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An old institution is about to die hard

BERLIN - The statues are majestic, the buildings ornate. It feels as if the campus breathes money. But Humboldt University, with its 193 years of history and 29 Nobel Prize winners, might not enroll a freshman class next term because Berlin is again cutting funding to higher education.

As Germany struggles with the costs of reunification and a banking scandal, Berlin's debt is expected to rise to about $71 billion. Things have gotten so glum that the pick-up soccer games in front of the Reichstag are banned because the parks department can't afford to patch up the grass.

The city - which collects no tuition from college students - funds Humboldt and two other large universities. Berlin's huge debt over the past decade has forced it to half the higher education budget. The number of professors, many of whom retire early, may decline by 50 percent, and class sizes have ballooned from 20 to more than 100 students.

The prospect of more budget cuts is "devastating news," says Anne-Barbara Ischinger, Humboldt's vice president for international affairs and public relations. "How do we finance? We have threatened not to accept another freshman class."

Students know Britney better than their national anthem

GAINESVILLE, FLA. - Children in the US aren't singing the songs of their heritage, putting the nation in jeopardy of losing a rich part of its identity, a University of Florida study suggests.

The survey finds that school music programs are allowing generations-old lullabies and historical folk songs to be ignored - and some teachers are replacing them with the latest pop hits.

Today's school kids are more likely to know the lyrics to songs such as Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did it Again" or Eminem's "Lose Yourself" than to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," says Marilyn Ward, who did the research for her doctoral dissertation in music this spring.

Ms. Ward surveyed 4,000 music teachers nationwide from elementary to high school in the summer and early fall of 2002. Few students can even sing the national anthem, she found.

Web Smarts


What: "GeoNet" is an online game designed for young children to test and improve their US geography skills. To begin, simply click on one of four flags ("West," "Midwest," "South," or "Northeast") and answer multiple-choice questions on a variety of topics.

Best points: While many Internet geography sites include quizzes, "GeoNet" asks questions within a historical context - and provides in-depth answers. For example, when asked which Western state is most affected by El Niño (answer: California), you also learn that one storm in the winter of 1983 cost the state $1.44 billion.

Extra incentives to study include building points based on whether the question is "easy" or "hard" and on how many tries it takes to get it right. As you earn more points, you can become a GeoAdviser, a GeoExpert, or a GeoChampion.

What you should know: A CD-ROM game based on GeoNet is also available (and is Mac and Windows friendly). You can order directly from School Direct, the online store of Houghton Mifflin's "Education Place." Marketing on the site is minimal; the only advertisement for the CD-ROM is under the "Note to teachers" section.

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