Dutch news in brief, Tuesday 2 September 2008

2nd September 2008, Comments 0 comments

Find out what’s the latest news in the Netherlands in the roundup of today’s press from Radio Netherlands.

2 September 2008

Peeking into the brains of Dutch Education Minister
A professor at the University of Amsterdam was given an opportunity to wire up Dutch Education Minister Ronald Plasterk to a brain scan at the start of the new academic year on Monday.

The high-tech looking scans were published in nrc-next's full-colour spread. It features four scans of the minister's grey matter responding to a number of images. His negative responses are coloured blue, and his positive ones are a fetching shade of orange.

Unfortunately, the stimuli presented leave a lot to be desired. The most spectacular finding is that a picture of Republican US presidential candidate John McCain produces a lacklustre smattering of blue and orange splodges, while a picture of Barack Obama sets off a explosion of orange in Plasterk's head.

Other less interesting findings are that Plasterk prefers former prime minister Joop den Uyl to former prime minister Wim Kok, and that his brain responds uniformly to works of art from three different movements.

Scooting into the future
Two of Tuesday’s papers feature University of Twente scientists in full academic regalia scooting around on Segways - electronic scooter contraptions for grown-ups. Apparently their aim is "to show that technology is the basis for progress" and that "electro engineering is more than just plugs and sockets".

De Telegraaf shows them in solemn single file procession but by the time Trouw's photographer gets in on the act they've broken rank and appear to be careering around Enschede's market square like a bunch of five year olds.

Not everyone is happy with the way higher education is going in the Netherlands. Trouw talks to a philosopher at the University of Groningen, René Boomkens, who describes the Dutch academic talk of top universities and research as "the height of kitsch".

He argues that it's all about scoring these days and there's only one way to do that - by getting an article published in an international journal, preferably on a regular basis. "Anyone who takes the time to actually write a book - never mind a book in Dutch - will never make the top of the academic charts," he sighs. "And that's a real shame."

Win laptop by filming an angry teacher
Some people have also decided to mark the return to the classroom in an entirely different way. Music video channel TMF has rubbed teachers up the wrong way with a competition that offers pupils the chance to win a laptop by submitting a film of themselves or their mates being sent out of the classroom.

"It's a disgrace!'" exclaims one teacher. "There's already very little respect for teachers and this is only adding to the problem." He tells the tale of a colleague who was filmed while losing his rag in front of the class: the film ended up on YouTube and the teacher was publicly humiliated.

As another teacher puts it "kids don't realise what the consequences can be of posting a supposedly innocent little film on the internet."

A representative of the teachers' union also decries the TMF competition as "tasteless" but sees a more positive side as well. "It has sparked a discussion on the TMF website and it turns out that most pupils also think it's a bad idea. Maybe that will persuade the channel to put an immediate stop to this campaign."

Riches to rags
There's more media news today, as AD reports on "jet set" celebrity singer René Froger and his wife Natasja's latest venture. They are working on a new reality TV show in which they move into a terraced house and try to get by on the basic social security benefit.

The paper reveals that "serving up poverty as entertainment has prompted plenty of scepticism and criticism".

One local resident fumes "I've been getting calls for days now from people saying 'we didn't know you lived in such a deprived area' ... First of all, we don't need anyone's pity and second, this is a perfectly good area to live in. If you ask us, it's just a gimmick so René can promote his concerts."

There are doubts about how much hardship the celebrity couple will have to endure with a full production office just a stone's throw from their TV home. "There are assistants galore. All they have to do is snap their fingers and people come running... Who on social security benefit can say that?"

The paper's columnist thinks it needn't be all bad: "There's a need for TV that shows how to get by on a low income. It's a boring message, so it has to be well packaged." She also issues a warning, however. "It's all too easy for a TV crew to waltz into people's lives, perform miracles and get them to shed tears for the cameras. But we need more than that at the end of the day..."

[Radio Netherlands / David Doherty / Expatica]

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