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Least-promising enterprises. The recently founded American Smokers Association, based in northwest suburban Huntley, hopes to obtain "group life, health, home-owners and auto insurance at club discounts from companies that don't discriminate against smokers."

Twenty-three Chicago K-8 elementary schools have gained at least 15 points in reading achievement between 1989 and 1991, reports Donald Moore of Designs for Change in Catalyst (March), urging that we not give up on school reform just yet. "Further, 15 of these 23 schools serve 50 percent to 100 percent low-income students. The median school in this group gained about 30 points at each grade level.... They have made solid consistent progress that would put most above the national average in three to five years, if their current rate is maintained.... For any serious researcher, the inquiry process about student achievement [under reform] in Chicago is just beginning."

"All else being equal, white football players earned significantly more money in metropolitan areas with larger white populations, and black player salaries increased in metropolitan areas with larger black populations"--that's from the U. of I. summary of economist Lawrence M. Kahn's recent study of race and sports compensation. "Customer discrimination is important," says Kahn, "because, unlike employer discrimination, competition will not eliminate this form of bias within an industry. Teams are, in effect, rewarded by prejudiced fans for discriminating."

News that drug-war bureaucrats don't like to hear. The state Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse recently funded a random survey of 3,054 high school freshmen and seniors that found that fewer than 61 of them used steroids.

"Raising crops of workers for the private sector is best left to the private sector," writes James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Times (March 5-11), arguing that downstate's Sangamon State University should spin off its self-supporting programs and "turn Springfield into the educational version of the free trade zone, open to branch campuses and extension courses of any institution that can make them pay. Taxpayers are entitled to hold the higher ed administrators to the logic of their position; having let the market expand the system for their benefit they should leave the market free to shrink it for ours."

Office chitchat in Hyde Park. University of Chicago president Hanna Gray, recalling that some years ago the mother of geneticist James D. Watson, the double-helix discoverer and Nobel laureate to be, worked in the university admissions office: "She used to talk about her son from time to time. One day she announced, 'Jimmy has just discovered the secret of life.' And you know, he had" (University of Chicago Record, February 20).

"The invisibility of black women has been much on my mind of late," writes Lorraine O'Grady in Video (March-April), published by the Center for New Television on North Dayton (reprinted from Artforum, January). "Asked recently to speak on the topic 'Can women artists take back the nude from a voyeuristic male gaze as a site to represent their own subjectivity?' I have to discard the premise: from mass culture to high culture, white women may have been objects of the fetishizing gaze, but black women have had only the blank stare. In fact we feel lucky when we get to take our clothes off."

Let us know when you want to start. Chicago Tribune, March 25, page one, section one: "Daley embraces $2 billion casino plan." Same day, page one, section three: "Soccer event could help city kick Capone reputation."

Facts don't help. According to an article in Pediatrics (February), "Information-oriented school- and community-based AIDS prevention programs will not succeed in getting adolescents to use condoms, because there is no association between knowledge and preventive behavior." The authors recommend instead "decision-making exercises, rehearsal of self-protective behaviors, and group discussions regarding the value of condoms."

An echo from a distant time. In the March Compass, published by the Chicago Audubon Society, Marilyn Hawker observes the late U.S. senator Paul Douglas's 100th birthday by reprinting his nine rules of conduct, of which number eight reads, "To refrain from undue self-esteem..."

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

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