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"We tend to think of time as a smooth-flowing river," writes IIT's Michael Davis in Perspectives on the Professions (August). "History is different. It does not so much flow as jerk along like a worn commuter train, stopping often and only rarely moving fast. This year was one of the rare moments."

Cause of death: overdose of puns. This from the American Association for Therapeutic Humor, based in Northbrook: "Humor is like a drug--wonderful if used at the right time, in the right amount, for the right reason. But, like giving the wrong dose or wrong medication, it can be toxic."

Your tax dollars at play. "The data on economic activity in enterprise zones reported by [the state Department of Commerce and Community Affairs] are all of the 'good news' variety," according to the Illinois Tax Foundation's new report, Enterprise Zones in Illinois. "Data on disinvestment in enterprise zones (plant closings, major layoffs) are supposed to be collected by local zone administrators and reported to DCCA. Very little of this information is systematically collected locally and none of it is reported by DCCA." Even the good news is grossly inflated. In one case "a $35,000 remodeling project at a plant purports to retain 150 jobs--the entire work force of the firm. This kind of reporting makes the 'jobs retained' data virtually worthless for serious program evaluation."

Thanks for the extra commissions. "If the teachers strike," writes Merrill Goozner in Chicago Enterprise (September), "realtors from the 708 area code at the least should serve coffee on the picket lines."

"Women's history is still a puzzle of enormous dimensions," according to Telling Women's Lives (September), newsletter of the Chicago Area Women's History Conference. Based on bibliographic research in the city's main libraries, "we may have to adjust our understanding of the possibilities open to women in the late 1800s. It would seem that women lost far more ground in the course of the twentieth century than we had hitherto suspected." Somehow there was a "movement toward increasing social and emotional dependence, at the same time that women won important political rights, seemingly enabling greater independence." Who would have thought the Victorian era might be the feminist good old days?

"One resource for a teacher [seeking to teach about religion in public school] is the historically trained members of the local clergy," writes Brant Abrahamson, social studies instructor at Riverside-Brookfield High School, in Ideas (August). "The biggest gap in historic understanding is not between believers and nonbelievers. Rather, it is between those community people who have had extensive training in history and those who have not. The clergy of many mainline denominations are potential allies. They may not parade their knowledge in front of their congregations, but they often know their religious history better than do most precollege world history teachers. One may ask them to make classroom presentations, as I have done....One can teach about religion in a historically honest way on the precollege level. But the process is delicate. One should proceed slowly, using existing courses if possible--or the teacher might end up exploring the world of insurance salesmanship..."

Hello, I'm from the government and I really am here to help you. City deputy commissioner of health Richard Biek, quoted in AAP News (August): "When our people went door-to-door during the measles outbreaks, they got a megadose of reality. We literally went to their doors with the injections in hand, and people said 'No, we don't want them.'"

Pollyanna in a business suit. One of the reasons the Management Association of Illinois opposes comparable-worth legislation: "The wage levels of female workers rapidly continue to rise as the free market adjusts to the laws of gender discrimination."

Not a magazine for vegetarians. Malcolm Forbes Jr. in a recent promotional letter: "FORBES stacks up to the others like a thick, juicy steak to a limp spinach salad."

The people versus the unions. According to Michael Klonsky, writing in Catalyst (September), school-reform advocates lost out to status-quo-minded unions in the spring state legislative session. The Teachers' Task Force of the Citywide Coalition for School Reform sought to have teacher members of Local School Councils be elected rather than appointed; the CTU thought otherwise, and prevailed. Reformers also argued that principals (who are held responsible for their schools) should have authority over the custodial staff and over such matters as shifting money between staff and supplies. "Unions, especially the operating engineers' union, blocked legislation that would have given [them] that authority."

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

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