“Among schools in comparable countries, those in the U.S. on average make the smallest year-to-year gains in academic achievement,” writes Herbert Walberg, an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a recent report analyzing what he calls “the largest, most recent, and most rigorous international achievement surveys,” which were conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement. In reading, U.S. students between the ages of nine and fourteen progressed at a rate that was only 78 percent of the rate of the international average student. In math, they progressed at a rate that was 73 percent of the international average. In science, the rate was 78 percent. There was one category in which the U.S. was above average: per-student expenditures were 75 percent more than the international average.

Dept. of redundancy. Advice from Student Lawyer magazine (November) about keeping fit: “A treadmill may be one of your best investments in law school.”

Um, guys, I don’t think they’re referring to Saint Friedman when they use that word in Russia. In a recent press release the free-market-oriented Cato Institute proposed a solution to the Russian ruble crisis: a parallel currency (probably the dollar) and the creation of a currency board system (CBS) to regulate the parallel currency’s relation to the ruble. “But to work in Russia,” the press release states, “a CBS must be ultraorthodox.”

Each Chicago ward could be represented separately. Illinois Main Street, a state program that helps communities put together long-range economic-development plans, is holding a series of what it calls “Large Cities Workshops” on historic preservation and revitalization “for cities with more than 50,000 population.”

Somebody’s been hunting and gathering with the spell checker again. The recently published Environment, Ethics, and Behavior, three of whose editors teach at Northwestern University, is being promoted by its publisher as “an unprecedented attempt to identify what is known about the psychology of global change, and to forage a new understanding of the behaviors that fuel environmental degradation.”

Do electronic media stunt kids’ growth? Tom McGrath, writing in the Chicago-based newsletter “At Home With Our Faith” (November), thinks so. Quoting author Michael Gurian, he recommends that children “never engage in more virtual activity than real activity in a two-day period.”

Best-paid Teamster, according to Jane Slaughter in In These Times (November 15): Frank Wsol of Chicago, at $473,069 in salary plus expenses in 1997.

Not so diverse after all? The Field Museum’s new “Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit is supposed to highlight “the extraordinary diversity of individuals and groups who have adopted the motorcycle as an icon to shape their identities and communicate a message to the society around them.” In connection with the exhibit, the museum will offer a “Biker Breakfast” for private groups: “Start your day the traditional biker way!”

My neighborhood is diverse–my country is unequal. Susan Mayer of the University of Chicago writes in “Poverty Research News” (Summer): “Most people seem to think that inequality at the neighborhood level can benefit neighborhood residents, especially children. Increasing economic inequality in homogeneously poor neighborhoods would provide more middle class role models for children in those neighborhoods and more political support for the social spending that benefits residents. On the other hand, most people also tend to think that more inequality at the national level is a bad thing. If inequality is important because social comparisons create feelings of envy or alienation, we might expect that inequality in the neighborhood or city might be more important than inequality in the nation, because the neighbors, coworkers and others in close proximity are more likely to be a relevant comparison group. On the other hand, if inequality is important mainly because it affects social spending, the relevant geographic unit for inequality is likely to be the political jurisdictions that decide on the relevant spending.”