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Mind of a Progressive: The Republican War on Education

by Gary Thompson

The last time we talked, we began a discussion about the Republican party’s war on college education. At that time, we discussed how so many Republicans find scientific truths to be inconvenient because they contradict or oppose their religious beliefs or financial basis.  

Today, let’s look at why they don’t want you to get that education. In order to do this, we must define what you get out of college. If you recall an earlier discussion we had about lifelong learning skills, we outlined the most valuable take-away from a college education as critical thinking; that is the skill required to separate and recognize the intellectual, philosophical and emotional arguments involved in the decision-making process, and thereby make decisions grounded upon facts.

And, therein lies the reason so many Republicans don’t want you to get a college education. They don’t want you to develop those critical reasoning skills. The simple reason is that they don’t want you to start thinking for yourself. It is much easier to get you to react in the manner they want you to if you will react to an emotional appeal. The intellectual and/or philosophical arguments just don’t lead to the reaction they want from you.  

Let’s explore an example from the Center for Medical Progress, It is a video that supposedly showed the abortion of a 19-week-old fetus in a Planned Parenthood clinic.

The photo, two cupped hands holding a tiny male fetus, appeared on-screen as dramatic music played. Against this backdrop, a medical technician detailed how she was present when an intact 19-week-old, gestated fetus was aborted at the clinic and, she says, harvested for tissue samples.

Without question, that was a heart wrenching scene. Its purpose, along with similar anti-Planned Parenthood videos, is to convince viewers that the organization callously aborts children and artifially keeps their body parts alive for the sole purpose of selling them. Furthermore, they were effective – extremely effective. According to Reuters, in 2015, “Republican U.S. congressional leaders launched an investigation of Planned Parenthood after a video implying it sells the organs of aborted fetuses was released on the Internet.”

The only problem was, it wasn’t true.  It was all made up. 

The photo was not an aborted fetus at a Planned Parenthood clinic. It was a 2013 photo of stillborn child taken by Alexis Fretz. Fretz posted the photo on the Internet to memorialize the son she named Walter.

A very similar situation occurred during the 2015 Republican presidential primary debate on CNN when Republican candidate Carly Fiorina described a segment from the Center for Medical Progress video as having “…an intact fetus kick[ing] its left leg and mov[ing] an arm shortly after being aborted.” She used “the horrific image in her call for an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood.” It is here that we see the end goal of organizations like the Center for Medical Progress and Republican lawmakers. They want to end abortion rights in the U.S., and one step towards that goal is to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

I’m sure you realize by now the video Ms. Fiorina described and any abortion performed by Planned Parenthood are completely unrelated. The Center for Medical Progress has stated that they have no information as to where the video was made, only that it came from an outside source, and that outside source will not disclose where the video was made either.

These are the “alternative facts” that Republicans base these arguments on. Notice that they invoke an immediate emotional response. Nobody wants the things they say are happening, to happen. The immediate response is to join with the people or organization opposing them. Often, they implore to, “send U.S. money to fight this injustice!” However, closer inspection reveals that these are nothing but untruths.

For the record, Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of reproductive health services in the United States. The services provided include: sexual education, pregnancy testing, prenatal care, screening and treatment of sexually transmitted disease, pap smears, breast exams and abortions (abortions account for three percent of their services).

For a real blow-by-blow recounting of how well this emotional appeal of untruths worked, I urge you to review this timeline published by Axios.  It outlines Senator Joe Manchin’s (Democrat, West Virginia) views and vote for funding on Planned Parenthood in 2015 when these falsehoods were being propagated. Senator Manchin was originally taken by the Center for Medical Progress videos and opposed funding Planned Parenthood. When the truth about these videos came out, Senator Manchin reversed his position and supported funding of Planned Parenthood.

This is not an unique example; here are a couple more.

In 2013, Representative Steve King (Republican, Iowa) spoke about those who would benefit from the Dream Act and said, “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”  

President Donald Trump, speaking about immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa said, “Why are we having all these people from […] countries come here?”

Keep your eyes and ears open. Watch and listen for this type of emotional appeal that is not backed by facts. You will see and hear many, many more examples. Use the critical thinking skills you are learning here to avoid being manipulated by this type of emotional appeal.

In the next installment, let’s examine what the Republicans are doing to make it expensive and difficult for you to get that college education. 

*The views expressed by the author of this article are not the opinions held by the Chronicle.

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