4 February 2016

3:00 PM

4 February 2016

3:00 PM

Leave those kids alone

Sir: Melanie Phillips was right to raise serious concerns about the emerging practice of challenging children to define their gender identity (‘In defence of gender’, 30 January). She quoted justice minister Caroline Dinenage as saying that the government was ‘very much on a journey’ on this issue. The government should therefore give children space and time to follow their own ‘journey’ of self-discovery and discovery of the world without pressure from above to choose labels to define their own sexuality. They have enough pressure of this kind from their peers.

The tried and tested way for society to help children along this journey has been to teach them subjects like history, literature and science, as these will inevitably give children the tools to make sense of the world and their own emotional life in their own time, and in their own way.
Michael Chambers

Fluidity on the brain

Sir: Reading Maria Miller’s pious nostrums on gender fluidity is enough to drive one to drink. While acknowledging the fact that there are a number of people suffering from gender dysphoria, the approach suggested by the Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee is wrongheaded and will have unintended consequences.

No doubt the member for Basingstoke will feel she is striking an important and overdue blow against a perceived transgression — one that can only be rectified by government intervention, taxpayers’ money and a host of targets. Most people will, I think, heave a loud collective sigh of irritation. Given the very real problems facing the United Kingdom, this determination to focus on single issues that affect a small minority emphasises the gulf between the electorate and legislature.
Alexander McKibbin
Ringwood, Hants

Gender dysphoria exists

Sir: The teenage child of dear friends of ours, a happy, functional family, recently began self-harming, attempted suicide and was hospitalised. She (or rather they, as she now self-defines) is finally on the mend thanks to a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the support she is receiving. I hope they, their family and others going through something similar and in a vulnerable state did not see last week’s Spectator cover or Melanie Phillips’s dangerous article.
Name and address supplied

Open to interns

Sir: Fraser Nelson (Diary, 28 January) makes an important point about the lack of contacts for interns. My new little company wanted to offer internships to bright youngsters. Two schools did not reply to our letters offering internships. But a fellow on my cricket team was a teacher at an unpromising school. The first 17-year-old he sent us was great. We encouraged him to apply to Oxford and he got in. Such a DIY approach can work.
Doug Shaw
London SW3

Piped poison

Sir: Peter Phillips (Arts, 30 January) is absolutely right to say that piped music (muzak) has ‘slipped through every legal control’ to fill far too many public places. But he appears to think that the only alternative to piped music is an ‘absolute’ silence. Happily, this is not the only choice. Good pubs, restaurants and shops free of piped music soon fill with the jovial hubbub of people eating, drinking, shopping and talking. Talk can become impossible when loud music fills a space — hence the success of places without piped music, from Wetherspoons pubs to Waitrose.

Piped music is a phenomenon of the past 50 years or so. Before then, humanity got on very well with occasional live music. In the gaps between music, both pulse and blood pressure drop. That people miss quiet and calm is suggested by the growing popularity of meditation. One place people are desperately in need of quiet calm is hospitals, which is why we are pressing for a ban on piped music there.
Nigel Rodgers
National Secretary of ‘Pipedown’
Berwick St James, Wiltshire

Easter solution

Sir: Tim Hudson (Letters, 30 January) rightly points out that for most of the population Easter is simply a spring holiday weekend. So maybe the Christian churches should go on observing Easter according to the traditional formula, and the government should allocate two bank holidays to the mid-April weekend, and we can all get on with it. After all, despite this country having an established church, most of our holidays have no religious significance. In France, on the other hand, for all their separation of church and state, there are public holidays for such days as the Ascension, the Monday after Pentecost, the Assumption of Our Lady and All Saints.

Father David Sillince
Southampton, Somerset

Islands of cricket

Sir: ‘“Cricket” is naturally the first word that comes into the mind apropos of a summer term,’ recorded my school’s magazine in 1887. My own state school plays well over 100 fixtures each summer, but almost entirely against independent school opponents (‘Elite sport’, 23 January).

There are some islands of health and strength, however. The Royal Grammar Schools’ cricket festival is one outstanding example. Three state and three independent schools compete in this annual five-day festival, on a level playing field, and playing cricket of excellent quality.

Another cause for optimism is the demise of the Lower Sixth AS exams. Their disappearance reopens the summer term for the ‘wild frenzy of cricket’ celebrated by my school magazine’s editor in 1887. Let’s work to ensure that it helps to produce some more state-educated England
Dr Chris Pyle
Lancaster Royal Grammar School

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