History is made while Noddy goes to the Big Apple;Newsreel;The week in view

17th April 1998 at 01:00
With the blessed prospect of peace in our time in Ireland, if not in the nation's classrooms as Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett learnt last weekend, we find it was a good week for higher education, "high-class shank" and Noddy.

Selly Oak College in Birmingham will benefit from a pound;15 million trust built up by John Ferguson, a former president and a founder of the Open University.

John Bennett, a 23-year-old software millionaire, is swapping his TVR sports car and country mansion for public transport and student accommodation to study law at King's College, London University. "Nice cars are all very well, but there are more important things in life than money," he explained.

One entire family of five are now students: parents Carole and Eric Chadwick are aiming for Leeds, James is studying law at De Montford, Leicester, Louise is to read law at Liverpool and Matthew is considering various offers.

But, across the pond, it was not Harvard's finest hour. More than five years after one of America's leading universities was offered more than $3 million (pound;1.8m) for a chair of Holocaust studies, the plan has been abandoned following acrimonious disputes between academics.

Hard on the heels of the Teletubby invasion of America, New York must brace itself for Noddy and his pals. The leisure group Trocadero, which owns the rights to Enid Blyton's works, is mounting a huge overseas sales push with books re-written in American English, and a 40-hour Noddy telly series complete with spin-off merchandise like Noddy clocks and baked beans.

The little chap might well be a contender for a time capsule as children are being asked to nominate their 12 most popular icons to be buried beneath the Dome in Greenwich. Hot favourites are Tamagotchis, Action Man, the Spice Girls records and training shoes.

Bizarre experiment of the week award should go to Andy Marshall, a third-year student at Cardiff University who spent the past seven days in a monkey cage at Paignton Zoo, South Devon, where he is studying primate behaviour, to raise pound;3,000 to be a research assistant in Tanzania. He hoped punters would give him chocolate and beer as well as donations.

Some more conventional research was conducted at Duke University Medical Centre in North when pregnant rats were fed the vitamin choline. It was found that the rodents then had offspring with better memories, with the consequence that pregnant women might be told to eat more eggs, milk and nuts should choline prove to have the same memory-enhancing effect on humans.

Girls could be put off science, though, by reading about one of the world's most famous women scientists, Marie Curie. A 100 years after she discovered radioactivity, another American academic, Susan Lindee at the University of Pennsylvania, analysed the popular biographies of the twice Nobel prizewinner and found the enduring picture of a puritanical genius was more likely to repel than attract girls.

Although we don't have to break ice in the water pitcher like the young Marie, there's a down-side to today's Western affluent society as east German families have found. A study into their increasingly luxurious lives since unification revealed that thick carpets, household pets and processed food like margarine doubled the risk of children developing hayfever and increased by a third their chances of getting eczema.

Fast food, however does have its uses. A school siege in Idaho ended when a gun-toting 14-year-old holding five hostages swapped his weapon for a pizza and cigarettes. He also wanted alcohol and marijuana, said the police chief, but that was denied.

And so to the search for the originator of the phrase "high-class shank". It dates back to the dying days of the Major government and a minister missing a vital Education Bill vote on account of what he was going to do instead, according to Gyles Brandreth's racy diary in last Sunday's Telegraph. By the time you read this, the culprit may have been revealed.

Diane Spencer

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