How de facto school choice operates now. Dan Weissmann and Lisa Lewis write in Catalyst (November) that 17,000 students left the Chicago Public Schools between September 1995 and September 1996. “Students bailed out at every grade level, but 8th grade topped the list, with about 2,700 students leaving for public suburban or non-public schools. Kindergarten was next with 1,600 students. Other grades averaged about 1,200. While the leavers are more middle class than is total CPS enrollment, most are low income. While they are much whiter than is total CPS enrollment, most are students of color. While they are more likely to do well on standardized tests, most do not score at or above national norms.”

What does the Pentagon actually mean when it describes a region as “unstable”? According to Lieutenant Colonel Piers Wood in the “Weekly Defense Monitor” (November 6), it’s hard to say–unless it really means “things we don’t like” or perhaps “things we want to spend money on.” For instance, “It’s easy to understand ‘instability’ in the recent context of Liberia or Bosnia. But it’s more difficult to understand why the term is almost never used to describe circumstances in Northern Ireland.”

Unless she decides to drive farther…According to a recent press release from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, if federal fuel-economy standards were raised to 45 miles per gallon for cars and 34 miles per gallon for trucks, the average Chicago driver (57 miles per day) would save $479 a year on gas.

“I’m very impatient with some of the pragmatic arguments for celibacy–that it frees up your time and allows you to focus your energy in different ways,” Mundelein Seminary theologian Father Robert Barron tells U.S. Catholic (December).”I’d rather see celibacy as a kind of irrational, over-the-top, poetic, symbolic expression of the soul in love. People in love do strange things. They signal their love in excessive and irrational ways. And that’s what celibacy is–an irrational expression of love. Is it tied necessarily to the priesthood? I’d say no, it’s not. Have mystery bearers across cultures and across history traditionally opted for celibacy? Yes, they have.”

Union blues. “Sometimes the union steward would come looking for our cards” in the blues clubs around town in the 1950s, writes David Honeyboy Edwards in his reminiscence The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing. “He’d say, ‘At least one of you has got to have a card!’ I’d say, ‘I got mine!’ and slip him five dollars. He’d take that five and hit the road. Come back the next night and I do the same thing. Slip him some money, have a pint of whiskey waiting for him. They’d pull you off the bandstand if you didn’t slip them something, and you wouldn’t get to holler then.”

“I have a desk drawer filled with photographs of my children with my parents who are now dead,” says art historian Joel Snyder in the University of Chicago Record (October 23). “Many of them are not terribly good pictures. Perhaps ten percent are worth keeping, but I have kept them all. I cannot throw out the other 90 percent. I cannot discard even one. Why? It would be unloving. But I do not love the pictures. My parents and children seem somehow ingrained in these images. How can I even think that when I do not know what it means? I do not know, but what a topic for a seminar.”

Faking it. “Take off your glasses or contact lenses,” advises Gail Isaacson in an article on how to look like you know something about football (Today’s Chicago Woman, November). “This alone will cause the colors of the game (green grass, purple & yellow uniforms) to blur together creating an abstract composition worthy of Kandinsky….[What] will firmly establish you as an ardent sports fan is to begin a rhythmical chant such as ‘Defense…Defense.’…This simple mantra will unify any group, create a oneness, and totally discourage anyone from suspecting you are a fake.”

From the front lines of America’s stupidest war. The “Progressive Review On-Line Report” (September 30), citing the Center for Substance Abuse Research: “Percent of principals reporting that their school is drug free: 73%. Percent of teachers: 56%. Percent of parents: 42%. Percent of teenagers: 36%.”

Things that might have been better put. From a press release promoting Greeley’s books: “Stuff Andrew Greeley in Your Stocking This Holiday Season.”

Happy New Year and welcome to the world, babies–it’s not as bad as they say. “The infant mortality rate for U.S. children born in 1996 was at an all-time low,” announced the suburban-based American Academy of Pediatrics in a December 1 press release, “and their life expectancy was at an all-time high.”