A feminist programming language? Why the hell not?

What might your reaction be upon hearing about the idea of a programming language that takes its cues from feminism? If you’re a computer scientist you may be interested on what parts of feminist philosophy one can apply, usefully, to the creation of a new programming language. If you have no understanding of computer science and a strange aversion to the word ‘feminist’ then you’ll probably just tweet an angry no and remain none the wiser.


To which, of course, they don’t reply when questioned on their problem. Ah, to be able to ignorantly babble so. Liberation.

If however you’re a little crazier in your reactions to the idea of a feminist programming language then you might write an uninformed piece on the idea.
Daniel Greenfield, a right-wing, homophobe decided to add his unwanted thoughts into the mix, seemingly unable to grasp that there may be overlap between programming and feminism.

They’re not disciplines and they have no points of orientation. It’s like asking how to combine being an NRA member and a plumber. There’s no actual overlap.

The underlying diseased thinking is the left’s obsession with politicizing absolutely everything.

Giving it 5 minutes of thought I can see how feminism might provide some guidance on variable and function modification/creation, garbage collection, and relationships between objects (if the language will even have objects!), so quite why someone who is proudly quoted by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck couldn’t is beyond me.

The majority of Greenfield’s drivel is actually him regurgitating nonsense that was apparently posted on Bitbucket and later Github, along with “code” – both have since been removed, and good riddance I say.
I won’t put up what it says as it’d be a waste of everyone’s time but these are obviously nasty adolescents whose bullshit is being spread by a seemingly grown man.

It’s not all bad news however. On the Abuse Of Notation blog there is a well thought out piece (read it now) on some of the practical and theoritical aspects of this prospective new programming language. Emphasis in bold is mine.

With all this in mind, I’d like to say something about Arielle Schlesinger’s proposal to investigate feminism and programming languages. Given that it’s a staple piece of programmer wisdom that, in the words of Alan Perlis, “a language that doesn’t affect the way you think about programming, is not worth knowing”, the project of reflecting (from a feminist angle) on how our programming languages make us think about what we do with them seems timely, to say the least. A programmer who wants to know that which is worth knowing about programming, will certainly want to know about languages that affect the way one thinks about programming. I can only assume that those programmers who responded to Schlesinger’s proposal with knee-jerk derision were not interested in that which is worth knowing, which in my book makes them rotten programmers who should probably find something else to go and do with themselves.

Everyone who’s come near a programming language knows that there is a correct tool for the job, and there’s no reason to think Schlesinger’s musings, and hopefully eventual implementation, won’t have some impact on the future of programming. I never realised quite how polluted with short-sighted misogyny the programming world was, or at least I’d blindly hoped it wasn’t as awful as the gaming world. What a fool I’ve been.

So why shouldn’t we have a feminist programming language? I can’t think of any reasons, and I could certainly do with some fresh thoughts in the stale, male-dominated world of programming.

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“Dr” wants religious beliefs to trump evidence based medical advice

There is a fantastic and dangerous lie, unmentioned and assumed, in human society: parents know what’s best for their child. The simple fact is that sometimes parents need to be told what’s good for their child. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recently introduced a policy advocating state intervention where there is a conflict between the parent’s choice and what is good for a sick child.

Although respect for parents’ decision-making authority is an important principle, pediatricians should report suspected cases of medical neglect, and the state should, at times, intervene to require medical treatment of children. Some parents’ reasons for refusing medical treatment are based on their religious or spiritual beliefs. In cases in which treatment is likely to prevent death or serious disability or relieve severe pain, children’s health and future autonomy should be protected.

Unbelievably some people don’t think a child’s well-being should trump the parent’s beliefs even if those beliefs place the child’s life in danger. Brent Hunter, a chiropractor and graduate of Life University, recently crossed my radar when, on his blog over at Natural News, he made the wild claim that choosing the right medical treatment for a child is some form of oppression.

This is Ludicrous! This is America – the land of the free! This country was founded on religious liberty. America’s Founding Fathers desired a country where people were free to practice their religion and live their lives free of oppression.

No, Mr Hunter, what’s ludicrous is that it’s legal for parents to essentially murder their child in some parts of the United States. A child’s safety must always be placed above the daft and dangerous superstitious beliefs of their parents, no matter how strong their conviction.
This isn’t just a philosophical point, children are dying due to barbaric, vile and utterly incomprehensible religious beliefs. Professor Jerry Coyne wrote a piece over on his blog website detailing some of the deaths kids have suffered at the hands of their parents, all because of their faith in god and a lack of basic medical knowledge.
Here’s one case but I recommend reading the full piece for a better understanding of just how religion can pervert the basic genetic impulses of a parent to care for their offspring.

One teenager asked teachers for help getting medical care for fainting spells, which she had been refused at home. She ran away from home, but law enforcement returned her to the custody of her father. She died 3 days later from a ruptured appendix.

Brent later goes on to produce a list of conflicts between religion and vaccines. Emphasis is his.

  • Vaccines are made with toxic chemicals that are injected into the bloodstream by vaccination.
  • All vaccines are made with foreign proteins (viruses and bacteria), and some vaccines are made with genetically engineered viral and bacterial materials.
  • A conflict arises if you believe that man is made in God’s image and the injection of toxic chemicals and foreign proteins into the bloodstream is a violation of God’s directive to keep the body/temple holy and free from impurities.
  • A conflict arises if you accept God’s warning not to mix the blood of man with the blood of animals.
  • Many vaccines are produced in animal tissues.
  • A conflict arises if your religious convictions are predicated on the belief that all life is sacred.

Yes, vaccines do contain chemicals that are toxic to humans but, and this is crucial, you have to be exposed to deadly doses in order to die, and this just doesn’t happen with vaccines. See this piece at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for more on the “toxic myths”.
As for the conflicts between god and science, well I’m sorry but evidence-based medicine wins every time. If you’re willing to let your child suffer and die because you think a fairytale character will save them then you’re an awful parent and you don’t deserve, nor should you be allowed, to care for an innocent child.

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(Some) Free Wifi for Fulham

It would seem some manner of “free” wifi is bound for the streets of Fulham, Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush. Under a new deal, not yet signed, Arqiva look set to install wireless access points in the lampposts around the borough. Shepherds Bush will see points installed at the end of 2013, with Hammersmith and Fulham following in 2014.

Whilst the council are touting the service as free it is barely that. The first 30 minutes are free but there will be charges after those minutes are up. No word on what those charges will be yet but if Arqiva want to challenge the services already provided by mobile networks, coffee shops & libraries they’ll have to be competitive.
Council services will be free but how often do you really need to access those and would you really want to pay your bills over a public network?

On the subject of the cost of this new wireless network, the claim is that Arqiva will make a one-off payment to the council of £500,000 and that some profits will also find their way to the local purse. This is of course good news for our borough but I am very sceptical on how much of a financial success this project will be. Hopefully the council will publish the income separately on its site.

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Homeopathic nonsense crops up in local article

Homeopathy can appear anywhere I guess. I’ve recently seen it pop up in my local newspaper (Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle) in an article on urban foxes and their status as pests.
The piece features a Kensington man, Mark Mason, who makes honeyed sandwiches, laced with a “homeopathic remedy”, for the local foxes. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment I think the foxes should be left to their own devices. They are wild animals and should be treated as such. Leave them to find their own food so that they can reach a stable population size without our interfering, and definitely stop leaving discarded food for them to find near your house!

That’s all I want to say on the fox issue. What concerns me more is how the journalist, Camilla Horrox, has simply suggested that the homeopathic, honey sandwich Mark is feeding to the foxes can somehow cure mange. Here’s the opening paragraph:

URBAN foxes in Kensington are being fed honeyed sandwiches laced with a homeopathic remedy which treats mange by a local wildlife lover.

Further down it possibly gets worse.

Mark Mason-Gardner 45, is also trying to educate children in the area about how important urban wildlife is despite being classified as a pest by the council and many other residents in the borough.

I sincerely hope that whilst teaching the youth Mark doesn’t try to pass off nonsense about homeopathy. We’re seeing now what happens when bad advice is given on medicines, with the MMR scare. Any one person suggesting alternative medicine is at all effective is one person who can cause more damage than they realise. Journalists, even at the local level, should take more care when writing their articles that they don’t include dangerous medical advice, be it for humans or animals.

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What Doctors Don’t Tell You – An Incredible Accusation

It’s a strange thing to think that your doctor may be keeping a secret from you. Some medicine, cheap and plentiful, that could change your life for the better, forever.

My family doctor has treated us for at least the last 28 years and I couldn’t imagine that when a relative was diagnosed with ovarian cancer he was keeping the true secret to curing it from her, from us all. But this is exactly what one publication suggests.

Good for hangovers and hunger but not cancer.

What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) is a monthly magazine published in the UK that claims to reveal the secret cures that doctors, for wild and highly conspiratorial reasons, refuse to tell us.
Some of their recent revelations include sunbathing to rid one of diabetes, and vitamin C, which doesn’t do much for the common cold, as a cure for AIDS and measles.

That WDDTY feel that they can, and should, publish such material speaks to their attitude about evidence in treatments but what concerns me most is the accusation that around the world millions of doctors, nurses, pharmacologists, pharmacists, any number of healthcare professionals and dedicated researchers are actively allowing innocent people to die by their millions.
This is not a light accusation. If we take malaria as an example then the people at WDDTY are effectively saying that all the people involved in combating malaria were somehow responsible for the deaths of between an estimated 655,000 and 1,133,000 in 2010 alone.
Health workers are being gunned down whilst trying to bring vaccines to those in need. Do you honestly believe that these incredible people would risk their lives to inject children with a drug they know won’t work, or worse yet will actively harm the child?

I hope that the accusation makes you feel as sick as it does me. Your doctor is not keeping secrets from you and whilst the world of drug research isn’t perfect you can bet your arse that the cancer, HIV, malaria, TB and heart disease researchers, along with uncountable others, are out there working hard every day to make the world a safer place whilst these quacks, these frauds, these charlatans, these vile fucking murderers seem only too keen to turn a profit at the cost of your life.

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Richmond Adult Community College Teaching Reiki Nonsense – A Letter

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing over some concerns I have that RACC is holding Reiki courses.

My first concern is with the unscientific nature of reiki and the way in which its unsupported claims are advertised in your syllabus.

There is, for instance, no evidence that ki (chi) or any “life energy” exists in the human body. In fact one of the most famous series of tests, carried out by a young girl, showed that Touch Therapists (they also believe that humans have some kind of energy field) were unable to detect the presence of a field 56% of the time [1]. That’s worse than we would expect them to do through random guessing alone.

There’s also the issue that the feeling of well-being one experiences after a reiki treatment can be induced by a sham reiki treatment – that is one where the “reiki healer” knows nothing of reiki, nor do they try to influence the patients energy field, yet the patient still reports outcomes such as a reduction in pain[2]. This is due to the placebo effect and is found in various sham treatments such as chiropractic, homeopathy, intercessory prayer and other alternative medicines.

My final and most important concern is that the use of alternative medicines can sometimes lead to people avoiding conventional, proven treatment. Perhaps the most concerning and heartbreaking case was that of Penelope Dingle, an Australian woman who died from metastatic rectal cancer in 2005 after refusing conventional treatment at the suggestion of her homeopath[3], who is being sued[4].

Before her death Penelope wrote a letter to her homeopath[5] which I think illustrates how a vulnerable person can be manipulated by sometimes well meaning but ultimately harmful people and their beliefs.

The coroners report on Mrs Dingle’s death is also quite damning[6].

I hope the college will seriously consider whether it should be the kind of place that encourages pseudo-scientific and potentially dangerous nonsense. I understand that reiki can have positive effects on a person, but such effects can be sought through other health regimes that would not have such potential for misuse.

To quote Tim Minchin: “Alternative medicine that has been proven to work is just called medicine”

Yours sincerely,

James Smith.

[1] http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=187390#qundefined
[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21531671
[3] http://steelclaws.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/who-was-penelope-dingle-and-why-what-happened-to-her-matters/
[4] http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/13310801/woman-sues-homeopath-over-sisters-cancer-death/
[5] http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2011/s3260776.htm
[6] www.homeowatch.org/news/dingle_finding.pdf

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Greg Hands and The Creationist School (Part 2)

Part 1 here.

This is a continuation of what I, and many others, see as the problem of creationist views (and other religous nonsense) being taught in schools.
First is the letter from Greg Hands and below that is my response.

Dear Mr Smith,

Thank you for contacting me again about the Exemplar Newark Business Academy.

I do understand your concerns about the teaching of creationism in Religious Education classes alongside the teaching of evolutionary theory in science classes, and the conclusions that children may draw as a result.

However, I do not agree with you that “having faith schools is bad enough”. Faith schools provide a valuable moral grounding that complements the traditional academic subjects taught, and I do not believe it is possible to judge the content of all R.E. classes in all schools based on the one example of the Madani High School in the Richard Dawkins documentary.

I would like to reassure you again that any free school proposals with (sic) be subject to due diligence checks prior to their approval, and that the Exemplar Newark Business Academy and any other school approved will have to demonstrate that they are providing a broad and balanced education for their pupils.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write to me on this matter.

Yours sincerely,
Greg Hands MP
Member of Parliament for Chelsea and Fulham.

And my response:

Dear Mr Hands,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to me on the Exemplar Newark Business Academy. It is one of the things I appreciate about you.

If I may I would first like to address what you describe as the “valuable moral grounding provided by faith schools”. I will focus on Christianity, as that is the faith I was raised in, but there is a general point that lies spouted by religions are not a good source of moral behaviour.
You will undoubtedly be aware that the Old Testament is an incredibly poor source of morals — which sees God responsible for the deaths of millions — and as it is completely indefensible I won’t bother with it. I will point out that for many people the Old Testament serves as the source of evidence that theories such as evolution (sometimes specifically natural selection), and solar system formation & evolution are somehow not true.

In the New Testament we are delighted by lessons to scorn non-believers, women are seen as second-class citizens, there’s even a spot of gay bashing and we are of course introduced to the concept of Hell: an eternal punishment that you can get to simply by having thoughts.
No Mr Hands, religion is a terrible place to get your morals from. Better, I think, that you just try to be the good person you are without living in fear that you have not hated a group of people enough for your gods liking.
By the way, the good morals one can get from Christianity do not originate in the Abrahamic religions. And you only have to look at places like The Vatican for an example of how to live an unmistakably immoral lifestyle.

I’m not suggesting that the appalling lack of basic science knowledge in evolution demonstrated by the teacher in the Dawkins documentary is representative of an epidemic in faith schools. However the fact that such a case managed to slip past Ofsted should be setting off alarms.
If I was teaching that gravity gave our planet its rounded shape but then all my students came to me and said, “We think you’re wrong. We think a giant shaped it out of clay with his bare hands.” then I would be very alarmed indeed.
It is incredibly wrong that children are allowed to be taught a lie simply because their parents have seen fit to indoctrinate them in to a particular religion, and we should all be ashamed for allowing it to be done.

With this in mind and having witnessed what is clearly a specific failure of the faith-based education system how does the government intend to make sure that faith schools teach science correctly and to a high standard?
Further how do you intend to make sure that the Ofsted inspectors are qualified enough to decide that a science lesson has been taught correctly? I direct your attention (link below) to a piece by Michael Rosen in which an ICT teacher had his subject knowledge rated as ‘good’ because the inspector did not know enough to rate it as ‘outstanding’.

Please, in your response, do not avoid the moral issue (which you raised). I am deeply concerned that an elected official believes that religion provides a valuable moral grounding.

Yours sincerely,
James Smith.

P.S. Here is the link to the Michael Rosen piece. http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/ict-teacher-writes-about-ofsted.html

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Greg Hands and The Creationist School – A Response

Like many of you I wrote to my MP about what I view as a threat to education from creationist groups intent on running free schools in the UK.
Below is the response from my MP, Greg Hands of Hammersmith & Fulham fame, and below that is my response to his response.

Dear Mr Smith,

Thank you for contacting me about the Exemplar Newark Business Academy.

The Government has been very clear that creationism should not form part of any science curriculum or be taught as a scientific alternative to accepted scientific theories. The Department for Education expects to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum.

Specifically in response to the Newark Business Academy, I would like to assure you that all free school proposals are subject to due diligence checks by a specialist unit within the Department to ensure that the people that are setting up the school are suitable. Every application approved, including this one, has also had to demonstrate that the new school will provide a broad and balanced curriculum.

Open Free Schools are subject to Ofsted inspection in the same way as all other schools and the Secretary of State has powers to intervene in a school where there is significant cause for concern.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely,
Greg Hands MP

And my response:

Dear Mr Hands,

Thank you for your response to my letter regarding the creationist group school, the Exemplar Newark Business Academy. Ref: E/CreationistFreeSchool1P1.
I will be brief in my response but I hope that the point I raise is taken with the serious consideration it deserves.

I understand that creationism, in whatever form it hides, may not be taught in science classes in our schools. However, there is a further problem which I’m sure you’re aware of but one which MPs seem to be ignoring en masse:
Indoctrinated children will believe the myths they’re told in RE over the facts they’re taught in science.

This point was illustrated in the Richard Dawkins documentary ‘Faith School Menace?’ – not a title he chose – in a scene where he discusses evolution and creationism with some children from the Madani High School.
The children, whilst probably believing other scientific theories (think gravity, etc), choose not to believe that evolution is true because it conflicts with their religious teachings.
Perhaps more worryingly the science teacher seems to think evolution describes other living apes as our direct ancestors! How did that one slip past Ofsted?

Having faith schools is bad enough as it is, but allowing our schools to be run by groups citing creationism as a valid theory is barmy beyond belief.

I hope that you will reconsider your position on this matter. I know you’re a man of faith but I have met many people who are wonderful, inspiring and sensible in spite of their religion. Perhaps you could be one.

Yours sincerely,
James Smith.

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The Higgs Boson, A Religious Nutter and Someone Who Knows Something About America

… walk into a radio show and cause me to facepalm repeatedly.

Listeners of The BBC Radio Wales Phone-In were treated to some utter tripe yesterday when for some reason Stephen Green (known mainly for being religious and, in my view, a terrible human) and Timothy Stanley (known for prattling on about America) were invited to talk about the amazing discovery of something scientists suspect might be the long sought-after Higgs boson. I won’t go to the effort of trying to explain what the Higgs boson is and does as this video explains it much better than I ever could.

You can listen to the whole show here or the Stephen Green part below. There is a balance of crazy callers who want to understand and crazy callers who don’t. In fairness, the host, Jason Mohammad, does seem to have made some effort and had Peter Millington, a particle physicist (who I assume is the same Millington of the HEP group at Manchester), on to answer some questions – but apparently not to explain what the Higgs boson is.
[Edit: Peter Millington did a great job in the face of stupidity. I've no idea why Jason didn't want Peter to explain the Higgs boson and insisted on asking callers instead.]

Most of the points made by Stephen and Timothy, as well as the questions asked by Jason, are nonsense but I worry that some people will be swayed by their poorly formed arguments and so I will rebut each of the main points here:

1) The Higgs boson doesn’t disprove God.
The Higgs boson has bugger all to do with God. The term “God Particle” was coined by a publisher. Leon Lederman wanted to call it the “Goddamn Particle”. However, it’s important to know that God doesn’t actually exist and the Higgs boson has nothing to do with God or any other tall tale.

2) How matter came in to being is a job for theology.
As far as I’m aware theology has done nothing for the advancement of mankind in many hundreds of years (or ever?) and simply making up stories about the origins of Life, The Universe and Everything is a job best left to greater authors than those responsible for the tosh some so lovingly revere.

3) The costs are unjustified.
This is such an old and tired argument. The cost of the Large Hadron Collider was approximately between £2.6bn and £8bn depending on who you ask. The UK’s contribution is either £26m or £95m per year, again depending on who you ask and in which year.
Assuming even the highest costs are true, this is a fraction of the price spent on banks and wars. Check out this graphic from 2009 on government spending and try to find the circle that represents the total amount invested in research. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Now that you’ve failed to find it I’ll just point out that it was £3.295bn. And that amount isn’t given over completely to science.
Nevermind that two companies involved in building the collider have reported that for every euro they spent, they got 3 and a half euros back.

4) The contribution to society by the moon missions was neglible.
This is only slightly off-topic, though it was mentioned by Tim, but stay with me as this leads in to point 5 – it’s just down there if you want to skip ahead.
What did the moon missions, and the missions later inspired by the Apollo programme, give us? Artificial heart pumps, advanced breast cancer screening, major advances in satellite technology (which is an essential part of our daily lives), robotic surgery equipment, fly-by-wire, thermal protection suits, advances in prosthetic limb technology, the list goes on. And this was a programme that Tim reports did not receive widespread support.

What has Timothy Stanley given us? Well he has a blog and some books that I’m sure someone in the distant future will find some use for.

5) It’s of no great benefit to mankind.
How on Earth can Tim possibly know this? Is he psychic? Does he know the future? No, he does not. For all his history studies Timothy doesn’t seem to know much about scientific discoveries that push right up against the edge of our knowledge, and their later uses.

Once upon a time Sir Paul Nurse was looking at yeast genes for what no one assumed would have much of an impact on the world – in fact Sir Paul had little in the way of competition. What he discovered was the gene that controls cell division in yeast. Somewhat cool right?
Well, he was later employed by Walter Bodmer of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Some of his colleagues shunned him but his previous work with yeast helped him make breakthroughs in the way we understand how cancer spreads and new ways in which we can combat it in its many different guises.

The LHC and other projects at CERN also have what are called spin-offs. These have given us better tools for detecting and treating cancer, the freaking world wide web was invented there as a way for scientists to share data, there have been improvements to simulations in software, and numerous progressions in superconductivity.

Photostock | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"Hehe, this data is hawt!"

Oh and quantum mechanics, which was often said to have no practical purposes, lead to the invention of the transistor we use in computers. That piece of kit is kind of important.

To conclude:
I don’t know how people like Timothy Stanley and Stephen Green can be so small and simple-minded (though they’re both religious and conservative) about experiments like those going on at the LHC and the rest of CERN but it saddens me that evolution proves we share an ancestor.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a very intelligent man I know:

Hurrah for the Boson though.  Really. It’s completely brilliant that we as a species can lift our heads, hold up the mantle of civilization and consider donning it, free from the gushing effluent of Cowell, Clarkson and Cameron twattery with which we are (and allow ourselves to be) buffeted much of the time.

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Hammersmith and Fulham Catholic Schools on Anti-Gay Marriage

The recent controversy surrounding attempts by the Catholic Education Service to sway children being educated in state funded Catholic schools to a more homophobic persuasion was a shock to all right-thinking people. The shock and disgust is part of a general move towards liberal thinking amongst society at large and indeed amongst some Christians themselves.

This got me wondering what my local Catholic schools had to say on the matter and what their reactions were if they received the letter at all.
To this end I wrote letters – sent at about midnight on 2nd May – to The London Oratory School and Sacred Heart High School which can be seen below.

Dear Mr McFadden,

I am writing regarding the recent news about an anti-gay marriage message
sent out by the Catholic Education Service to approximately 359
state-funded Catholic secondary schools.

If I may I would like to pose my questions in order so that you can reply
easily as you come to each query.

1) Did your school receive the aforementioned letter from the Catholic
Education Service and if so what was your response, if any, to the letter?

2) Again, if you received the letter did this have any impact on lessons at
the school? Were any children made aware of the contents of the letter?
It seems that the Headmistress at St Philomena’s Catholic High School
actively encouraged students to sign an anti-gay marriage petition after a
presentation. Did anything like this occur at your school?

3) If you disagree with the letter sent out by the Catholic Education
Service how have you shown your disagreement?

4) What is the school’s stance on gay marriage and homosexuality in general
and how is that view taught in the classrooms?

5) Would you be able to send me a copy of the school’s sex education policy
which is alluded to but not displayed on the website?

This final question is more general in its nature but I would appreciate
any answer you can give if you have the time.

6) Given the move towards atheism and calls for secular schooling and
governance (from theist and atheist secularists alike) do you feel that
faith schools, which are exclusionary by their nature, have and indeed
deserve a place in modern society? Would it not, for instance, be better to
leave religious teachings to Sunday Schools and have regular schools teach
about theism and indeed atheism?

I sincerely hope that you will see fit to respond to my questions. I have
been a life-long Fulham resident and come from a Catholic family where
decisions on a child’s education do come down to a schools religion so
these recent events are close to my heart.

Warmest regards,
James Smith.

And this one to Sacred Hearts High School which is almost entirely the same as the one above.

Dear Dr Carpenter,

I am writing regarding the recent news about an anti-gay marriage message sent out by the Catholic Education Service to approximately 359 state-funded Catholic secondary schools.

If I may I would like to pose my questions in order so that you can reply easily as you come to each query.

1) Did your school receive the aforementioned letter from the Catholic Education Service and if so what was your response, if any, to the letter?

2) Again, if you received the letter did this have any impact on lessons at the school? Were any children made aware of the contents of the letter?
It seems that the Headmistress at St Philomena’s Catholic High School actively encouraged students to sign an anti-gay marriage petition after a presentation. Did anything like this occur at your school?

3) If you disagree with the letter sent out by the Catholic Education Service how have you shown your disagreement?

4) What is the school’s stance on gay marriage and homosexuality in general and how is that view taught in the classrooms?

5) If not covered by the previous question would you be able to expand on the school’s teachings regarding homosexuality in the context of sex education?

This final question is more general in its nature but I would appreciate any answer you can give if you have the time.

6) Given the move towards atheism and calls for secular schooling and governance (from theist and atheist secularists alike) do you feel that faith schools, which are exclusionary by their nature, have and indeed deserve a place in modern society? Would it not, for instance, be better to leave religious teachings to Sunday Schools and have regular schools teach about theism and indeed atheism?

I sincerely hope that you will see fit to respond to my questions. I have been a life-long Fulham resident and come from a Catholic family where decisions on a child’s education do come down to a schools religion so these recent events are close to my heart.

Warmest regards,
James Smith.

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