Substance News to honor founder George Schmidt (1946-2018)

After Substance founder George Schmidt died in September 2018, many of us felt it was very important to keep Substance News alive and to continue George's work of advocating for economic justice, professional respect for teachers, democracy within the Chicago Teachers Union, and improved public schools. So from October 2018 until May 2020 I edited the website, and from June 2020 through April 2023 John Kugler ran the site. But Substance isn’t Substance without George. Sam, Josh, Dan, Sharon, and George Schmidt in 2018, two months prior to George's death. George founded Substance in 1975. He taught in more than 15 Chicago public schools from 1969 until 1999, then worked as a researcher for the CTU and SEIU Local 73 when his career was cut short after Paul Vallas and Mayor Richard M. Daley's BOE filed a lawsuit against Substance and fired George for our publication of the CASE (Chicago Academic Standard Exams). Sharon teaches at Steinmetz High School. The Schmidt sons graduated from Whitney Young High School in 2007, 2019, 2023. Sam is a CPS social work intern.

However, a lot of his work is here. George's reporting of April 2007 through July 2018, and hundreds of other articles by dozens of Substance reporters George published remain at Substance News. Readers may use our search tool, or go to "back issues" and select a month and year to see dozens of articles on each monthly homepage.

Photocopies of Substance newspapers printed from 1975 until 2012 are available at the Chicago Teachers Union's offices. To honor George’s legacy, we will continue to keep the Substance News site active, but at this point, we are highlighting articles on the homepage that tell George's personal and professional stories, not new content. If readers want other news sources that advocate for economic justice, professional respect for teachers, democracy within the Chicago Teachers Union, and improved public schools, there are other options published by friends of Substance. These include:

Susan Ohanian’s Writing About What Matters:

Jim Vail’s Second City Teachers:

Norm Scott’s Ed Notes (NYC):

FAIR's (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) newsletter Extra:

Our website Substance News was created by George’s son Dan when he was a high school student in 2007. Over the years, the site has become antiquated with much of the page furniture obsolete because we've lost the ability to modify the structure of the sites. In addition to the kludgy clutter, two major problems exist with Substance News: spam infiltrates our comments sections, and the site wasn't created to be viewed on a phone. In addition to George Schmidt and his Substance co-founder Larry MacDonald, this reporter and John Kugler, other editors of Substance have included the late Leo Gorenstein and the late Terry Czernik, both who worked closely with George.


August 1, 2023 at 7:15 AM

By: Sharon Schmidt

George Schmidt's reports and analyses

About 15 years of George's work is searchable the Substance News archives.

December 19, 2023 at 5:53 AM

By: John Whitfield


Ugly rise in antisemitism after Hamas attack on Israel has deep roots in American history

The antisemitism story of 2023 isn't about freedom of speech or academic freedom; it's about meanness and divisiveness, flames fanned by the cruelty of social media.

Dr. Marc Siegel

My 100-year-old Jewish father, a World War II veteran, recently asked me a question with concern: “Where is all this antisemitism coming from?”

His question was spurred by the horrific increase in antisemitism since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The Anti-Defamation League has recorded more than 2,000 antisemitic acts in the United States − an increase of 337% − in the two months since Hamas terrorists slaughtered 1,200 men, women and children.

"The lid to the sewers is off, and Jewish communities all across the country are being inundated with hate," Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, has said.

Yet, the deeper answer to my father's question is that the history of antisemitism in the United States is long and sordid.

After World War I, universities imposed quotas on how many Jewish students they would admit. Certain neighborhoods, hotels and clubs excluded Jews. Auto magnate Henry Ford promoted antisemitic propaganda, stating that Jews sought to control the world’s economy, beliefs that Adolf Hitler praised in his infamous "Mein Kampf."

In the late 1930s, antisemitism and pro-Nazi sentiment were rampant and growing. In fact, when my father was graduating from the renowned Brooklyn Technical High School in New York, he sacrificed his final grade and valedictorian status by standing up for a fellow Jewish student who was being picked on by an antisemitic teacher.

Nazis gained a foothold in America before World War II

In 1939, on the precipice of World War II, famed national radio announcer Walter Winchell condemned a rally of 20,000 Nazi sympathizers at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He also criticized Charles Lindbergh, an American hero and international celebrity who became an apologist for the Nazis.

Lindbergh's bigotry inspired my teacher and mentor Philip Roth to write a great novel, "The Plot Against America," exploring how U.S. history might have unfolded had Lindbergh's dangerous views prevailed.

Yet, World War II galvanized Americans against a common enemy in a way we can certainly learn from now. Our military were liberators, freeing Europe from the oppressive evil that would cast others as subhuman to justify genocide.

The massive patriotism of that generation and societal sacrifice triumphed over all naysayers and Nazi sympathizers, including Lindbergh and his America First Committee. Most Americans celebrated the role they played together in freeing the world, and antisemitism was at a low.

Bernard Siegel, 100, is a World War II veteran.

When my father says antisemitism appears to be far greater now in the United States than during World War II, he is right. During the war, 550,000 Jews, including my dad, served in the U.S. military, and the country came together in a singular fight against the Nazis.

December 19, 2023 at 6:14 AM

By: John Whitfield

rest of Dr. Siegel's piece

This positive sentiment carried over into the golden era of post-war America. When I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, I felt little antisemitism, but then it began to creep slowly back, fueled by hate groups.

Where will the wave of hate go next?The rising hate in America now is alarming.

The antisemitism story of 2023 isn’t about freedom of speech or academic freedom.

It's about meanness and divisiveness, flames fanned by the cruelty of social media, where it is too easy to hide anonymously behind cruel expression.

George W. Bush offers wise advice

I recently interviewed former President George W. Bush on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he gave sage advice for our country. History goes in cycles, he said, and we are in the midst of a dark time, a down cycle, but we will come back up to the light.

In the meantime, he said, “We need hugging instead of yelling.”

I couldn’t agree more. Jews are sensitive to the word "genocide," considering that the Holocaust occurred only 80 years ago. But the rest of the world needs to be sensitive to it, too.

The issues have not been this clear or sharply focused since perhaps World War II.

Israel has a right to defend its borders. Hamas is monstrous and engages in tactics reminiscent of the Nazis. They need to be eradicated if Israel is ever to feel secure.

At the same time, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza also is disturbing and deserving of the world’s attention. Efforts to provide medical and humanitarian relief for Palestinians are crucial.

President Bush is right. Hugging may have been a problem a few years ago for fear of spreading infection, but it is certainly the right medicine for all of us now.

Dr. Marc Siegel, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors and a Fox News medical correspondent, is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Marc Siegel, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at New York University's Langone Health. His latest book is "COVID: the Politics of Fear and the Power of Science." Follow him on Twitter: @DrMarcSiegel

March 1, 2024 at 8:13 AM

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June 15, 2024 at 11:30 AM

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