Bible ‘essential culture’ says British poet laureate

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Knowing Darwin’s theory of evolution may be an essential part of education today, but can you be an educated person without knowing the Book of Genesis too? Britain’s poet laureate, Andrew Motion, thinks not. He says the Bible is an “essential piece of cultural luggage” that children should be taught throughout their schooling so that they can understand literature.

Too many students arrive at university to study English literature barely knowing who Adam and Eve were because the teaching of the Bible and its “great stories” is disappearing from the school system, he said. (Makes you wonder what happens in the 45 minutes per week of religious education that is still part of the standard curriculum in British schools.)

People cannot expect to understand much of literature -- from John Milton to TS Eliot -- without learning the Bible first, says the laureate. Besides the beauty of… click here to read whole article and make comments


Not your mother’s birth rate

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New Zealand demographers are scratching their heads over an increase in young women having babies. The proportion of girls aged 15 to 19 giving birth rose for the sixth year in a row in 2008, Statistics NZ reported, and the agency’s top demographer, Mansoor Khawaja, said young women appeared to be refusing to follow their mothers’ decisions to have few children later in life. “I reckon they just don’t agree with their mothers, which is not uncommon,” he said. The mothers of the baby-boomers had roughly four children on average, but the boomers have ended up with less than two children each, he pointed out.

Teenage mums are still only a small fraction of all teenagers (3.3 per cent) but the new figures confirm a trend that can no longer be dismissed as a temporary “blip”. However, there is still a long-term underlying trend towards women having babies later in life.… click here to read whole article and make comments


More German babies again last year

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Ursula von der Leyen. AP photoGermany’s Family Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, is happy to report that the number of babies born has increased for the second year in a row. From a 60-year low of 673,000 in 2006, births increased to 685,000 in 2007 and 690,000 last year. At 1.4, Germany’s birth rate is one of the lowest in western Europe.

Mrs von der Leyen, herself the mother of seven children, said the rise in births was especially marked among women in their 30s. She put it down to a new confidence among young people that “society will not simply leave them behind as parents” -- a reference to a revision of the paid parental leave scheme in 2007 which included new benefits for German fathers, allowing them to stay home with their children.

According to surveys, 56 per cent… click here to read whole article and make comments


Anorexic girls increasingly arrive in hospital

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Hospital admissions for girls aged 16 and under with anorexia rose by 80 per cent over the decade to mid-2007, new statistics from the UK show. The figures for 2006-2007 range from141 admissions for 15 year olds to five admissions for under-10s. Relatively few boys suffer from anorexia: there were 306 hospital admissions among boys under 16 during the decade.

Authorities are being cautious interpreting the figures -- there may be more admissions but not a higher incidence in the community -- but they are in line with rises in other bad statistics for British youngsters. In 2007 there were 6707 under-18s in alcohol treatment programmes (up from 4781 in 2006) and 953 of those were 12- to 14-year-olds (up from 592 in 2006). Young girls accounted for just under 60 per cent of all under-age hospital admissions for alcohol in 2007. Use of illegal drugs also put more than 1200… click here to read whole article and make comments


Holy smoke! Saying ‘no’ works

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Here’s an exciting report for all those interested (really interested) in preventing teenagers damaging their health. America’s largest youth anti-smoking campaign, truth®, is likely to have prevented 450,000 adolescents from initiating smoking, according to a study by researchers at RTI International. Did you get that? The campaign was about “truth” and it was aimed at persuading teenagers not to start on their first cigarette.

Holy smoke! Didn’t they try that with sex education and most of the experts complained that it didn’t work, and couldn’t work and was not worth the $50 million to $100m a year spent on “abstinence only” programmes by the federal government plus a smaller share from states?

But it seems that teenagers can say no to some things and save themselves and the country a lot of pain. The American Legacy Foundation, which launched the truth® campaign in 2000, spent $245 million on television… click here to read whole article and make comments


Children having children: sex ed blamed

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Alfie Patten and daughter (mother inset)A gamin-faced schoolboy who has apparently fathered a child with his 15-year-old girlfriend is the talk of Britain, a country with the highest rate in Europe of pregnancies among unmarried teenagers. Alfie Patten, who is just over 4ft tall and looks younger even than his 13 years, was only 12 when he got Chantelle Stedman, who was then 14, pregnant. The birth of their child, Maisie Roxanne, last week has occasioned outrage and hand-wringing in equal proportions. The consensus among the more enlightened commentators is that the event is no surprise in a society saturated with sexual messages, including a type of sex education that talks almost exclusively about having sex “safely” and barely mentions “relationships” let alone the marital meaning of sex or abstinence.

The two young people seem to live in a socially deprived area of public housing.… click here to read whole article and make comments


Large families get an airing

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News of an (unmarried) California woman who gave birth to octuplets following three sets of twins (all with artificial intervention) has prompted the New York Times to run a feature on big families. Some mothers feel the octuplets’ mother has done them no favours, since they already face “scorn, slack jaws and stupid jokes” for broods of up to 14 children. Not that the moms can’t come up with their own wisecracks. Asked by a photographer, “Are all these yours?” Kim Gunnip, mother of 12, replied, “No, I picked some up at the supermarket.”

The TLC (The Learning Channel) television network has three shows about large families. Author Meagan Francis, mother of five, says one show is about “religious fundamentalists, one has sextuplets and the other is about two dwarfs raising four children. “You get the feeling that anybody who has more than three kids is either doing it for bizarre… click here to read whole article and make comments


Bridezilla rises as weddings fall in England

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Last year saw the lowest number of marriages in England and Wales for more than a hundred years. Just 231,450 people got married, a decrease of 3.3 per cent on 2006 and a drop of 34 per cent since 1981. The figures come from the Office for National Statistics and exclude civil partnerships. They confirm the trend of people waiting longer to marry, the average groom now being almost 37 years old and the bride nearly 34 -- figures influenced by second and subsequent marriages.

The number of couples marrying in a religious ceremony has halved since 1991, while weddings taking place in officially “approved premises” such as hotels, stately homes and historic buildings have risen to 40 per cent.

Some say the fall-off in marriages is due partly to the cost of weddings, as the average amount lavished on the big day is now 20,000 pounds. The recession… click here to read whole article and make comments


Motherhood is good for the brain

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This seems like an old story but evidently some people still need convincing: pregnancy does not turn a woman’s mind to “mush”, a new study finds. Researchers at the Australian National University interviewed 2500 people between the ages of 20 and 24 in 1999 and then repeated the process in 2003 and 2007. Professor Helen Christensen said the results showed that neither pregnancy nor motherhood had a detrimental effect on mental powers such as memory and logic.

In fact, said Dr Christensen, research in Singapore showed that mother rats have improved multi-skilling capacity, navigate mazes more efficiently and have less anxiety and fear than non-mothers. She believed research on humans would eventually have the same results. “One might assume that women were more likely to have better, not worse, mental ability during pregnancy compared to before, and that the results could be permanent.” ~ Telegraph (UK), Feb 8

click here to read whole article and make comments


Teen media exposure linked with depression later

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Over-exposure to television and other electronic media during the teenage years may contribute to depression in young adulthood, especially amongst young men, according to a report in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Depression commonly begins in adolescence or young adulthood, and many factors have been identified, including genetic inheritance, temperament and parenting styles. Media exposure is another prime suspect as teens spend on average eight and a half hours a day with electronic screens and gadgets.

Brian A Primack and colleagues used data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health to determine media exposure among 4142 adolescents who were not depressed at the beginning of the study in 1995. The young people reported an average of 5.68 hours a day, including 2.3 hours of TV, 0.62 hours of videocassettes, 0.41 hours of computer games and 2.34 hours of radio.

Seven years later (at… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Family Edge looks at news and trends affecting the family in the light of human dignity. Our focus is the inspiring, creative, humorous, annoying, ridiculous, and dangerous ideas in the evening news. Send tips and brainwaves to the editor, Tamara Rajakariar, at tamara.rajakariar@

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