Is your boss doing it? Employer-assisted housing “is rapidly gaining momentum,” reports Samantha DeKoven of the Metropolitan Planning Council in “Ideas@Work” (October), published by the Campaign for Sensible Growth. “Lake Forest College, Loyola University, University of Chicago and Wheaton College have encouraged employees to live in nearby communities through a variety of programs. The City of Chicago, City of Evanston and other municipalities offer down payment assistance or reduced interest loans to police officers buying homes in the communities they serve. Holy Cross, Lake Forest and St. Bernard hospitals offer local housing initiatives. Bank of America, Bank One and Fannie Mae offer down payment assistance to help their employees buy homes.”

“Pressure to raise high school students’ academic performance has diverted attention from career programs, which are suffering from declining enrollment and poor image,” writes Maureen Kelleher in Catalyst Chicago (October). “Today, CPS [Chicago Public Schools] career training consists of three-course sequences in 11 industries.” In order of enrollment numbers, those industries are information technology, business and finance, hospitality, construction, communications, manufacturing, transportation, health, agriculture, public safety, and human services.

“America does have terrorists who have been turned into moral icons,” writes James Miller in the Boston Globe (October 19), reflecting on the latest crop of Weathermen-related books and films dealing with the late 60s and early 70s. “While five people were killed…as part of John Brown’s armed struggle to abolish slavery, most of us have hymned his virtues….In the years to come, will the violence of the Weathermen be regarded with similar forbearance? I think not. Although they imagined themselves paragons of political courage, the Weathermen were too divorced from political reality to have an impact even remotely analogous to John Brown’s. Moreover, many of the Weathermen today seem small, self-absorbed, stunningly complacent. It is hard to say which is more dispiriting: Kathy Boudin’s wooden self-criticism or Bill Ayers’ imperturbable self-regard. It is as if self-examination had devolved into a form of self-righteous narcissism, and the Puritan strand in American radicalism had become a farcical parody of itself. And without a modicum of saving self-knowledge, the self-sacrifice of these men and women now seems as pointless as the violence and suffering that they deliberately inflicted on others.”

Ever try to keep a secret in an elementary school? Eliza Chappell Elementary School principal Bruce Allman, quoted in the Chicago Reporter (October): “The children know before the teacher does who the free-lunch people are. It’s just amazing. You are not supposed to announce it. It’s supposed to be hush-hush. But they look at the [lunch payment] cards, and they can see the codes and realize. And after day one, nobody even mentions it. Everybody seems to be very accepting.”

By the numbers. Percent of workers receiving federal Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation benefits who find jobs before the benefits run out: 25 (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The Mismatch Between Federal Unemployment Benefits and Current Labor Market Realities,” October 15).

What could be worse than PowerPoint? According to Edward Tufte, writing in Wired (September), it’s “the adoption of the PowerPoint cognitive style in our schools. Rather than learning to write a report using sentences children are being taught how to formulate client pitches and infomercials. Elementary school PowerPoint exercises (as seen in teacher guides and in student work posted on the Internet) typically consist of 10 to 20 words and a piece of clip art on each slide in a presentation of three to six slides–a total of perhaps 80 words (15 seconds of silent reading) for a week of work. Students would be better off if the schools simply closed down on those days and everyone went to the Exploratorium or wrote an illustrated essay explaining something.”

From another empire’s files. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia speaking on the Senate floor on November 3 ( “In 280 BC, Pyrrhus, the ruler of Epirus in Northern Greece, took his formidable armies to Italy and defeated the Romans at Heraclea, and again at Asculum in 279 BC, but suffered unbearably heavy losses. ‘One more such victory and I am lost,’ he said.”