Bianca is really just an ethics girl;The week in view

29th May 1998 at 01:00
It was a bad week for God: not only did headteachers call, yet again, for an end to compulsory worship, but vicars are being encouraged to bone up on soaps to keep their flocks happy; and alternative baptisms could be on offer in a religion-free ceremony.

So far 40 vicars in the Lichfield diocese have attended workshops which showed them how soap operas made ethical issues interesting. "This is the reality: people have shrinking attention spans. Priests must package their product to suit a public used to soundbites and today's modern lifestyle," said Mark East, a course graduate. He, so help us, is putting a pseudo-game show in his sermon called The Price is Right. "I will do anything to make the gospel relevant and interesting as long as it is not illegal, immoral or defamatory."

Small wonder that some parents are replacing prayers and holy water with poetry and music at baby-naming ceremonies. Lord Young, the Labour peer who chairs the ministerial group on the family, is recommending a change in the law to allow registrars to conduct secular services. Godparents would become sponsors or lay supporters.

Cue for football: it could be good news for the coming generation of supporters should Britain's bid to host the 2006 World Cup be successful. Alec McGivan, director of the bid at the Football Association, plans to give away tickets to children and youth groups to ensure that stadia are full for the less popular matches.

Football is not only taking over the cricket season, it is putting its boot into academe: Liverpool University is offering 35 places on a full-time Masters in Business Administration course specialising in football industries.

On the subject of games, Baroness Blackstone, the education minister, caused a Tory member of the education select committee to have a severe sense of humour failure. The good Lady revealed that her grandmother played poker every afternoon and made quite a lot of money out of it, "so perhaps it is an example of extra-curricular activity contributing to employability". She said it was important for children to have access to out-of-school activities covering sport, the arts and intellectual games.

"I would prefer to see children learning to play bridge. That is a good mind game which develops critical thinking skills. I had even wondered whether we ought to be introducing poker, but perhaps that is a little dangerous."

Nick St Aubyn, Tory MP for Guildford, solemnly rebuked her for encouraging gambling. An education department official explained she was joking.

Sadly, no laughs in America where a 15-year-old went on a killing spree in Springfield, Oregon, the latest in a string of deadly school assaults. A chilling remedy was recommended by John Lott, a fellow of the University of Chicago law school. He said it was time for teachers to carry guns.

Let's end with a "feel-good" story in celebration of last week's lifelong learning week. John Gates, a redundant Welsh miner, kept it a secret that he'd taken up embroidery during one of the early-1970s strikes to alleviate boredom. However, when his pit closed five years ago he turned it into a career via a City and Guilds certificate in fashion. He now teaches his skill at community education classes.

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