By Harold Henderson

Mass transit, but not public. From testimony at an RTA hearing by Anthony Pagano, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Association, excerpted in MTA Monitor (November-December): “The private sector operates 14,715 vehicles in the Chicago area. This is over seven times the number of buses operated by public transit in Chicago.”

How many know the difference? “Ratio of Americans who can name the Three Stooges to those who can name three Supreme Court justices: 3:1” (Harper’s Index, January).

“The Indigenous Environmental Network is not simply a combination of the Native American movement with environmental activism,” writes Zoltan Grossman of Madison, Wisconsin, in Z Magazine (November). “First, there is a complete absence of the concept of ‘wilderness’–or the idea of nature devoid of human beings. Instead, humans are presented as an integral part of different natural regions, acting within them to gather their sustenance. Second, the human race is not seen as the inherent collective enemy of ecosystems. Instead, the corporate and governmental forces that destroy the environment are clearly identified. Third, animals are never presented as cute or fuzzy, but as sacred parts of Native cultures.”

Changing times. DePaul University dean of education Barbara Sizemore recalls being fired as school superintendent in Washington, D.C., in the early 1970s “for abolishing standardized tests,” writes Alex Poinsett in Catalyst (December). “Now convinced that these tests aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, she urges fellow educators to teach students the analysis, synthesis and inference skills that they presumably measure….’You cannot teach a child whose mother is a junkie and whose father is in prison the same way that you teach a child who has two PhD parents,’ the educator declares. ‘You can have the same expectations but you cannot use the same pedagogy.'”

Lost and found and lost and found. “Seldom of great beauty, but distinctly utilitarian, these [lumber] schooners brought the materials to build, then rebuild, Chicago,” according to the Chicago Maritime News (Fall) of the Chicago Maritime Society. “None remain since the last was grievously disregarded as history by being burned as a derelict in Detroit during 1957. There was an exception, though, as a fine example was floated from the depths of Green Bay in July of 1969 by a group from Menominee, Michigan. This schooner may have been better preserved in the cold lake water; she was recently destroyed for lack of adequate maintenance funds.” Now CMS’s Chicago Schooner Research Project is collecting pictures and information on the long-gone boats.

Needed: extra booster rockets. “In the late 1950s the first Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, soared into space,” recalls Father John Shea of Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, in U.S. Catholic (December). “When he returned to earth, that staunch atheist could not help but boast that he had been to the heavens and found them empty. Neither God nor angels were anywhere to be found. My grandfather was not happy. Since I was a seminarian at the time, he asked me what I thought of this ‘shot at the deity.’ I had just read theologian Paul Tillich on symbolic language, and so I treated my grandfather to the philosophical view that God was not a divine person who really lived in the sky. ‘Heavenly’ God was an image that signified the divine was transcendent, always more than the finite human mind can encompass. My grandfather gave me a great look of disgust and spoke the truth that was obvious to him: ‘That commie didn’t fly high enough.'”

“It would be wonderful if the gallery, performance, or design worlds could support artists economically,” writes Carol Becker of the School of the Art Institute in the new book The Artist in Society: Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities, “but there is now little illusion that the marketplace will ever sustain most artists’ souls. There must be a connection to something larger.” Translation: people won’t buy our stuff, so let’s get busy lobbying government agencies to do it with taxes.

“The problem of school finance grows the farther south one moves in the Chicago area,” writes James Durkin in Illinois Issues (December). “According to my own analysis, the Illinois State Board of Education’s 1992 annual report on school funding showed that 29 north and northwest suburban Cook County elementary school districts spent an average of $6,939 per pupil. The board’s report two years later showed that 22 south suburban districts averaged only $4,641 per pupil.” Sounds bad–but he doesn’t offer evidence that south suburbanites are only two-thirds as well educated.

“Progressive forces haven’t been entirely absent from the welfare debate,” writes Felicia Kornbluh in In These Times (December 11), but pretty close. In fact, “feminist and women’s groups like the Women’s Committee of 100 have been much more involved in the welfare fight than groups from the traditional left….The question now is whether other progressives will follow the tentative lead of the women’s movement. Our predominant stance of hating the Republicans, disdaining mainstream politics and avoiding the morning papers can only take us so far.”

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