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Monday, June 12, 2006

Who's running Cook County?

By Dennis Byrne

Chicago John Stroger's family and friends are doing the Cook County Board president no favors by keeping his true medical condition a secret from the public.

If Stroger, 77, is healthy, as they say he is, then one hopes that he would order his doctors to make the kind of medical disclosures one expects from important public officials, including the president of the United States, who are "suspected" of being incapacitated.

I say suspected because months after his serious stroke on March 14, Cook County voters, to whom Stroger is accountable, still don't know if he is capable of running a $3 billion enterprise.

Yet last week when Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside), Stroger's Republican opponent for the board presidency, reasonably asked for a doctor's accounting, some county commissioners turned on him with ridicule and anger.

It's disrespectful, they said. John Daley, chairman of the county's Finance Committee, declared it to be a "damn disgrace."

No, here's the disgrace: that tin-pot politicians on their high horses think that we are not entitled to know. That they are such vassals that, even though they're legally responsible for running the government, they're perfectly willing to be kept in Kremlin-like ignorance.

Those who demand to know Stroger's true condition are not the ones who are stomping on his dignity. It's Stroger's gatekeepers who are turning this process into an inexcusable joke.

This is such a high-stakes game that the insiders (the Stroger family?) dared to tell Rev. Jesse Jackson to take a hike when he asked to visit the president. Jackson, who has mediated international disputes, can't even get through the door on this one.

I hope that Stroger returns in good health to seek re-election. But if he does return, his health and the secrecy that surrounded his rehabilitation will be a suitable topic for debate, in addition to his record as president.

Read on

Leslie Pinney, a member of the Arlington Heights-based Township High School District 214 board, didn't deserve the tarring she got when she tried to exercise board control over what students are required to read.

I emphasize "required" because she wasn't trying to tell students what they "can" or "cannot" read, as at least one student put it. She wasn't trying to "ban" books from the classroom or the library. She wasn't trying to "burn" books or conduct Hitlerian censorship, as others hysterically would have it.

She is no guiltier of trying to "ban" books than any schoolteacher who makes up a class reading list and leaves certain books off, for whatever reasons.

Get it straight: When a teacher makes up a required reading list, he is making a judgment about what is good for his students.

This is not a neutral action. It is giving official sanction to a value judgment. That parents can have their kids "opt out" of the list is not an adequate response to complaints about its content, no more than an opt-out option for non-believing students makes mandatory school prayer acceptable.

Pinney was doing what an elected member of an Illinois school board is obliged by law to do: set education policy. She is not preventing anyone from raising his children "the way I want to," as one overwrought critic said.

Yes, she had a different view about what is suitable for required reading than other board members, her critics and perhaps me. That is a proper matter for debate. But her right to challenge required reading lists cannot and must not be denied.

For those telling her to shut up and go away, a compulsory remedial logic course would be in order.

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E-mail: dennis@dennisbyrne.net

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

1 comment:

Mark Solomon said...

Dear Mr. Byrne,

It was a pleasure to read your Read on piece about Leslie Pinney. After reading dozens of articles in the Tribune and other local papers lambasting Ms. Pinney for her "Book Banning" lunacy, was I surprised to read her well written Voice of the People letter which described in detail, like your article did, what she was actually objecting to -- mandated reading of books that she thought would better be replaced with other materials. NO burning, NO banning and No lunacy after all. Apart from your piece, local and national journalists really come out looking bad on this one.

Mark Solomon, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist