Education: Oddly Enough

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The Independent Online
Bad hair day: Ruth Sherman wanted to teach her pupils about racial tolerance. But the book she used provoked more anger than understanding and she is leaving her Brooklyn class in fear of her life. Miss Sherman, 27, said she vacillated between staying and leaving.

"But I knew when I woke up and was afraid to drive there that I couldn't go back," she said.

Parents were angry because Miss Sherman, who is white, had read a book called Nappy Hair to her students in Bushwick, a neighbourhood populated by many blacks and Hispanics. Miss Sherman said she was using the critically acclaimed book to teach her children a lesson in how to get along despite racial differences. But the word "nappy" is sometimes used as a derogatory term to describe a black person's hair.

"The poor children must be so confused right now," Miss Sherman said. "Everything I tried to teach them about getting along and togetherness has been thrown out the window."

Mine's a fossilised half: In a feat reminiscent of Jurassic Park dinosaur- breeding, University of Barcelona researchers say they have brewed a batch of beer from a recipe 3,100 years old. It was pieced together through microscopic examination of scrapings from a bronze age clay jar found at an archeological dig.

Ant-agonising : Leon Higley, professor of entomology at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln has complained about the misrepresentation of insects in Disney's hit movie A Bug's Life. If an animated film was made about birds, he suggested, cartoonists would never draw four wings on the creatures. So why, Higley wants to know, would film-makers give ants in the movie four legs instead of six? Disney and Pixar studios did just that. Higley says it's just one more example of contempt for insects.

"If you can instil in people some appreciation for insects,'' Higley said, "they can appreciate every other level of nature.''

Tears at the bell: Australian sports ministers have rejected a plan to ban children under 14 from competitive boxing. Heated debate followed the national amateur boxing championships, in which girls as young as 11 were allowed to compete. Australia's national sports minister, Jackie Kelly, rejected the proposed ban, arguing it would be unworkable and unnecessary.

Australian medical authorities have condemned the decision to allow young girls to fight, saying they were not physically or mentally mature enough. During the competition, one bout lasted 45 seconds and ended with a girl in tears.