Some things I suspected were true have been confirmed in Chicago’s major daily newspapers:

According to U.S. intelligence agencies, “The Iraq War has made the overall terrorism problem worse.” A recent Tribune article said the agencies concluded that the Iraq invasion has “helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.”

You would think that Bush, with his brush-clearing experience, would know enough not to poke a stick into a hornet’s nest.

In this same section I saw the provocative headline, “Homework Is a Sham.” Ha! I knew there was something wrong with homework the day I got my first assignment.

The article says that homework puts stress on the student as well as families. I can relate to that, having burned several brain cells helping my son find the Tropic of Capricorn and other features on a world map. I don’t mind a little stress and hard work if the homework pays off. But the article says the “connection between homework and achievement is tenuous at best and nonexistent at worst.”

How about private education versus public? According to the Education Department, “There is almost no difference in student achievement between the [two] groups.” The department concluded that socioeconomic factors tend to determine educational success. To put it bluntly, if you come from a wealthy educated family, you’ll probably do well in school. For example, “Privileged students with well-educated parents have dinner-table conversations, in-home resources, etc. that underprivileged students do not.”

Speaking of dinner-table conversations, a Sun-Times article said it’s good for a family to eat dinner together. I’m glad my wife was a stickler for family mealtime, because the article said that teens that eat dinner with their family are “likelier to do well in school.” The article also said that mealtime kids are less likely to drink, smoke or get in fights-at least at the table.

I’m thankful for our mealtimes together. I was also glad when the kids left the table to go away to college.

According to a Sun-Times article, student loans are a curse on the next generation. “Student debt is the first roadblock on the route to the American dream,” the article said. It stands to reason that starting adulthood in debt is much worse than starting out broke.

So, what lessons can we learn from newspapers? Stay out of Baghdad. Fix the Democrats. Do your homework, even if it doesn’t have any value. Go to school but make sure you have smart, rich parents. And go away to college for four years. Is there anyone who appreciates a home-cooked meal and conversation more than a college student?

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.