Knives aren’t enough? From the Chicago-based newsletter the Rational American (November): “Real feminists–women who don’t whine about oppression, but do something about it–are active in the NRA…”

Don’t lobby for kids, lobby for social change, urges Robert Halpern of the Erikson Institute on North Wabash (Erikson, Winter). “Building a reform agenda primarily on children’s issues only masks the contentious issues of our common life….There is a kind of invisible line across which [Sylvia Ann] Hewlett, like most of her forebears and contemporaries in child-saving, will not step in her critique of society. On the other side of that line are questions that I believe we must struggle with.” Don’t blame the excesses of the 1980s, he says. Admit that they were par for the course: “Capitalism, overlaid with a limited sense of social obligation, is fundamentally irreconcilable with certain other values, notably generosity toward the vulnerable and a sense of inclusion among those who fare poorly in the marketplace.”

Properly composted yard waste may be safe, according to U. of I. soil microbiologist Michael Cole. The pesticides suburban home owners love “degrade very rapidly in compost because of the numerous organisms that thrive in it,” says a university summary of his research, which included a large composting operation in suburban Lake Bluff.

The left as exploiter? Yep, argues Joel Bleifuss in In These Times (November 1). According to Roosevelt University professor of public administration Sandy O’Donnell, grant-seeking activists “tend to depress wages in order to keep the amount of money they are requesting acceptably low. But it is a Catch-22,” because the low pay keeps them from recruiting or retaining the best people. Consultant John Stauber of Madison, Wisconsin, adds, “Organizations have developed along the lines of underpaying their staff. When we talk about exploitation, typically we mean someone getting rich at someone else’s expense. In activist organizations, it is a case of organizational exploitation where the organizations are underpaying staff to get more work done.”

Bear down, Chicago summer solstice…Beatrice Briggs in Conscious Choice (November/ December): “When one’s primary experience of the worshipping community is a trip to K mart or the football stadium, joining in a summer solstice celebration for the first time is likely to feel a bit awkward.”

“If an enemy power had taken a mission to destroy Chicago public high schools, without destroying the buildings, it could not have been more successful than the Board has been,” UIC mathematics professor Roberta Dees, who codirects the College Preparatory Mathematics Program, told the board of education October 26. She was referring to the change to a seven-period day “with total disregard for the needs of the individual school” and to the “arbitrary and indiscriminate way” of cutting teachers, “resulting in extreme damage or complete destruction of programs….A major goal of our program has been to enable more of our students to enter the mathematics-science pipeline. For example, at Fenger High School, last year the pre-calculus class had 8 students; this year it had 18. I say, ‘had,’ because the class was disbanded. 15 of them have no math class; 3 students insisted on the class, a teacher is trying to accommodate them in the back of another class.”

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