American schools, it is clear that high expectations, strong instructional leadership, emphasis on academics, monitoring and a climate conducive to learning are necessary to pass the required tests…. Principals must provide instructional leadership to their teachers. At one school where the achievement scores have been declining, the 3rd-grade teachers have convinced the principal that they do not need even to write lesson plans.”