The War on Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking skills are the most important skill we must have as intelligent adults, and what we must be teaching our children today. As we enter this voting season, regardless of our individual politics, we must be educating ourselves on the issues at hand. For example, what does the Romney-Ryan Budget plan as roughly laid out REALLY mean for the current US situation as well as for our future? The Obama plan has been laid out in detail. What does it mean? What about gun control? What IS the issue and how do we deal with it? What about Israel and Iran? What is the history there and how does the US fit into the current situation? What about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan? Thirty-two coalition soldiers have been killed by those we considered Afghanistan allies, and many ask why we are still there. All of these issues are emotionally charged issues. But using critical thinking skills take the emotion out of equation and allow us to think about the bigger picture, use the data at hand, and formulate an opinion based on the DATA, not the rhetoric or propaganda that is so easily at hand.
Two articles have recently caught my eye regarding the War on Critical Thinking. The Texas GOP Platform directly addresses critical thinking skills and it’s plan to NOT teach these skills in school because it might “challeng[e] the student’s fixed beliefs and undermin[e] parental authority.” It also directly attacks the teaching of evolution, forbids the teaching of anything but abstinence before marriage, emphasizes Judeo-Christian belief systems in schools, and “believes the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive.” In our household, we welcome the challenge of belief systems. This goes for politics, religions, anything is up for grabs. My children are 11 and 14. If they have formed an opinion i.e. “Rick Santorum is an idiot” we make them justify that opinion. After years of research and thinking, my 14 year old has decided he is an agnostic at this point in his life. And he can tell you why, able to defend in detail his reasoning. Our children must be able to do this to be successful. Otherwise, they will end up being sheep, following the person with the slickest ads, perhaps the best looking or most charismatic, following the Pied Piper right off a cliff. Imagine a very multi-cultural world where Americanism is the only way. Where does that leave us?
Today, Soraya Chemaly posted a terrific article in response to Akin’s remarks yesterday about ‘legitimate rape’ and abortion. She doesn’t take on abortion as much as the ignorance of the many, i.e. their lack of critical thinking skills, who are speaking against women,. These are the men and women who are leading our country. They are responsible for voting to go to war, for raising or lowering our debt ceiling (which dropped our credit rating in the world), for defining what weapons are legal or illegal, or what rights a woman has to her own body. All of these issues require critical thinking skills. Instead, all the attention these issues receive is circular rhetoric and ignorant statements. No decision is still a decision. And a decision made based in emotional extremism instead of common sense using critical thinking is a bad decision and terrible for our country and unworthy of our legislature.
Feminist, Satirist and Media Critic
When asked about exceptions for abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape Missouri Representative Todd Akin of the Primacy of the Father Cult (formerly known as the GOP) had this to say:
” First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
The amount that this man doesn’t understand is staggering. He shouldn’t even try putting the words “doctors” and “understand” in the same sentence. It just confuses him. But, the problem is, he’s not an exception.
Although the six term Congressman, who is running against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in the November 6 election, won’t apologize, he has graciously come forward to join a long line of rape apologists who “misspoke.” He did not “misspeak.” Misspeaking is defined as “Express oneself imperfectly or inaccurately.” He was very clear: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
He wittingly regurgitated common misogynistic lies about women, their bodies, rape, pregnancy and abortion. Like Chloe Angel, at Feministing who wrote a thank you note to Akin earlier today, I am loathe to engage in uncivil discourse. I, too, believe that people who disagree should be able to do so with respect and without resorting to personal assault. However, these lies are so blatant and result in so much harm that they have to be named for what they are and challenged loudly and repeatedly and persistently.
His statements reveal several ideas about women, who bear the immediate and obvious brunt of this type of assault on reason:
- That women lie about their rapes — those would be, I assume, “illegitimate rapes.” Either that, or he implied like other conservative Republican legislators, that women don’t actually understand when they have been raped. Or better yet, that they are sluts and somehow “want it.” OR, not to be ignored, that women who are raped by their husbands aren’t “really” raped. OR… yes… there is another one… that women will claim they’ve been raped to gain the upper hand in divorce. These ideas are really important to Akin and others, like Paul Ryan, both of whom co-sponsored a bill to change the word “rape” to “forcible rape” in legislation about federal funding to abortion.
- That even if women do get raped their bodies somehow “take care of it.” Akin’s comments reveal the shocking level of scientific illiteracy and denialism embraced by Republican legislators when they deal with “women’s issues.” Even if some benighted predatory rapist repeated “I have legitimately raped you” three times while waving their weaponized dicks in the air, women do not emit some mystical, magical hormone “to shut that whole thing down.” Is it too much to ask that people suggesting, making and enforcing our laws know how to spell “biology”?
- That women who are raped don’t get pregnant much so we shouldn’t worry our pretty heads about maybe getting pregnant and needing an abortion. It turns out that some women’s bodies don’t take care of it. The Washington Post cited a study that revealed that at least 5 percent of rape victims end up pregnant. Mr. Akin, who has explained that he is empathetic to their plights, might want to personally explain to one of the 32,000 women forced to be pregnant against their will that it is “rare.”
Akin’s “gaff” is not harmless. It is not just “out of touch.” It’s DANGEROUS AND CAUSES PAIN and OPPRESSION. And, it’s not a “November” issue. It’s a “just world” issue. It’s a “think for yourself” issue. These people aren’t pro-life. They’re pro-pain. Pain central to redemption.
Which is why this is also a prime example of how religious privileging in education and public discourse overtakes reason and results in debilitating ignorance and real and tangible harm for children and women. And men. Ideas like Akin’s are why rape tragedies like what happened at Penn State and the ongoing Catholic abuse nightmare happen. Ideas like Akin’s and friends’, grounded in misconceived ideas about sexuality and women’s inherent sinfulness, their shame, their laboring for their wrongs, their sacrifice, their punishment, deny the reality of male victims of rape. These religiously vectored ideas are central to their political and legislative agendas as evidenced by these abortion and rape statements. Akin’s statement and philosophy are consistent with conservative’s deep mistrust of women and reflect the perverse contempt with which they simultaneously glorify sacrificial motherhood as the pinnacle of a woman’s existence — a long standing theme in Christian culture, while denigrating actual women though lies like these. Women, long portrayed as sub-human by culture, do not have to earn their abortions (or the contraception for that matter) through pain — illness, incest, rape. Women, in theory, have the right to bodily autonomy, privacy and equal protection under the law. It is really interesting to consider his language: he refers to “the rapist” and “the child” but never to “the girl” or “the woman. ” Instead, the girl or woman — the actual person who is raped and seeking to end her unwilling, non-consensual, insemination — is “the female body” — like some kind of machine or useful tool. And, I know, it’s not just men. But, the women who support these arguments will die knowing that they contributed to the infinite harm done to children and other women by their support of these policies.
Say what you will about men like Paul Ryan and Rick Santorum — both good examples of how red hat-envy can bend bright men’s minds towards incoherence and inhumanity — at least they have the courage to take their convictions to their logical conclusions — even if they result in sentences like “Rape is a gift from God” and in the consignment of 9 year old girls to eternal hell while their rapists get to pass through the pearly gates. But, many people like Akin, rather than deal with the illogic of exceptions, find ways to downplay the instance, validity, painful reality, post-traumatic effects and pregnancy that result from rape.
As Garance Franke-Ruta pointed out yesterday in The Atlantic, these conservative rape memes have a long life. Take this doozy which she cites from 1995 when 71-year-old North Carolina state Rep. Henry Aldridge said: “The facts show that people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever.” I highly recommend passing her piece along to anyone who doubts the long standing (at least in 20th century American political, versus loooonng standing classical Greek and Christian thought terms) use of these confused and ignorant statements by people responsible for distributing rights and justice in the country.
- GOP Condemns Akin for Rape Remarks (abcnews.go.com)
- What Does Todd Akin Think “Legitimate Rape” Is? (newyorker.com)
- With Todd Akin’s rape comments, abortion is back in the campaign spotlight – Washington Post (washingtonpost.com)
- Romney Rebukes Akin For Rape Comments (huffingtonpost.com)