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Gender neutrality failure

Image from Marks & Spencer
A news article this week is that a school in Lewes - The Priory School - has made the decision for "year 7" (for those educated before the Amerification of the education system, that means an 11-12 year old, roughly first year senior) students from wearing skirts... for what appear to be three reasons, as explained by the headmaster Tony Smith:
  • Pupils have been saying why do boys have to wear ties and girls don't, and girls have a different uniform to boys
  • Another issue was that we have a small but increasing number of transgender students and therefore having the same uniform is important for them
  • There had also been complaints from the wider community about the length of school skirts, so this was another factor in the decision to ban them altogether

If I had a child at that school, I would consider removing her from this insanity; and pressing for the firing of the headmaster that made these rules.

Let's look at each of these concerns in turn.

The first is the question of why girls and boys wear different uniforms. This is pretty easy to answer - because no matter what namby-pamby bollocks gave rise to this decision, there is no such thing as gender neutrality when it comes to actual genders. Girls and boys are different. Biologically, physically, mentally... Most of the cultures in most of the world have adopted the basic idea of trousers for boys and skirts for girls. Even places as famously insular as Japan typically dress "western" in preference to traditional native clothing for day to day activities. Whether this is good or bad is up to you, however it does demonstrate that this manner of dress is accepted all over the world - with a few notable exceptions (such as the kilt).

A simple answer to this would be that boys and girls are different...and ties are optional (as a school child I hated the tie, and I only had to wear it on Sundays for church).

Next up is the issue of transgender children. I find it utterly abhorrent that the school is happy to appease a tiny minority (well, more likely their pushy vocal parents) by deciding that both genders are to wear trousers, instead of - say - the school uniform is "this" and you may wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. You will notice that skirts are banned, not that boys can wear a skirt if they want.
So what's the message here? It's okay to be a boy... it's okay to be in denial of the gender you were born... it's not okay to be a girl.

The answer to this is to educate children (and parents) that there are many stereotypes of what a girl should be, and what a boy should be, and quite a lot of both genders don't fit in these predefined roles. Some girls may enjoy woodwork, some boys may like cooking. These activities should be at the free choice of the individual and not based upon gender. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that some people feel so much unlike the gender that they were born that they wish to be the other gender. Or maybe none at all.
We should support transgender children with understanding and support, not by buggering up the gender identities of the boys that know they are boys, and girls that know they are girls.

Finally, the length of skirts. The school's website, uniform rules clearly states "Black or grey skirts (no shorter than knee length)". If skirts are shorter, this is entirely the fault of the school for failing to enforce its own rules. Furthermore by expecting girls to alter their clothing because of what - presumed sexual objectification of 12 year olds? - it is stating once again that it is just wrong to be a girl.

In short, if you want gender neutrality, let boys dress like girls if they want. Don't keep promoting the idea of how "girly" is wrong (and how if you're a boy, it's okay to objectify girls that want to look like girls).

Mr Smith - you are not trendy, responsive, or progressive. You, sir, are an idiot who should not be in charge of decisions affecting other people's children.


USBSerial blockdriver

The serial ports on modern ARM devices are extremely lacklustre. Most people only use the serial port for a login terminal if something does wrong, or for low-level debugging. As such, these serial ports are typically only wired with TX (send data), RX (receive data) and GND (signal ground) wired up. It's okay if you want to punt data from one computer to another, but more involved behaviour may expect some use of the other lines - flow control and the like.

Furthermore, while Colin Granville has created the essential driver in the form of the USBSerial module, it rests a DeviceFS driver, that you communicate with as if it was a file.

Back in the late '80s every Archimedes machine came fitted with a serial port. The early models were based upon the 6551 UART which was a wildly popular serial interface from the '70s that ran at a maximum of 19,200 bits per second, and with no buffering it needed a lot of work from the host processor to retrieve every single byte - and as such speeds over 9600 bps may be unreliable. Couple this with the fact that Acorn originally messed up the serial wiring, and you can see why third parties started to create better serial ports using the newer and much better 16550 UART with its 16 byte FIFO buffer that could be programmed to interrupt as infrequently as every 14 bytes, meaning less work for the host and so higher data rates.

The obvious problem is that every serial card has a different way of communicating with it, especially if it offered multiple ports, so logically every program would need a driver for every sort of card it knows about, and if a new card was released it wouldn't have any existing software compatible with it.
In response to this, Hugo Fiennes, the creator of the popular "sp_dual" dual serial card, ArcTerm7 software, and ARCbbs bulletin board software, devised the "serial blockdriver". This was a small wodge of assembler that contained numerous entry points (get a byte, send a byte, read the modem control lines, set the baud rate, etc) accessed via a standard API. Programs that wanted to use the serial port used the blockdriver protocol, and then all that was necessary to change a serial port or support a new piece of hardware, would be to load the appropriate blockdriver and use its API to interface with the serial port.

Now the problem is that the serial blockdriver is not at all the same as opening a serial device as a file. Because of this, USB serial devices could not be used with traditional serial terminals such as Hearsay or Connector, and anything wishing to use the port (such as my weather station software) would need to communicate with the device directly.

Enter my "USBSerial" serial blockdriver.

This is very much a work in progress. The baud rate is fixed at 115,200 bits per second, 8N1, with no flow control. This is because my (older) driver's documentation said that such things were not supported with CP2303 devices (as mine is), and trying to much around with the word format made Connector crashy for some reason. There is a newer driver than mine, so I may look to supporting more features soon.

That said, you can now use a terminal such as Connector or Hearsay to talk to a device that runs at 115,200bps 8N1, which is the default setting for most ARM boards. Here's my PVR booting up...

My USBSerial blockdriver is supplied with source code (needs the DDE to build), and is licenced under the EUPL v1.1 only.



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Rick, 13th September 2017, 00:27
I was wondering how long it would be before a "religious" person crawled out of the woodwork to make a big fuss about transgender children. 
What did we manage? A little under a week? They must have been asleep or something... -to-sue-school-over-sons-transgender-classmate-6918942/ 
They complain, with a completely straight face, that "that the Church of England primary school did not respect their rights as Christians". 
They also claim that their six year old son would come home from school "confused as to why and how a boy was now a girl". Well, as parents you are supposed to come up with a good answer. As CHRISTIAN parents you get the option to cop out and blame the Devil. Or, as in the path chosen, demonstrate roughly zero of the acceptance and tolerance that such people claim their holy text advocates. But, then, isn't this how it usually is? Colour me utterly surprised. That's a girly pink, by the way. And I'm a boy. Nerr. :-P 

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