Now that the “Chicago school miracle” bandwagon has moved on…Some pedestrian facts from the education committee of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, from the July report “Left Behind: Student Achievement in Chicago’s Public Schools”: “Today, in Chicago’s public high schools, only 36% of 11th graders meet or exceed state reading standards. Only 26% of 11th graders meet or exceed state math standards, and only 22% meet or exceed state standards in science. And this is after nearly 40% of the students have dropped out of school….Moreover, recent trends are not promising.” Illinois Standards Achievement Test data for “both the elementary level (four-year trends) and high school level (two-year trends)” suggest that whatever progress has been made early on disappears by the 11th grade.

Are you ready for all-night zoning? Recent Illinois appellate and supreme court decisions could make local zoning hearings even more adversarial and courtlike than they already are, reports John Lawlor in the Illinois Bar Journal (July). One ruling “indicates that abutting property owners in both large and small municipalities have the right to cross-examine the land-use applicant’s witnesses. This will undoubtedly make many evening zoning proceedings more acrimonious and time-consuming than before. Many suburban zoning dockets already go past midnight.”

Live by identity politics, die by identity politics. “Having appointed the first black secretary of state and the first black (and female) national security adviser, Bush has provided exemplary role models in the fight for racial and sexual equality,” writes Peter Berkowitz in the Boston Globe (August 10). “The familiar image on the evening news of a Republican president with strong ties to big business and Southern majorities flanked by and entirely at ease with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice does more to promote respect for the individual based on the content of his or her character than do all the schemes for national conversations about race and all the campus seminars and consciousness-raising programs combined.”

By the numbers. The average decline in area grant makers’ assets in the past year: 15 percent. The decrease in value of grants awarded: $11 million. The average number of grants made last year: 177. This year: 162. The percentage of nonprofit grant recipients who say that demand for their services has increased: 52. A word of caution–these numbers come from a March survey by the Donors Forum of Chicago and are based on responses from just 39 grant-making foundations (holding 22 percent of Illinois foundation assets) and 129 nonprofit groups.

Buddhism may free you from the cycle of birth and rebirth, but evidently it won’t free you from the cult of relics. An August 1 press release from the “Relic Tour manager” announced the August 15-17 display of more than 1,000 Buddhist relics at north-side and south-side Buddhist temples. “Many of the relics are tiny, pearl-like objects, called ringsels, that are found in the cremated remains of highly realized beings.”

The NIMBY blackout. “The number of transactions involving the exchange of electricity among power generators has grown by 400 percent in the last decade, yet the transmission system has not grown at all over this time period,” says George Gross, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in an August 21 press release. The reason the electricity highway is congested and prone to breakdown isn’t just money. State regulators “under pressure from local groups opposed to transmission lines…balk at giving permission for a new line, especially one that may serve a regional rather than local purpose. So nothing gets built.”

Do as we say, not as we do. In an August 19 report, “The Threat of a Bad Example: Undermining International Standards as ‘War on Terror’ Detentions Continue,” Amnesty International decries “the USA’s active opposition to the International Criminal Court.” The “campaign to have US nationals exempted from the Court’s jurisdiction coincided with the US administration’s own plans to try selected foreign nationals by military commissions–executive bodies, not independent and impartial courts.”