Paris Hilton finds faith?

Rumours flying around the web, and on the radio stations, is that Paris Hilton has found God. She has been reading the Bible while in prison, and has been saying to various people how she has realised some of the big mistakes she has made, and how she wants to move on and use her profile to make a difference in a positive way. How true this is I don’t know, but what a great turn around if it is!

Manchester Cathedral and video gaming

Manchester Cathedral is in the news for being featured in a violent PlayStation video game. The Church says Sony did not obtain permission to use the interior in the war game Resistance: Fall of Man. The game, which has sold more than one million copies, shows a virtual shoot-out in the cathedral’s nave in which hundreds of enemies are killed.

The Church said Sony did not ask for permission to use the cathedral and has demanded an apology and the removal of the game from shop shelves – otherwise it would consider legal action.

Sony, however, said the game was not based on reality. David Wilson, a Sony spokesman, told The Times newspaper: “It is game-created footage, it is not video or photography. It is entertainment, like Doctor Who or any other science fiction. It is not based on reality at all. Throughout the whole process we have sought permission where necessary.”

It will be interesting to see how this one pans out.

Abstinence plus

Here is a link to a very interesting article published in the Washington Post. The gist of it is that US students attending sexual abstinence lessons are no more likely to abstain from sex than those who do not, according to a new study. The study concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.

The US Congress ordered this study which spent time with 2000 children aged 11 and 12, some in big cities, and some in rural communities. The researchers also looked at the behaviour of their peers from the same communities who did not attend the classes. The findings show that those who attended first had sex at about the same age as their peers – at 14 years and nine months.

“There’s not a lot of good news here for people who pin their hopes on abstinence-only education,” said Sarah Brown, executive director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a privately funded organization that monitors sex education programs. “This is the first study with a solid, experimental design, the first with adequate numbers and long-term follow-up, the first to measure behavior and not just intent. On every measure, the effectiveness of the programs was flat.”

The conclusion by one commentator is that “The most effective programs are those that say abstinence is the best choice but birth control and protection are also worth knowing about.” An official at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States agreed.
For those involved in Christian sex education there is a challenge from this report. Are we too narrow minded? It would be interested to see if there was any research in the UK that agrees or disagrees with this. It seems that some smaller organizations are able to locally make a big impact but nationally it just doesn’t seem to work. Recently we heard that Ofsted have concerns over the sex education. Pupils say teachers and parents are not good at talking to them about sensitive issues like sexuality and are turning to magazines for help, a report finds.
Yesterday, on my day off, I was watching the West Wing series 1 and this issue comes up, it does seem the abstinence plus needs more exploring. Any thoughts?

Impact of extended schools

A project has started in four primary schools in Plymouth which is giving families the choice of pupils starting lessons at different times of the day. They can start formal lessons at 7.45am or 11am, instead of 9am. The project is going to last for four weeks as part of the “extended schools” initiative. If the scheme to help working families is successful it could be used in other schools across the country.
An 11:00am start would be lovely, then I might not struggle as much with the early schools work and meetings whilst still doing youth work late in the evening. This project is something I look forward to seeing the results of.

Men scared of working with kids

On the BBC News this morning was a report based on the Volunteer Survey. More than one in eight men do not volunteer to work with children because they are worried people will think they are a paedophile, a survey suggests. The survey found 69% of men do not give up their time to help youngsters. In all, 13% of the men questioned said they would not choose to volunteer to work with children due to fear of being perceived as a paedophile.

Both the NCH and Chance UK are calling for men to come forward and mentor boys aged five to 11. The NCH’s chief executive, Clare Tickell, said: “Many children, especially boys, are desperately in need of a male mentor, which is why we urgently need men to come forward despite any fears they may have about public perception. We work hard to ensure volunteers are checked by the police, trained and monitored, which we hope encourages men to come forward and helps assuage the public’s concern.”

Jo Hobbs, development manager at Chance UK, said: “Male volunteers are more difficult to recruit, yet positive male role models can make a huge difference to the lives of challenging children and young people.”

It is definitely a challenge to get more men involved in Children’s and Youth work. At the church where I work we have very few male volunteers, mainy due to work commitments, but it is something that needs to change. The effect of a good male role model is huge in today’s society where so many young boys don’t have a solid male role model to look up to.

Food and behaviour

At the last town-wide CYPSP (Children’s & Young Peoples Strategic Partnership group) this article from the Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago was mentioned. Some quotes include:
At that time [an investigation of 277 three-year-olds on the Isle of Wight from 2004], the toddlers’ parents volunteered to keep them on a special additive-free diet. In certain weeks the children were given a daily drink that either contained the additives or was an identical-looking and tasting fruit drink. Neither the parents nor the children knew which type of drink was being given. It was found the parents reported more disruptive behaviour when the children received the additives.

According to Sally Bunday who runs the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group, 75% of hyperactive children have low zinc levels. “There is ample evidence that zinc deficiency is associated with erratic behaviour, depression and aggression,” she said. “We are increasingly worried about bad behaviour among young children in schools. There are plenty of doctors and other healthcare professionals who are aware of this. It baffles me why there is so little interest in examining the bigger picture.”
Certainly makes you think. Also leads on to the recent discussions about tuck shops at open youth groups. How can we improve what we provide our youngsters with, do you run a complete fruit and veg stall, like many schools, or do you go more for things like cereal bars etc.?

Penguin off course

The BBC is reporting how a confused penguin strayed 5,000km on its own, from Chile (it’s normal home) to Peru. Scientists say the bird appeared to have made the 5,000km (3,000-mile) journey alone. They are now worried that it may not be accepted by some of the area’s 4,000 Humboldt penguins. Their hope is to transport it back to Chile.

The UK has an earthquake

While travelling in the car for hours yesterday I was surprised to hear the news reports talking about a 4.3 magnitude earthquake. This was the largest to hit Britain since one in the West Midlands in 2002, and it is certainly something that we are not used to. Thankfully it resulted in only one person, a 30-year-old woman, suffering minor head injuries.

John Stott retires

Have seen in various places around the web the following statement from The Langham Partnership:
John Stott would like his many friends around the world to know that, having reached the age of 86 in April, he has taken the decision finally to retire from public ministry after fulfilling one final speaking engagement at the upcoming Keswick Convention in July.
He will be moving from his flat in central London where he has lived for more than 30 years, to a retirement community for Anglican clergy in the south of England, which will be able to provide more fully for his present and future needs. Dr Stott has made this decision with the strong belief that it is God’s provision for him at this stage.
John Stott is an absolute legend as a church leader, preacher and author. The biographies of his ministry are really interesting to read, do take the time if you haven’t already.

Young people drinking

Heard on the news this morning about a report (see the BBC news article) whic says parents who give alcohol to children aged under 15 should be prosecuted. Personally I think that it is important that some sort of message is sent out about the issue of young people drinking. I am aware of several young people who I work with who regularly consume relatively large ‘servings’ of alcohol.
I have to agree with public health minister Caroline Flint who said “I don’t think passing a law to ban alcohol for those under 15 would be enforceable or necessarily effective.” However something more does need to be done, especially in school. The report suggested it should be part of the National Curriculum, especially focussing on the dangers of binge drinking.