Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Strip-searches in Schools: What About Boys? And other questions...

I think a great many of us are aware that SCOTUS ruled the other day, on a case involving the strip search of an eighth grade girl, by school faculty.  As Ed put it, it is indeed a partial victory for sanity, given that the majority opinion explicitly stated that such a search might have been reasonable had the faculty suspected that she had illicit drugs on her person, rather than the Advil they were looking for.  Several people have weighed in on the ruling, including Greg Laden, who's blog is so very often a starting point for very interesting conversations.  So I don't feel all that compelled to throw much into the legal discussion, except to say that I strongly feel faculty should not be performing strip searches - ever.  If there is a reasonable assumption that a child has contraband secreted in their underwear, the school should call the police in to deal with it - period.  If the police don't believe there is adequate reason to search, then the search should not happen.

But I do want to weigh in on a discussion that got started over on Greg's thread - namely the question of how outraged we might be if it were a boy who was strip searched instead.  I am not at all fond of the commenter who got that ball rolling - he and I have butted heads way to harshly for that.  But he raises a very important question and one that is indicative of far more than just the implications of strip searches. 

I am going to go into a great deal more detail on this, when I don't have three tests between now and Tuesday that I really need to study for.  However, I would like to refer you to my paper on masculine social gender constructs and help-seeking in men.  And I would also pose the question to you:

How would you feel about this situation if it had been a boy who was strip searched, instead of a girl?  Would you feel any different about it?  If so, why?  And please try to be objective in your thinking and honest with yourself.  Moreover, if you are comfortable doing so, drop your answers in comments or an email.  And on this post only, I am willing to accept completely anonymous comments, because I want to know what you really think.  I figure that some people might not want to be associated with their real feelings on this and I will respect that.

And while I am asking questions, I would also be interested to hear from some skeptics who were raised without religion. Stemming from an earlier discussion about cannabis, I am inclined to think that there is some tendency amongst those who never went in for particularly pervasive forms of magical thinking, to discount their skeptical nature when it comes to certain topics they hold dear - or dare I say, sacred. The lovely Juniper and I were discussing this the other night and it occurred to me that it might be a very good topic to write about. So if you were raised a free-thinker, or at least without Faith, these are for you.

Do you believe that you are pretty much immune to magical thinking - that you have some innate ability to think rationally about anything and everything? (discounting inherently arational notions, like love) Do you feel that you don't really have to be careful about how you approach topics that you may have strong personal feelings about? Do you ever find yourself questioning the evidence for something, not because you have seen more compelling evidence to the contrary, but because you don't like the conclusions implied by the evidence you discount?

Again, please be as objective and honest as possible. And again, feel free to email me answers or leave them anon. Any emails I receive about this will remain confidential.

5 comments:

Michael said...

"innate ability to think rationally about anything and everything"

Not how I would describe it, but I do think I'm capable of thinking rationally about anything if I try.

"don't really have to be careful about how you approach topics that you may have strong personal feelings about"

No, definitely have to be careful. See above about trying to think rationally.

"questioning the evidence ... because you don't like the conclusions implied by the evidence you discount"

Sure. It's hard to imagine that anybody doesn't do this sometimes, at least, particularly on topics that we feels strongly about. We're taught always to use evidence to back up our conclusions; we're also taught to question evidence. It's natural that we would question harder evidence that contradicts our preconceptions, where they exist. It's also right to do so, I think, because a lot of so-called evidence turns out to be incorrect or flawed. The thing that is more difficult (again, this gets to trying to think rationally) is to make sure you question evidence that does jive with your preconceptions.

I think, generally, I am most rational when I don't have any strong preconceptions. I'm better able to analyze fairly the evidence and the conclusions drawn from that evidence. I'm also, by nature, somewhat contrarian, so I have a tendency to play devil's advocate even on issues where I lean to one side or the other. Sometimes, that's a good thing, because it gets me to consider both sides of the argument more rationally. Sometimes, it's not so good because I try to poke holes in an argument I that I mostly agree with just for the sake of pointing out inconsistencies, fallacies, unproven assumptions, and the like. I find it's that latter situations where I tend to be less rational and more emotional.

Dan J said...

I'm the fourth of five kids. My next oldest sibling is 9 years my senior, and my little sister is six years my junior. My brothers made it through the Catholic church up to and including "confirmation", whatever that's supposed to be. I never made it to my first communion. I didn't want any more of it. By the time I was growing up, my family had pretty much left religion by the wayside. I don't think my father was ever very religious to begin with. I was left to decide such things on my own after the age of ten.

With that background info out of the way, here are my answers:

Do you believe that you are pretty much immune to magical thinking - that you have some innate ability to think rationally about anything and everything? (discounting inherently arational notions, like love)

Nope. I was always fascinated by what most people call "the occult".I can't say that I had a firm belief in any of it, but I wanted to believe.

Do you feel that you don't really have to be careful about how you approach topics that you may have strong personal feelings about?

Nope. I realize that I'm rather biased when it comes to certain subjects, and I have to slow down and take a step back sometimes when those subjects come up. It's something I have to work on (don't we all?).

Do you ever find yourself questioning the evidence for something, not because you have seen more compelling evidence to the contrary, but because you don't like the conclusions implied by the evidence you discount?

I do find it hard to give up on certain notions. Global warming was a case in point. It took me a while. I did realize that global warming was a real phenomenon, but it was difficult for me to accept the enormity of human influence on it. I was stuck on the premise that we really didn't have enough long-term climatological data (I'm talking millions of years) to know that current weather patterns weren't part of a larger pattern that we weren't yet able to see.

I still hold on to some rather odd notions. I still think there are examples of physical evidence that are discounted by mainstream science because that evidence is too far outside the norms to fit prevailing theories.

Sometimes it's hard to be rational, but I try.

Foster Disbelief said...

I'm the youngest of three, with my sisters being 16 and 17 years older than me. While they were raised catholic, I was not taken to church until I was 13, by which point I had already developed my own ideas. The five years I was in the church until my confirmation did nothing but give me a love of biblical scholarship. (Well, I didn't believe what they were telling me, and I had to pass the time somehow, so I studied the bible until I could stump the ccd teachers and the deacon, and frustrate the priest to hell and back.)

My sisters have both left the church now as well, although they are still religious. One is Eastern Orthodox, and the other is now a fundamentalist after a short time in Judism.

Do you believe that you are pretty much immune to magical thinking - that you have some innate ability to think rationally about anything and everything? (discounting inherently arational notions, like love)

No. By the time my mother forced me to go to church, I was already studying wicca and other neo-pagan religions. I was a science hating woo believer up to my early twenties. Not until I switched my major from English lit to psych/philo did I really learn critical thinking skills. The death blow to my magical thinking didn't come until I started getting interested in the evo/creation debate, and actually started to learn and love science.

So no, no "innate ability." I owe my rational mind to Michael Shermer and a lot of hard work.

Do you feel that you don't really have to be careful about how you approach topics that you may have strong personal feelings about?

Honestly I'm even more careful with topics that I have strong personal feelings about, because I know I am much more likely to accept shakey evidence if it supports something I want to believe. Some of my pro-choice friends get pissed at me at times because I call them on arguements that I think are weak. Since I care deeply about the issue, I attack the arguements supporting my position until I am sure they are sound and effective.

Do you ever find yourself questioning the evidence for something, not because you have seen more compelling evidence to the contrary, but because you don't like the conclusions implied by the evidence you discount?

I'm really not too sure about this one. Most of the things I believe in now I believe in due to the evidence. I instictively question all evidence now. After 10 years of woo, I'm cautious about everything.

sbh said...

I started to post answers the other day, but lost my internet for nearly twenty-four hours and am now writing in what may prove to be a temporary moment of internet availability:

I was brought up in a non-religious household: my mother was (and is) a freethinker and my father was not interested in religious questions. We were free from religious indoctrination, though not from knowledge of religions; even as a kid I could have told you some of the main differences between (say) Christianity and Buddhism. So:

"Do you believe that you are pretty much immune to magical thinking - that you have some innate ability to think rationally about anything and everything?"

I wish. I am confident that I have the ability to think rationally about any subject whatsoever, but I've acquired the ability through work and practice, and I'm sure I have blind spots the same way everyone does.

"Do you feel that you don't really have to be careful about how you approach topics that you may have strong personal feelings about?"

For me there is a conscious disengaging process involved in examining something I have strong personal feelings about. This involves not only looking at a subject from an opponent's perspective, but also viewing it from alternative perspectives that may not be part of the conventional landscape.

"Do you ever find yourself questioning the evidence for something, not because you have seen more compelling evidence to the contrary, but because you don't like the conclusions implied by the evidence you discount?"

Everybody does this. The trick is to learn to do the same thing for all evidence, not just the evidence that supports conclusions you don't like.

After staring at this for a moment, I've concluded that I'm just echoing Michael.

the real meme said...

See how far the discussion gets when the topic is violations of men or boys?

Gets even further when you heap on 'magical thinking' as if men who have been frisked--raped, beaten, or otherwise violated with the institutionalized and systemic abuse that males routinely incur--?

And especially notice how all of those bloggers that you have tried to have never ending 'substantive conversations' with about violations of women are not even here?

That is the silent killer--the systemic part of 'why rape,violence, and other body violations keep happening to boys'.