Bad craziness in the ‘burbs. Shortly after school began, 10,000 pounds of outdated canned and frozen food–some dated 1985–was discovered in a Michigan City, Indiana, high school kitchen and hauled to the local landfill, reports the daily News-Dispatch (September 15). “My concern,” said the school superintendent, “is that some of this was not noticed like it should have been.”

The view from the bottom. “The social and economic isolation of African-Americans in the poorest neighborhoods has led to a different pattern of beliefs about what groups may have too much influence in American society,” reports University of Chicago political scientist Michael Dawson in the U. of C. Chronicle (August 19). According to Dawson’s study of Detroit, poor blacks are more likely than other blacks to support black nationalism and income redistribution, but their animus is not just against the rich. “Many African-Americans in extremely poor neighborhoods also believe that labor unions, working-class people and middle-class people all have too much influence in American society.”

Why do Catholic schools do better than public schools? It’s not because they’re selective, according to the new book Catholic Schools and the Common Good, coauthored by U. of C. education professor Anthony Bryk, Valerie Lee, and Peter Holland. The authors identified four key characteristics: “a common core of academic work for all students [i.e., no tracking], a supportive, communal style of organization, decentralized governance and an inspirational ideology.” Also helpful were the facts that many Catholic high schools are single-sex and many are relatively small. Conclusion: “As long as moral inspiration remains largely absent from public education, the social resources required for broad-based change will remain uncatalyzed. The current need is a matter not only of restructuring, but of renewal.”

Just a wee bit of a compliance problem. According to Secretary of State George Ryan, “Collisions involving uninsured motorists have fallen from 70,284 in 1990, when Illinois’ mandatory insurance law took effect, to 51,150 in 1992.”

“Chicago has more rapid transit than its population can support,” argues R. Bruce Dold in Chicago Enterprise (September/October). He says that shutting down the Lake Street el for two years of repairs “might have some unintended results. The city, including the South and West sides, will find that most everyone can manage quite nicely, thank you, without those trains….Lake Street L riders will have to venture barely more than a mile south to the Congress line or, if they live near Oak Park, take a short stroll to the Chicago and North Western. The CTA will run feeder buses to the train stops and express buses down Lake Street for people who live fairly close to downtown…. The Lake Street line has only 14,900 riders, according to a recent estimate, and nearly half of them board in Oak Park. The enormous cost of keeping up the line [$7.99 per ride] amounts to a hefty suburban subsidy.”

From resettlement to liberation? Phuntsok Wangdu, president of the Tibetan Resettlement Project, in the organization’s newsletter, Tashi Delek (August): “Tibetan resettlement in America is not an end in itself, however. Rather, it’s a means to achieve our long-cherished goal of liberating our country–Tibet–from Chinese occupation…. A gradual shift of focus on the part of sponsors and volunteers to the political level would be a giant leap forward for the Tibetan cause.”

“The state should require that a homebuyer who purchases property in a racially segregated neighborhood is not eligible for his state income tax exemption for property taxes,” proposes James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Times (September 9-15). “This is no more offensive than expecting that a welfare mother live up to state standards of good parenting in exchange for her AFDC check, but is likely to return a good many more dollars to the General Fund. Similarly, old people would get homestead exemptions on their property taxes only if they showed evidence that they really did, as they so loudly assert, Help Build This Country. The calculus of citizenly contribution could become quite complex–does two votes for Reagan wipe out a stint in the Army?–and I look forward to an invigorating debate.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illusstration/Carl Kock.