10th October 1997, 1:00am



Our award for sheer front goes to that diary stalwart, Roger Ward, swashbuckling chief executive of the Association of Colleges.

He has thrown down the gauntlet to his old leather-jacketed sparring partners in lecturers' union NATFHE by asking for the nomination forms needed to apply to become its general secretary.

The wily Mr Ward, now known as Jolly Roger for his new self-styled "cuddly" image, insists that he is qualified to stand for the post, citing his previous life as a negotiator for the Manufacturing Science and Finance Union.

The mere idea, coming from the man many hold personally responsible for the wave of redundancies which has swept the world of FE colleges, will strike horror in the hearts of lecturers' leaders. Among those who don't collapse with laughter, anyway.

Mr Ward - hitherto famous for Rolex watches, Pol Roger champagne and expense accounts - insists his quest to lead NATFHE is entirely serious, but admits that the task of finding 50 rank-and-file nominations could prove tricky. Still, he has suggested a couple of ideas which might form a manifesto - including closing down the union's headquarters, ceasing hostilities with management and throwing out all the left-wingers. Carborundum suggests a touch of inducement might be called for; how about one bottle of champagne per vote (and don't get fobbed off with sparkling wine).

From the Land of the Free comes advice on how to run a real literacy campaign.

Forget New Labour's National Year of Reading. Forget David Blunkett, Phil Redmond and literacy storylines in Brookside (Carborundum would rather see Grant reading to Tiff's baby in EastEnders anyway).

No, the Newspaper Association of America has gone straight to the top, enlisting the help of a former president in their efforts to boost literacy.

Unfortunately it's not the great communicator himself, Ron Reagan, for sadly obvious reasons. It's George Bush.

"Encourage your children to read every day. One day they may take the world by storm," exhorts the one-time leader of the Free World in an outsized advert in the Los Angeles Times, subtly reminding us of Desert Storm and the heroic conquest of Iraq.

It's hard to think of anything less likely than a full-page picture of Mr Bush to make you want to pick up a book, or indeed a copy of the LA Times.

George's strangely disembodied head floats over a copy of his daily paper, fixing the reader with a sincere look.

But this is America. They do things differently there. And let's be frank: this isn't reading for recreation. This is reading for survival - and to hell with grammar.

"All my life I've been competitive - in sports, in combat and in public life," says George, sternly. "In order for children to effectively learn (ouch) to compete in this society, they must be able to read.

"Read to your children. Show them how much fun reading can be. Encourage them to keep up with the world by reading newspapers, magazines and books every day of their lives."

Yes sir, Mr ex-President, sir.

Perhaps George is trying to atone for the sins of the past. For the words George, Bush and literate were never closely linked when he was in charge.

It was he who gave the world the gobbledegook "vision thing" and professed to being "out of the loop", whatever that means, every time a dodgy decision was made.

And he's also the guy who hired Dan Quayle as his vice-president.

Quayle, Carborundum recalls with fondness, was the "Veep" who thoughtfully corrected a teacher's blackboard spelling of "potato", adding the "e" at the end which we illiterates somehow always omit.

And a delightfully desperate fax from the chairman of governors at a school and local authority Carborundum has been asked not to name.

Mr X, frustrated by the activities of his council's admissions department which helpfully provided him with fewer pupils in his intake this year than last, decided to ring the office of one David Blunkett for a moan. You remember the one: nice chap, currently Secretary of State for Education.

"However, even before I had completed a brief outline of the issue, I was interrupted with a tart 'We don't have anything to do with education here'. " His conclusion? "Clearly, I should have telephoned the man who does have education on his agenda - three times, no less."

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