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“‘Anti-Arabian’ hate crimes soared from four in 2000 to 60 in 2001,” according to police data reported by Mary Abowd in the Chicago Reporter (December). “So far this year, 124 hate crimes have been reported.” Presumably these numbers don’t include the FBI agent who barged into Mamoun Alrifai’s southwest-side home in November without a warrant. Alrifai is quoted: “I told him, ‘I know my rights. You have to leave.’…He told me, ‘As of right now, you have no rights.'”

A few bad apples can spoil the barrel. That’s one message in a new book about reform in Chicago’s elementary schools by Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider, Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement. “We witnessed firsthand the corrosive effect that teacher incompetence had on the social relations at Ridgeway School [not its real name]. No one could really understand why some teachers were allowed to continue in their jobs when they refused to devote more than a minimal effort to their teaching, held very low expectations for children, and interacted with children and their families in demeaning ways….The failure of schools and districts to act on problematic cases is sometimes justified on the grounds that only a small percentage of teachers need to be removed, and the costs associated with this can be very high. A common response is to attempt to hide these teachers in less visible schools and teaching roles. Our analysis, however, suggests that much more is at stake than just the subset of students who are directly affected by these teachers’ poor practice. Rather, the persistence of such teachers in a school community undermines its social capacity for action. No one can make sense of such a place, and commitments to the school are likely to remain highly delimited.”

Six square feet of history. The Illinois Natural History Survey (“Reports,” Autumn) has compiled state land surveys made between 1804 and 1856 into a 26-by-36-inch color poster, “Land Cover of Illinois in the Early 1800s,” showing where forest and prairie existed prior to widespread European-American settlement. Sale price, $6.42.

“If 9/11 has founded a new era of civic-mindedness in the U.S., it seems to have left Americans’ collective appetite for news largely undisturbed,” writes University of Illinois political scientist Scott Althaus in PS: Political Science and Politics (September). “The size of the network television news audience grew only slightly, and newspaper readership continued to decline after 9/11. While the average size of the cable news audience has doubled, it remains a small fraction of American adults, and the audiences for both network and cable news have diminished with each passing month.”

Do historic structures provide too much housing? According to the Campaign for Sensible Growth’s “Ideas@work” (December), Elgin’s “multifamily conversion program” for owners of historic homes “provides financial incentives for homeowners to convert their houses from multifamily back to single-family homes, or reduce the number of residential units to the number present in the original construction. The City pays $20,000 for the removal of each additional unit. For example, a project converting a building from 12 units to four would receive a $160,000 subsidy.”

Department of irrefutable arguments. Environmentalists Ted Schettler, Katherine Barrett, and Carolyn Raffensperger, writing in the new book Life Support: The Environment and Human Health, object to “risk assessment” and “risk management” strategies, in which researchers determine how much of a given pollutant won’t hurt animals, then set an acceptable level of exposure for humans at one one-thousandth of that level to provide a generous margin for error. Such a system, the environmentalists argue, “will completely fail to predict surprises or novel impacts.”