Philosopher dies but serious Sindy is born;The week in view

12th February 1999 at 00:00
IN A WEEK dominated by the funeral of King Hussein, the death of the novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch and the annual report from the chief inspector of schools, there was a rude awakening for Islington kids and tales of a funny school inspector - alas, not Chris Woodhead.

Dial-a-Dreamer is the latest wheeze to get sleepyheads to Islington Green School in north London. Staff and governors have been going in early to ring up the worst attenders and latecomers to embarrass them into getting in on time. Apparently it's working.

When Gervase Phinn is not at work, inspecting English in his native Yorkshire schools, he's writing books or delivering after-dinner speeches about his experiences. Education's answer to James Herriot is a regular on Esther Rantzen's television show and his book, The Other Side of the Dale, might even be dramatised by the BBC.

As a poet, Mr Phinn would have welcomed Alan Howarth's attack on the dons who head the Oxford University Press. The arts minister likened them to barbarians for selling off the OUP's poetry list.

A college of that august university is engaged in another commercial enterprise, unusually with its ancient rival, Cambridge. The two Corpus Christi colleges are to share the first Oxbridge don. The collaboration will involve a junior research fellow spending two years in each institution and should attract business sponsorship and the brightest academics from the United States.

Forget Oxbridge, or even the Ivy League - in Chicago journalism students at Northwestern University gathered evidence which led to the release of a man who had been on death row for 15 years. This was the second time in three years that students on the course had uncovered a miscarriage of justice.

It's doubtful whether Edinburgh undergrads have such serious matters on their minds. The Scottish capital has become the nobs' choice for a degree in high living. Tatler has a social editor up north to write about the scores of parties and balls that enliven the long evenings.

Get real. That's the message from Stuart Miles, the presenter of the Beeb's Blue Peter, who is about to quit. He called for a reinvention of the 40-year-old programme to make it more topical and unpredictable.

"The show needs to tackle subjects like divorce, bullying, eating disorders, or drugs," he said.

Life gets more real and earnest: Professor John Guillebaud, of the Margaret Pyke Family Planning Centre in London, has proposed that children as young as two be given sex education - only days after suggesting teenage girls be fitted with contraceptive implants.

Even Sindy is getting serious. The former American doll is to lose her curves and Californian tan. She is to be relaunched by her new British maker as a pale and interesting charity worker who loves children and animals.

Critics were not amused by the most expensive French language movie starring Asterix and Obelix, the charming Gallic heroes of the French comic books which have sold in millions. "The transformation from comic book to film finishes off a dream, fatally. It's like a bubble that has burst," lamented Liberation. It's been that sort of week.

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