Education: Oddly Enough

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And God said, "Could you repeat that?": If the residents of the Black Country have been wondering why God never answers their prayers, the explanation seems to be that he cannot understand a word they are saying. A Church of England vicar is taking lessons in local dialect to help his parishioners in the West Midlands to understand him better when he conducts services. The Reverend Tony Boyd-Williams, a 52-year-old graduate of speech and drama school, moved to Britain's industrial "Black Country" two years ago but found his educated pronunciation set him apart from his flock. Now, a local cultural group is tutoring the vicar in one of Britain's thickest and hardest-to-grasp regional accents. "It's hard to get your tongue round some of the words," said Boyd-Williams. "For example `saviour' is pronounced `sairvyer' and `come on earth' is `cum on arth'. The local accent has been likened to English in Shakespeare's time, so my voice training helps."

Hear no evil, speak no evil: A Florida school board allegedly violated the rights to free speech of a high school teacher by banning Ken Starr's report on President Clinton's sex life from her classroom. The teacher, Linda Manning, filed a lawsuit claiming that the School Board of Pinellas County improperly barred the use of the Starr report and Clinton's videotaped testimony in her current events class because they contained sexually explicit material. "The issue is who gets control of the classroom," her lawyer said. "The idea that these kids don't know what the President is accused of is ridiculous. This class is made up almost exclusively of 18-year-olds." The school board has said that the materials "are clearly not appropriate for a public school classroom." According to Jade Moore of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, which is backing Manning, "they were afraid somebody would use the term oral sex".

Electronic warfare: Rather than taking to the streets in rebellion, thousands of Norwegian students launched a protest by staying at their desks and inundating government computers with e-mail. The protesters, angry over interest rate hikes on student loans, sent at least 200,000 messages through the Internet to leading politicians over a three-day period. Protest leader, Trygve Ploehn, told the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet that most of the messages were sent to Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, who probably didn't notice. Last week, the 51-year-old prime minister said that he did not know how to use a computer. But the government certainly noticed. It called out the state telephone company as an electronic riot police to set up data barricades against the e-mail onslaught.