It is said that at Oxford university some students were taking
their final exam for a philosophy degree. There last 3 years of hard work, late
nights and book reading had come down to this. The nerves running through the
students were very much present. The students sat down for their two-hour exam
when the examiner declared “you may start” a rustle of papers sounded as all the
students flicked the page to see what questions there were. However much to the
amazement of the students, there was just one question followed by pages of
line paper. The question read this “What is courage?”. Now I'm sure many of the
students answered this with pages of deep philosophical analysis much like they
had been taught in their lectures, however one young student wrote: “This is”.
The student closed their paper and left the exam. The student went on to
receive a first and an award for their ingenious thinking under extreme
Why am I telling this story? I believe personally that thinking
outside the box is not commended as well as it has been in the past. We in this
modern day go so far to try and put people on the same page and not
discriminate or leave out (often a very good thing) however occasionally I
believe this is taken too far. For example, the reason for exams is to attempt
to put all students on a level playing field so that when they come out with a
result we can compare the students. However, there are still issues with this
and it is very hard to actually put human life in a comparable way.
Do not get me wrong I believe that the education that a child
receives up until the age of 18 is vital and the subjects we learn, maths
science English a language, an art, all are very important. However, it is
proven that a human's brain is not fully developed until the age of 21. This
means that I believe the young people of today's society should be targeted and
filled with interesting ideas while they are still growing, because if they are
to pursue and interest they may come to love it more and more however if they
were not to they are still young and have time to change.
If we are to look at all of the great innovators of late. Steve
Jobs, Edison, Tesla, and Franklin are just some of the most incredible
innovators of their time. Now many people have asked why is it that they were
so special, study after study has been done to analyse every part of their
lives, what school they went to, what kind of upbringing they had, how many
hours a day they did of work. All of these things are interesting pieces of
data however I feel there is something that cannot be recorded that all of
these people had. The ability to have an open mind. If you've ever seen the
film inception you will be familiar with the concept of planting a seed into
someone's mind. This is used in the film to show that once you tell someone an
idea, then they cannot remove it from their memory and often it can take over
their lives. I believe all people have these creative ideas, sometimes they are
just a seed which has been planted in their mind, sometimes these develop into
a plant and they become successful ideas, however sometimes just sometimes
these seeds develop into a fruitful and beautiful flower which benefits
Theresa May’s surprise announcement has set in motion the endless news cycle that only an election brings; new announcements and policies each hour, journalists trying to get a politician to contradict themselves or promise the impossible, another poll telling us who is winning or losing. The shorter lead up time caused by a snap general election will only heighten the continual stream of words from politicians, journalists and pollsters alike making it harder to hear, let alone think about, the issues.
Most of the column inches in the first few days have been devoted to the U-turn of Theresa May in calling the election itself. She had publicly declared she would not hold an election at least five times in the past year with many YouTube videos collating these statements. This comes hot on the heels of her campaigning to remain in the EU, but then wanting to be the leader who takes us out of the EU. This is unfortunately not a new phenomenon for our politicians.
Every manifesto is taken with a pinch of salt as experience has made us wary; scrapping tuition fees and not raising NI contributions are two examples from the recent past. Ed Miliband took the extreme step of putting his policies onto a large stone monument before the last election that turned into his epitaph. However taking someone’s word at face value seems to be turning into a weakness rather than a strength. You are called naive and told to be more streetwise when you trust in the strength of a word that is then taken back. A lot of the reporting around the election announcement centred on what Theresa May really meant, insinuating that the words she spoke should not be taken at face value.
The post-Easter story of ‘Doubting Thomas’ highlights this issue. Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene and she had told the disciples He is risen, but they were dubious and the disciples carried on hiding in a locked room out of fear. Then Jesus miraculously appeared in their midst, but Thomas was not there.
Thomas was now faced with at least two accounts of Jesus being risen from the dead. Two stories from two different sources; enough to be published in any newspaper today. Yet his response is to say I will never believe unless I see Him for myself. He does not take their word for it; he cannot hear the words they say, he cannot accept the message they bring. Maybe it is a human condition to continually question what we hear. Maybe we have been let down too much to trust in the integrity of those we meet or of those in power?
Classical economics, from Adam Smith to David
Riccardo to Alfred Marshall, is based on a couple of key assumptions. Economic
actors (individuals and companies) seek to maximise their utility
(satisfaction) by making perfectly rational decisions in possession of perfect
information. When these people come together in a market, these motivations and
preferences result in the type of market behaviour that we are forever charting
in class, using traditional demand and supply curves. As I was thinking about
applying this to real world situations, I kept coming across examples where
people were not completely rational in their economic behaviour. This bothered
me, but I kept assuming that while individuals may not follow these classical
patterns of behaviour, a theoretical model based on these assumptions may still
give valuable insights in to the real world. I thought no more about this
problem until I came across the work of psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos
Tversky who published a paper in 1979 about Prospect Theory which challenged
the classical Expected Utility Theory.
Prospect Theory can be understood with a few
simple examples. A key assumption in Prospect Theory is 'Loss Aversion' which
means that losses hurt more than gains feel good. This differs from expected
utility theory in which a rational agent would have a symmetrical utility curve
around zero. In a laboratory setting, Kahneman and Tversky conducted a number
of experiments. Subjects were asked to choose between a pair of
probability-weighted outcomes. First, they were asked to choose between a 100%
chance of winning $500 and a 50% chance of winning $1,000. The majority of
respondents chose the 100% chance of winning $500. As the two choices are equal
on a probability-weighted basis, the classical theory would suggest people
should be neutral between the two choices. On the loss side, subjects were
asked to choose between a 100% chance of losing $500 or a 50% chance of losing
$1,000. Rather than take a guaranteed loss of $500, most subjects took the
option of a 50% chance of a $1,000 loss. Take another example. Subjects were
asked to put a dollar value on two life insurance policies. One would cover the
subject from death for a period of 10 years. The other would cover the subject
from death in a terrorist attack for 10 years. On average, the subjects put a
higher value on the second policy despite the fact that the first policy
covered terrorism as well as any other kind of death in the same 10 year
period. For the subjects, death in a terrorist attack sounds worse than other
kinds of death so they ascribe a higher value to a policy that covers that
event despite the fact that the other policy has more coverage. Basing economic
theories on more accurate descriptions of how economic actors behave sounds
like a much better approach. These are not random errors of judgement but
predictable cognitive biases.
Kahneman and Tversky eventually won the Nobel
Prize for Economics, despite the fact that they are both academic
psychologists. Based on their work, Behavioural Exonomics has developed into
one of the most fertile areas of Economics for new thinking. While most of
Kahneman and Tversky's experiments were conducted in a laboratory setting,
Prospect Theory can be used to better understand many real-life economic
situations and one obvious example is financial transactions. The Loss Aversion
component of Prospect Theory leads to something called the 'Disposition
Effect', the empirical finding that owners of financial assets have a greater
propensity to sell an asset that has
risen in value since purchase (locking in a profit) rather than sell assets
that have fallen in value (locking in a loss). This is puzzling because many
asset prices tend to exhibit 'momentum' where assets that have done well, continue
to perform well and assets that have performed poorly, continue to lag. A
rational approach to this scenario would be to sell the asset that has gone
down and hold the asset that has gone down...contrary to what is observed.
We go to a school where difference is not simply tolerated, it is celebrated. A school where 69% of pupils believe it is easy to come out, a school where pupils, staff and parents can have pride in being who they truly are. By being here you are part of a movement of people who are making a statement that differences of gender, sexuality, faith, disability or anything else will not divide us. Two years ago I got in touch with Asifa after watching Channel 4's Muslim Drag Queens and here I was touched by Asifa’s bravery in intertwining her muslim faith whilst simultaneously being her authentic self. Being the UK’s first open muslim drag queen, Asifa is providing an avenue for representation to the Asian LGBTQ+ community. Once again, I would like to thank Mrs Morgan for facilitating this event today, and PGS Pride itself. PGS Pride has evolved over the years and I am excited to see what more our school can achieve. Thank you.
Shree Patel and Loren Deaninterview Asifa Lahore following her presentation to PGS Pride on Friday.
Last time we saw you you were living as man and performing as
Asifa. We understand that you’ve now decided to transition and live as a woman.
What sparked this change?
Before doing drag I thought my male identity was solid. However,
over time I’ve been becoming more honest with myself. The tipping point came in
October last year at a an LGBT conference in South Africa. I met inspirational
trans* people from across the world who have shown bravery, even in hard
circumstances and I realised that it was time to be more honest with myself.
What’s changes have you experienced since living as a woman?
My day to day life and performances are the same but medically the
changes are really noticeable. The hormones are creating mood swings and
changing my taste buds but I’m still the same person.
Would you still consider yourself to be a drag queen now you’re
living as a woman?
Absolutely. Drag is always a performance and when I’m on stage my
alter ego takes over. I’ll always be Britain’s first Muslim drag queen.
Has the Muslim community reacted differently to you since you’ve
In a way, yes – in many Muslim countries it’s more acceptable to
be trans than gay (In Iran the state will pay for gay men to transition). It’s
really early days for me though. I’m still waiting to come out to my family and
much of the Gaysian community so we’ll see. You’re getting an exclusive!
Are you ready to fully come out as trans?
I don’t know, I guess I’m going to have to be. I am beginning to
physically change more now with the hormones so people will probably start
How do you think people will respond?
I don’t think it will be a huge shock. I’ve been performing as
Asifa for many years and sometimes people use female pronouns with me anyway. I
do recognise though that it will be difficult for the people around me and
they’re going to need some time to adjust.
What advice would you give to someone who thinks they might be
Talk about it. This is not a snap decision or taken in isolation.
I’m 33 and have taken many years to make what is a massive decision. Have
honest conversations with yourself and people you can trust. Don’t feel like
you need to rush, allow yourself to evolve – every day is different. There’s no
button you can push, things don’t happen overnight.
Do you think there should be an age limit for transitioning?
I don’t know, it’s difficult. There’s so much more visibility and
information out there now. I think the current system has got it right. Giving
a child hormones rather than medically transitioning seems more sensible to
avoid the wrong decision being made. Waiting has the advantage physically and
mentally and puberty blockers make this less traumatic.
How do you reconcile your faith with your sexuality and gender
I believe in Islam and I follow the five pillars. I’ve performed
the hajj, I give my zakat (charity), I pray, I believe in Allah and I observe
Ramadan. Obviously there are other areas I don’t follow like living in a
monogamous heterosexual marriage etc. The reality is that all I can do is be
authentic and observe my faith. I believe that God created me in this way and
that He wants me to be myself. I tried living a lie and it didn’t work. I will
let God be my judge.
The inspiration for such an article came as Lola
Kirke made headlines for her ‘nicely grown armpit hair’ at the 2017 Golden
Globes, instantly brandishing her as brave and a raging feminist ‘breaking the
stereotypes’ for women.The fact that
this made numerous headlines is insulting to Feminism.It’s showing the ignorance and lack of
understanding of Feminism and its true meaning.In the article published by ‘Yahoo style UK’ any information surrounding
Lolas actual career or achievements was completely ignored, instead they chose
to focus on the peaking wisps of body hair beneath her arms.
The fact that the media is endorsing the stereotypes
of what Feminist should look like is insulting.
Google tells us the top
three attributes of all Feminists are angry, men-hating, lesbians. This could not be further from the truth. In
actual fact a Feminist can be anyone, of any ethnicity and of any sex who believes
in gender equality. Having an excess of
body hair does not make you a feminist.
It’s important we stop connecting feminism with a certain type of person
or style because it’s a degrading stereotype that has no truth. The fact that the Huffington post felt it was
necessary to write an article on ‘23 was to make your clothes radiate feminism’
shows the true definition and
justification for being a feminist have been forgotten. In fact the slogan on one shirt ‘The future
is female’ does not promote feminism at all because feminism is not saying that
women deserve better than men but that they deserve the same as men. If the roles were reversed and that top read
‘The future is male’ there would be severe backlash and criticism.
After fortunately securing a one-week work experience programme at the vascular department, I set out to for a brief consultation followed by my first observatory operation- an EVAR (Endovascular Aortic Repair). This was required due to a 5.6cm intrarenal aortic aneurysm and was treated with the placement of an endovascular stent graft. Admittedly, it was a slightly mundane spectacle, however it allowed me to clearly understand the intricacy and sheer precision required at this level of professional healthcare and was executed perfectly by the experienced consultant. The afternoon held in store a huge contrast and was much more graphic and vivid than the previous procedure. As a result of frequent drug abuse, the patient required a ‘Bilateral Transmet Amputation’ which is essentially both feet being chopped off after being blackened and as the anaesthetist said too much of the team’s amusement, ‘It’s good old, fundamental surgery- if it’s dead, it’s gotta go!’. After applying the spinal anaesthetic to cancel any nerves to the lower side of the body, the surgeons, fairly brusquely, picked up a scalpel and just began sawing the feet of much to my horror and gradual excitement. The wound was left open and was swiftly dressed with the anticipation that the granulated skin exposed on the side of the leg would eventually reappear in the operated area. The patient was awoken and was troublesome with her psychological issues seen as she questioned the entire surgery. The consultant gently explained the extreme necessity of the procedure and offered her painkillers for back relief which was met with gratitude and understanding by the patient.
Day 2 began with a ward around which was useful, in particular for me, as it gave me a chance to speak to a couple of junior doctors. They did state that they feel ‘like a bit of a spare part’ but the enjoyment of working in a team sometimes does overshadow that. Administrative tasks such a taking clinical notes is a key part of the work they do but the variety of patients they see allows them to develop adequate knowledge in a variety of medical situations which will obviously aid them in the future when they begin to choose specialities etc. A flurry of hernia related operations followed and further reinforced this idea of accuracy and precision that all surgeons must have when performing such operations. The afternoon entailed a ‘de clotting of the left PTFE graft’ which partly had to be undertaken due to the patient’s lifelong type 1 diabetes. The patient, aged 65, has had regular treatment in the department with some of them related to general age.
The next day involved a different side to the department- the assessment unit (lab). This is the area in which suspected patients receive scans in order to investigate certain conditions such as one patient required one for DVT (deep vein thrombosis) which is blood clot that has developed in the lower leg of the body. The symptoms include deep swelling, reddening and warmth in the area in question. The scan was taken by the clinical scientist and the waveforms were analysed to check for irregular patterns in the blood flow and hence check if there was a clot. The Doppler effect is used for this and I gained a brief insight into how technology is an integral part for the detection of disease as well as the fact it isn’t just doctors who are responsible for the curation of infection in the hospital.
Having read George Orwell’s 1984 previously at
the age of around thirteen, I decided it was worth a re-read, especially
considering that I am now studying the Russian Revolution.
It being one of the most
famous dystopian satires in the English language, I expected great things. And
great things I got!
The book tells the story of Winston Smith, a government
worker, and his lover, Julia as they explore the themes of freedom, doom and
control in a world of the all-powerful, all-watching Big Brother. To me, the
book has a slow start, and I felt tempted to give up after finding a somewhat
dull, descriptive and barely-there plot in the first few chapters.
the middle, I was captivated by the stories of Winston and Julia and I too was
trapped in a world of Big Brother, being unable to put the book down. I was
intrigued the most however, by the book inside the book: while most
young readers (including myself at age thirteen) yearn to skip at least some of
the treatise by Emmanuel Goldstein, the Trotsky-esque dissident and public
enemy whose forbidden work comes into Winston's hands, I longed for it.
Tom Fairman shares a four-part consideration of the meaning of Easter, originally published on his blog, https://tmfairman.wordpress.com/ 1. Questions of Identity
The season of Lent is brought to an end with the beginning of Holy Week which starts with Palm Sunday; the joyful procession of Jesus into Jerusalem. When an important person visits a town or city, there is a lot of organisation to be done before hand; the route needs to be prepared and security checked, venues have to be cleared, itineraries and photo opportunities are planned to the second. The more important the person, the more disruption to the locals. EU summits, G8 conferences and state visits are prime examples. Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was to be no exception.
Three years of ministry had gained Him a large following and a large amount of critics and He was unable to go to the towns without attracting huge crowds. It was a massive inconvenience for the apostles who spent time trying to organise food, maintain orderly queues and provide transport for Him. When Jesus was to enter Jerusalem for the last time, it was to celebrate the Passover and the city would have been full; this was going to be a difficult one to pull off.
Imagine Aladdin entering Agrabah as Prince Ali for the first time for the pomp and ceremony that would have been going through the Apostles heads because for them this was the victory parade. Jesus had made clear this would be the start of the end and the beginning of His kingdom on earth. The Apostles understood this as claiming the kingship and setting them free from Roman rule. The people were expecting this, palms at the ready and coats taken off to lay before Him in the manner of a king. Jesus was finally going to reveal who He truly was!
The question of Jesus identity is at the very core of His ministry and of the problem Christianity poses us. During His temptations, the devil twice prefixes the temptations with”If you are the Son of God”. Jesus had to truly believe He was the Son of God; an identity crisis leading to a difficult decision is one we can all relate to. He faced those questions that cut to the core of who He was and after overcoming them, the angels came and ministered to Him, reinforcing this truth.
The disciples and those Jesus met continually questioned His identity, giving Him many names, some pleasant, others not so; Son of David, Master, Joseph’s son, Son of Man, Elijah, Holy One of God and Beelzebub to name a few. No one knew what to make of Him, He did not fit into any box they had in their minds. The Messiah was supposed to come to bring freedom and justice, but He preached mercy and forgiveness. The Son of David broke the laws of the Jews and yet maintained He did not come to change one dot of them. He performed miracles only God could do and yet associated with those outcast from society. He was a complete set of contradictions and paradoxes that logic could not explain!
So when Jesus speaks of the hour being near, his disciples are understandably excited. This was to be it; the big reveal, the moment they will finally know who this man they had given their lives to truly was! The word would have spread and the crowds were gathered, the talking would be over and the truth would be revealed. When Jesus tells them to go and get a donkey to ride in on, it may raise a few eyebrows, but He has been unconventional all this time so why change now? A King riding a donkey is not going to send the majestic image the marketing team required, but this was it.
His kingdom, His ways, His thoughts are not our ways or our thoughts. They are the completion of the plan that was started at the beginning. They are the truth and beyond our logical mindset. If we could work it out, then where would the mystery and the excitement be? The people came out to welcome as king someone who rode on a donkey, an enemy of the religious elite who was coming to celebrate the main religious feast of the year, someone who was about to turn the world upside down!
2. On A Different Level
Last year, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 asylum seekers outside of Rome on Maundy Thursday. They were Muslim, Hindus and Christians, men and women and did not need to have their feet washed, but the act was a symbolic remembrance of Jesus’ actions during His celebration of Passover. It is a strange act to understand in a culture where wearing shoes is the norm, but was also difficult for the Apostles to comprehend.
At a time when sandals were worn, feet were regularly in need of cleaning and so the act was one of a necessary, if unpleasant physical service. Peter’s understanding belonged at this level and after overcoming his uncomfortable feeling of Jesus washing his feet, asked to have his head and hands washed as well! It was a sacrificial act more appropriate for a servant than a rabbi. It involved getting down on your knees and overcoming any physical inhibitions that may occur when dealing with other people’s feet.
Yet Jesus makes light of Peter’s request, saying one who is clean already does not need a bath and draws light to a deeper understanding of this simple act. Pope Francis says we are all children of the same God and share the same brotherhood. By washing the feet of his Apostles, Jesus has put Himself on the same level as us to share in our brotherhood. St Paul says Jesus did not cling to His equality with God, but emptied Himself to be as a servant. He came down from His throne to share in our humanity. He was showing us the nature of God.
By washing His disciples feet, Jesus revealed that God wants to join with us where we are. He wants to share the joys and sufferings, the hopes and fears, the love that is present in being human. He lowered himself to our level, to set himself alongside us, rather than above us, to lead as a brother rather than as a dictator. When He wrapped the towel around His waist, He shows us that God wants to have an intimate relationship with us.