Tales Out Of School

Strange Stories From The Global Classroom
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The Independent Online
Old before their time: Fashion-conscious Japanese schoolchildren are making an unlikely statement with their new hairstyle of choice. Gone are pink, red and green locks to annoy their parents, with grey now emerging as the essential teenage colour in trendy areas.

"The trend began with surfers and started to take off this April and May," said Yoshiyuki Ogino, editor of the youth fashion magazine Cawaii, which translates as Cute.

Hairstylist Kyoko Suzuki, who specialises in youth styles, said the trend started by word-of-mouth among high school girls, the same informal network that helped propel the virtual toy Tamagotchi to national and international fame. "Up until now, brown has been the colour of choice, but there are a number of people in their teens and early-twenties who are fed up with that colour and they are choosing ash," Suzuki said.

Teen fashion magazines say that the grey look should be rounded off with a floral Hawaiian dress or shirt and a dark tan - helping to stoke year-round demand for tanning booths, which should separate the young from the old.

Baby IQs: A Chinese sperm bank that accepts only donors with at least a master's degree-level education is sparking opposition from academics who are calling the bank unethical.

Since it opened last month, the government-run Notables' Sperm Bank in the south-western city of Chengdu has received a barrage of applications from intellectuals and other potential donors. But local academics have opposed the concept of promoting vintage sperm, saying that it violates human rights. "Both foolish and clever people have the right to live," said Yu Pingzhe,who is a philosophy professor at Sichuan University.

Others attacked the bank on scientific grounds. "From the viewpoint of genetics, the sperm of highly educated people may not be better than that of others," said Zhang Sizhong, who is a senior researcher at Huaxi Medical University.

Sperm banks, still new in China, are the subject of numerous newspaper articles as infertility rates are on the rise and couples turn to less traditional routes to pregnancy. The clinic in Chengdu said that it would seek "select sperm with high-quality characteristics" in order to fulfil a popular demand for "attractive, intelligent children".