Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas has endorsed the offcampus distribution to schoolkids of book covers with the Ten Commandments printed on them, saying they’re values no one could argue with. However, values such as “Only worship the one true God” (nope, there’s never been any dispute over that one) or “Do not misuse God’s name” (which one?) or “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (as long as it doesn’t fall between Monday and Friday) did spur some argument–from liberal organizations such as People for the American Way, among others. The back cover features quotations from such apparently indisputable role models as Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey, and both sides prominently display the Web address for the Total Living Network. Does the school system support the deification of a sports star and a media celebrity? How do the promotions of an evangelical group with a budding television network serve 100,000 schoolchildren? One might even argue on behalf of the Commandments themselves that they’ve been shamefully dumbed down. But that would be a waste of time. You “do not murder,” “do not steal,” “do not worship idols,” and you just don’t argue with the CEO.

Perhaps, when the system possesses so many books that every child will have at least one to cover, the CPS will provide pupils with a book cover listing other values with which no one can argue–if they know what’s good for them.

Thou shalt only worship the one true Test

Thou shalt castigate those who complain about the Test

Thou shalt shun those who do not pass the Test

Thou shalt recognize the difference between the true answers and the false answers, and check the box accordingly

Thou shalt do homework six hours every night (except Sunday)

Thou shalt not have false idols–only real ones (Winfrey, Jordan, Datey)

Thou shalt not tolerate any excuse for failure, whether it be called “dyslexia,” or “test phobia,” or “no habla ingles,” for these deviations from the standard shall not pass

Thou shalt smile while walking through the metal detector, remain in class during random locker searches, and give joyful consent to strip searches, for you shall be known by your good attitude

Thou shalt grade all parents by the same standard, whether they be single, working, or dead

Thou shalt not covet the governor’s office nor pander to the Christian right in preparation for a run for same

–Jeffrey Felshman

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