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By United Press International  |  Jan. 20, 2005 at 6:30 AM
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Report: Grammar don't mean nothing

LONDON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A British government-funded study has concluded schools are wasting their time teaching English grammar, The Independent reported Wednesday.

Researchers at the University of York said there was no evidence students' writing skills improved with grammar training, and suggested schools let children "learn to write by writing."

It recommended teachers concentrate on teaching children to combine short sentences into longer ones. This would improve their writing skills. It would also be more interesting.

Not everyone agrees.

"A knowledge of grammar and English language always must come before creativity," said Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, a group which champions a return to traditional education methods.

He went on to describe the report as "absolute nonsense."

Formal grammar teaching is part of the national literacy strategy introduced in 1998. Teachers are required to teach children aged from 3 to 7 about nouns, verbs and pronouns. Older school pupils are expected to learn the names and functions of all the main parts of speech, as well as the grammar of complex sentences.

'Monday, Jan. 24' seen as worst day

CARDIFF, Wales, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Winter in Wales is seldom pleasant and a Cardiff University tutor has used a mathematical formula to warn residents the worst day of the year looms.

Cliff Arnalls said foul weather, debt, fading Christmas memories, failed resolutions and a lack of motivation all will conspire to make Monday, Jan. 24 an especially miserable day, the BBC said Wednesday.

Arnalls' misery index is measured by the formula 1/8W+(D-d) 3/8xTQ MxNA, where W is weather, D is debt -- minus the money (d) due on January's pay day -- and T is the time since Christmas.

Q is the period since the failure to quit a bad habit, M stands for general motivational levels and NA is the need to take action and do something about it.

Arnalls also calculated the effects of cold, wet and dark January weather after the coziness of Christmas coupled with extra spending in the sales. He found Jan. 24 was especially dangerous, coming a whole month after Christmas festivities.

Any energy from the holiday has worn off by the third week of January, he said. By Monday, most people will have fallen off the wagon or abandoned the nicotine patches as they fail to keep New Year's resolutions, he added.

Hairdressers to offer counseling

VICTORIA, Australia, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- The City Council in Victoria, Australia, is training its hairdressers to act as drought counselors.

The city will offer a course that will teach hairdressers how to appropriately listen and respond to distressing client chitchat, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Wednesday.

The council's drought officer, Marion Matthews, says hairdressers have an opportunity to help farmers and their families.

"They're in a very unique position because most people have a half hour to one hour appointment with them," she said.

"It's really important that those people are skilled in appropriate listening and responding to people."

Ring lost for more than 25 years found

DENVER, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A city worker cleaning a giant storm drain near Denver found a class ring that had been lost more than 25 years and located its owner.

John Carlson, the Arvada city worker who found the gold 1978 Pomona High School ring, took it home and meticulously cleaned it, KMGH-TV, Denver, reported Wednesday.

He then used the Reunion.com Web site to find the owner, Gerry Duran, who lives in Del Norte, Colo.

Duran's mother picked up her son's ring Tuesday and recalled how it was lost more than 25 years ago.

"Gerry was getting ready for school and was going to take a shower. He took his class ring off and he dropped it and had just flushed the toilet so it went down (with) the stool," said Duran's mother, Margie Johnson, who also praised Carlson and his fellow workers.

"I think it's remarkable," Johnson said. "You hear about employees going the extra mile. I can't imagine wanting to even clean a ring that's been in the sewer system for 28 years."

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