Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

In Defense of Teaching

Susan Notes:

George Schmidt stood tall for the sake of all teachers and students when Substance published the ridiculed Chicago city exams, revealing the warts for all to see. George and Sharon have paid a heavy price for this willingness to speak truth to power. For starters, George lost his 30+-year teaching job and was blackballed throughout the region.

This award is well deserved.
Join in applauding George and Sharon by subscribing to Substance, the newspaper that stands up for public schools.

Join the Resistance: Subscribe to Substance.
Send $16 to
5132 W. Berteau Ave.
Chicago, IL 60641-1440


The Department of Language, Reading, and Culture, College of Education, the University of Arizona, has announced the 2008 recipient of The Kenneth S. Goodman 'In Defense of Good Teaching' Award: George Schmidt.

On MARCH 7 - 9, George and Sharon will fly to Tucson to receive the award at the Conference on Children's and Young Adult Literature. George will speak on "Defying the Tyranny of Testing."

Introduction to the Schmidts' Legal Fight

After more than four-and-a-half years of torturous legal maneuvering, the Chicago Board of Education now has to face the First Amendment it tried to abolish in January 1999.

At that time, Chicago's school board and the school system's frenetic CEO Paul Vallas sued Substance newspaper and editor George N. Schmidt for more than $1 million in an uprecedented "copyright infringement" lawsuit.

Thanks to the way media in Chicago is controlled by the Daley administration, the lawsuit became one of the biggest media events of the final week of January 1999 in Chicago.

The lawsuit was filed on January 26, 1999, one week after Substance newspaper published a lengthy critique of the Chicago Academic Standards Examinations (CASE) along with the text of five examinations which had just been administered to the city's nearly 100,000 high school students.

Although Chicago officials had not even registered their "copyright" for the CASE tests (and as it later turned out, didn't even own full rights to the tests at the time they sued Substance), other voices were drowned out as Chicago's powerful mayor Richard Daley and his two top education lieutenants -- school board president Gery Chico and schools CEO Paul Vallas -- took to the media to denounce Schmidt and Substance and demand that the courts order the small newspaper and its editor to pay more than $1 million, which the city's leaders claimed was the cost of developing the tests.

The night he was sued, Substance editor George Schmidt told his fellow reporters that the situation closely resembled the famous 1971 "Pentagon Papers" case, and that he was confident that the First Amendment rights of both his newspaper and its editor would be vindicated. But the First Amendment was ignored for the next four years, as three politically powerful federal judges rubber stamped the Daley administration's version of copyright law and current events.

As both the chronology on the Substance website and the briefs now filed in June 2003 in the Substance appeal demonstrate, in Chicago justice was delayed and partly denied because of the powerful forces arrayed against the small newspaper. Another part of the scandal, Schmidt noted, was that he and his colleagues received no support from the city's two major newspapers, both of which published editorials on January 28, 1999 against him and Substance. The powerful Chicago Tribune in fact praised the school board for moving to fire Schmidt from his teaching job.

Another reason for the long delay in justice in Chicago was that the city's civil rights and civil liberties organizations had been coopted by the Daley administration as part of the controversial "school reform" programs that Substance had regularly criticized.

Read all of the facts of this important First Amendment case on the Substance Website, or go to the website of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and read the main briefs laying out Substance's legal case under the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution.

  • Go to the 7th Circuit website

  • go to cases

  • type in the case number: 03-1479

  • Visit the new Substance News website.

    Become a part of the resistance:

    SUBSCRIBE to Substance:
    Send $16 to
    5132 W. Berteau Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60641-1440

    — Susan Ohanian
    press release


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