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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Education is about learning how to think for yourself

From activistgradgirl, this interesting discussion on abstinence until marriage and condom use. She was set off because of a conservative who argued that teaching condom use instead of abstinence until marriage was pretty much telling kids that they could never have children since sex requires condoms and not trust. Or something like that. It's typical either/or conservative thought. Which is to say that since they are offering a one size fits all solution to people--no sex until marriage and no birth control ever--then somehow that means that liberals are.

I thought about cars and racing, as I am likely to do since I am surrounded by gearheads and racing fanatics.

I drove to the grocery store today to buy fish and vegetables because we had guests over for dinner. I got in the pick-up truck, adjusted my seat and buckled my seatbelt. I did not put on a helmet. My truck is not equipped with a rollbar. I am not in the demolition derby and I am not a racer, so I only use a middling amount of protection.

If I were racing, I would have a helmet and instead of a regular seatbelt, I would have an entire apparatus to strap me down. I would also be wearing a fire retardant suit so that if my car caught fire I would survive. But I had less risk than racers have, so I used less protection. Because I am educated on different risk levels, I am capable of making value judgements about the risk I am taking and act accordingly. If I am driving normally, I use a seatbelt. If I am having monogamous sex with my boyfriend, I use birth control but not a condom. If I am racing, I use a helmet. If I am having non-monogamous sex, I use a condom.

When you educate people, you arm them with not just prescriptions for behavior, but with critical thinking skills to make judgements on their own. There is always risk; even with a fire retardant suit and a helmet, you can get into a racing accident that will kill you immediately. If you use these things for city driving or even just a seatbelt, you can still get killed. Danger is the price you pay for getting out and engaging in the world, living your life. We make value judgements every minute of every day; we balance the need for safety with the need to live. Yes, my boyfriend could be cheating on me and give me herpes. But I am making a value judgement that I am equipped to make because I have been educated to do so and odds are I'm not going to get herpes.

But if you rob someone of the ability to assess different risk levels, they have no idea what kind of safety mechanisms to employ. You see this when you compare street racing to professional racing. Professional racers, fully educated about what they are doing, cheerfully strap on the helmets and the fire retardant gear. They don't use these things when they are driving in normal traffic, because they know they don't need them. Street racers are under-educated and can't make good judgements. They treat racing like normal driving and don't wear gear. And they get killed. A lot. If they were empowered and educated like professional racers, they would know the difference and save themselves.

I want people to be trained like racers. Know everything and think for themselves. It's the best thing we've got going for us.

67 Comments:

Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

Amanda,
I definitely agree with you here. I think people in our society have lost the ability to weigh risks, to construct rational arguments, to perform *independent thought*. I don't know why that entirely is.

You see it every day. People are too dumb to wear seatbelts, so they had to make it illegal not to. Political debates (both right and left) have been reduced to cheesy platitudes, because nobody (smartly) thinks the American people care enough to understand the arguments for or against policies.

This whole sex education debate is a result of parents being either too scared, too out of reality, or too ignorant to be able to teach their kids, so they expect the schools to do so. The righties seem to think that their kids are going to suddenly start screwing if they hear about sex in school. News flash, if they start doing that, you didn't raise them right. The lefties typically think that beyond sex, you should start teaching about tolerance and lifestyles and diversity, which just pisses the fundamentalists off because you're teaching values, not knowledge.

You said, "When you educate people, you arm them with not just prescriptions for behavior, but with critical thinking skills to make judgements on their own." I'm still waiting for our educational system to start doing that. You can tell kids all you want about sex, birth control, STD's, risk rates, etc, but if they don't have a foundation of critical thinking skills, it goes in one ear and out the other.

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