Babies in bubbles and buckets on heads;The Week in View

15th January 1999 at 00:00
As the Government tries to re-launch itself after a disastrous start to the New Year, let's contemplate the bubble buggy, the compulsive quizzer and the single, stoned and selfish Brits.

The latest device for the paranoid parent is the pollution-proof passenger capsule, cocooning tots from urban smog, traffic exhausts and the sun. The high-tech push chair folds up like origami as it is made of aircraft-specification aluminium tubing, and is a snip at pound;500.

Another claustrophobic sight comes from South Korea, where karaoke is king. Music teacher Lee Byung-won finds that pupils' voices improve when they practice with their heads in a plastic bucket. He also helps their breath control by making them sing while they're standing on their heads.

Lance Haward doesn't go to such lengths to attract attention; but he did enrol at university just to be on University Challenge. The retired local government solicitor, a graduate now studying Greek, has made more than 30 appearances in programmes such as Mastermind, Sale of the Century and 15 to One. In 22 years he claims he has won little more than a "collection of hideous trophies".

No glittering prizes either for six Oxford undergraduates who are refusing to pay pound;1,000-a-year tuition fees. They have been barred from the university premises and will be unable to sit exams or use libraries and computer services. Next week's march against the fees will be the biggest Oxford demonstration for nine years, a student leader promised.

Meanwhile they are doing things differently at Liverpool's John Moores University. A glossy prospectus modelled on Loaded, the lads' mag, entices prospective students to a hedonistic lifestyle, more akin to Club 18-30 than a seat of learning about to be graced by Cherie Booth, the PM's wife - who is due to become chancellor next month. David Robertson, professor of public policy and education said: "The university is exhibiting a gross lack of moral leadership."

Clearly the institution is in line for producing more of the single, stoned and selfish citizens depicted in the latest Government statistical survey, Britain 1999. We live longer, marry later, are more likely to try drugs and put pleasure before responsibility. Can we still blame Thatcher?

It's all a far cry from the whimsical world of Winnie the Pooh. Possibly not, as the bear of little brain is coining billions for his new owner, the Walt Disney empire, even out-selling Mickey Mouse. Pooh's pals Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger et al are sharing his success on the supermarket shelves.

This entrepreneurial spirit can be fostered by teachers allowing the children "a little licensed naughtiness" in school, Charles Handy, the management guru from the London Business School told the North of England Conference. He added that he didn't mean criminality or violence. "Just a little risk taking."

James Goldsmith, the late multi-millionaire, Ted Turner, founder of CNN and our own Richard Branson are prime products of an unorthodox education.

That will be a great comfort next time you're waiting for a Virgin train.

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