Todd Akin and the American educational system

A SYTYCB Entry

So I am sure everyone has heard about GOP senate hopeful Todd Akin’s rape doesn’t result in pregnancy statement. If you haven’t, there are a number of other posts on this site that summarize the statements very well so I’m not going to go into too much detail. These comments are rife with issues to discuss and cringe at, but putting aside the issue of characterizing some rapes as more legitimate than others and the bizarre political maneuvering to criminalize abortion (again) because I have seen a lot of really good discussion surrounding those issues (a recent one here at Feministing itself and here at the Huffington Post). So I’m going to, just for a moment, pretend that Todd Akin (and presumably other people) truly believe this and use it as a springboard to talk about something else that I care greatly about: education.

Now I could talk about sex education in American public schools, and I will for a little bit, but there are larger educational issues that are also feminist issues even though they may not immediately seem that way (although you’d be hard pressed to find an issue that I care about that I wouldn’t argue is also a feminist issue… It’s something that my friends occasionally find somewhat vexing). I have been in the American public school system in a few states for almost my entire life, but in high school when I lived in Pennsylvania I don’t recall having any sex ed. Once or twice it was clear that some of the health teachers wanted to teach us about safe sex because they got a few discussions in under the radar, but on the whole we never really covered any of the issues. However, I did have some really good science classes. I lived in an area with access to a great school district and took an advanced biology course my senior year (in addition to the mandatory bio class that everyone took freshman or sophomore year) so we did cover things like the reproductive system fairly well.

I know I got lucky with all of that, but I can’t help but wonder what high school bio class Todd Akin was sitting in? There is a reason we, as a country, are struggling with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education compared to a lot of other countries. Now, if you get me started I will go off about how we can’t just focus on STEM courses (even though those do need work) but that humanities, social sciences, and arts are just as important and that we truly need to be well rounded in order to be competitive and you really shouldn’t get me started on the necessity of early second language education in public schools but all of these are symptomatic of the same problem which is how disparate our educational system is. Equal access and equity of educational opportunities is something that is one of the great failings of America when it could be one of our greatest achievements. Anything that has to do with inequality is a feminist issue, no matter what the inequality is. The school system I existed in provided a fabulous educational experience for me while 20 minutes away in Delaware it was entirely different, even 20 minutes the other direction (still in pa) it was another story altogether. How are we supposed to advance as a country when only a portion of the population is getting a good education and there are such different standards of success all over the place?

*Note: Another reading on why this whole rape can’t result in pregnancy thing is bunk: here at Jezebel

**Note: I wrote this as a draft over the weekend and woke up Tuesday with the intention of posting it but read the news first and learned all about Akin’s new comments. The use of the terms “legitimate” and “forcible” in regards to rape are seriously problematic and need to be addressed even if he has “apologized” for the former. But that is a topic for another post.

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