Education: Oddly Enough

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Pencil pushers: An American company saw its plans backfire when it made pencils bearing an anti-drug slogan, "Too Cool to Do Drugs". Ten- year-old Kodi Mosier at Ticonderoga Elementary School in New York noticed that when the pencils are sharpened, the message turns into "Cool to Do Drugs", then simply "Do Drugs". As a result of the discovery, the company, The Bureau For At-Risk Youth of Plainview, Long Island, recalled the pencils. "We're a little embarrassed that we didn't notice that sooner," said spokeswoman Darlene Clair. A new batch of pencils will have the message written in the opposite direction, so when they are sharpened, they read "Too Cool To Do" and finally "Too Cool". Mosier earned his class a letter of apology from the company and a box of T-shirts. "I guess they didn't sharpen their pencils," he said.

Dumbing down: Satellite equipment meant for instructional use may be confiscated from some of Thailand's schools because teachers are using it to watch soap operas in class. A survey of more than 12,000 schools nationwide found that 913 were using the equipment inappropriately, with many classes watching soaps and other entertainment programmes, said an Education Ministry official, speaking only on condition of his anonymity. In mitigation, however, other schools are not using the equipment at all, but keeping it locked up because they fear that it might be stolen. The contract to sell satellite equipment to Thai schools has been criticised for its cost - and the fact that the supplying company was owned by Thaksin Shinawatra, who at the time was deputy prime minister.

Gym strip: A gym teacher and vice-principal have been suspended while police investigate the strip searching of 19 high-school students in Kingsville, Ontario. The two staff members conducted the search in a futile effort to find money which one student claimed had been stolen from him. John MacDonald, the vice-principal who allowed the strip search, reportedly admits he made a mistake, and is devastated by the incident. Dan Bondy, the gym teacher, is refusing to comment until he gets a lawyer. The controversy began when the 14-year-olds were taken one at a time into an office, ordered to remove their pants, then told to bend over as Bondy and MacDonald searched for missing money. Both have been suspended with pay. The school board has ruled that, from now on, teachers will only be able to ask students to turn their pockets inside out or take off their shoes and socks.

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