New millennium spells trouble;Sideways Look;The week in education;Briefing;News amp; Opinion

19th November 1999 at 00:00
IT'S been a week of millennium angst. Charlotte Church, the 13-year-old singing prodigy, is spoilt for choice on how to spend hers, while her fellow teenagers are apparently struggling to spell "millennium", let alone deciding what to do...

But first, in a Pythonesque scene, Home Office minister Paul Boateng told a group of black lads in Willesden High in a deprived area of north-west London, that they didn't know how lucky they were. When he went to school in Ghana some kids did their homework under street lights because their parents didn't have enough money for lamp oil, let alone electricity.

One bit of homework the teenagers may need to take more seriously is spelling. A survey for Oxford English Dictionaries showed pensioners did better than 16- to 24-year-olds, but they all had problems with the m-word. Accommodation, pronunciation and privilege also caused trouble.

Charlotte with the wonderful voice is having trouble deciding which invitation to accept for New Year's Eve: the Queen at the Dome, the Pope in Rome, President Clinton at the White House or French singer Jean-Michel Jarre at the Pyramids in Egypt. And, my dears, she has already sung for all, except the latter.

Elsewhere, a prodigy from an earlier age, Mozart, would see the irony of a plan at Pittsburgh University, Ohio, to play his works around campus at peak party times, in the hope of dissuading students from getting Brahms and Liszt. Quite unlike the dear chap himself.

Researchers have long noted the Mozart effect. His music is said to boost IQs, and soothe nerves. But it will take more than Eine Kleine Nacht-musik to calm down trainee translators whose exam papers were binned instead of being marked. The Institute of Linguists offered a free resit and an apology.

Diane Spencer

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