Where to start? With the horrible realization that many of my fears back in 2000 may be coming true (fears which, I must point out, many people said were merely me overreacting). There are plenty of better sources out there for the upcoming SCOTUS battle, so I'll mostly just point to those. First, it's critical to keep in mind that although Roe v. Wade itself may not be in actual jeopardy (at the moment) since there's a 6-3 majority ruling on that one, there are plenty of other restrictions that the court can place on abortion which basically makes it impossible for the vast majority of women (read: non-white, non-upper-middle-class, non-well-connected) to get one. In fact, the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act (I hate typing that, there is NO SUCH THING as a partial birth abortion, the medical procedure is a dilation and extraction or dilation and evacuation, but that sounds so much less gruesome when splashed across news headlines) was never expected to hold up in lower-level courts, it was merely an excuse to get the decision before the supreme court. A series of cases
that are on the docket for the fall term would provide the court with the opportunity to once again determine whether or not state statutes related to abortion must include a specific exemption for preserving the health of the mother, an issue with only a 5-4 margin, with the deciding vote belonging to O'Connor. Because clearly the agonizing decision of whether to try to save the life of your child or the life of your partner is best left up to state or federal legislation. Many states already have parental notification or mandatory wait periods, either of which make abortion impossible for many women. Abortion clinics tend to be located only in major cities, so if you're poor and live somewhere outside a major city, you have to take multiple days off of work, have one appointment to discuss the abortion, then wait the mandatory 24 hours or so, then figure out how to get back to the clinic for the actual procedure. (aside - if you're feeling particularly activist-y there are groups that organize people willing to provide a couch or spare bed to women who have had to travel long distances to have an abortion, so that they have a safe place to sleep during the waiting period. I wish I had contact info to provide, but I don't know about any centrally organized websites or anything, you'll just have to check it out in your own city).
Second, it's not just about abortion. Women's reproductive health rights, and their right to privacy regarding conversations with their doctors, is inherently a privacy issue. Many abortion rights rulings stemmed from privacy issue rulings, which could also easily be undone by a more conservative court. A court which would most likely remain in tact for decades
. We're not talking about the potential ramifications of one or two presidential terms. We're talking about shaping the interpretation of the Consitution and the law of the land for many, many years to come. So wouldn't it be better to err on the side of moderation?The Supreme Court Nomination Blog
has an excellent run down of the issues at hand and Voices of Choice
provides a sober reminder that "history shows us that women with families -- women who are mothers, sisters and daughters -- will put their lives at risk in order to decide when and whether to become mothers." Voices of Choice is a group of physicians who provided abortions before and after they became legal, and they have put together multimedia presentations about their experiences.
We can never forget what we saw when abortion was illegal – and we don’t want anyone else to forget either. Denying safe, accessible abortion puts women’s lives at risk and makes criminals out of caring physicians. We’ve lived in an America where women suffered tragically and needlessly, and we don’t want anyone to live through that again.
I know I'm preaching (mostly) to the choir here, but the thing that I feel like keeps getting lost in the abortion debate is that no one (at least no one I've ever known) is comfortable with abortion. Feeling uneasy or conflicted about abortion, or considering it as absolutely not an option for you personally does not make you anti-abortion. Of course it makes you queasy. Of course it's an unimaginably awful thing to consider. But it is precisely because it is such a complicated, nearly-impossible decision that it is so critical that it be a decision based (ideally) on discussions between a woman and her doctor and the father. It blows my mind that anyone presumes to be able to make this decision for anyone else.
And lastly, and unrelatedly, Timothy Burke
has a bit up about teaching in general and grade inflation specifically.
Still, when I look at all the inquiry into grade inflation, I do wonder if sometimes the simpler explanations are overlooked. For one, the lack of explicit discussion of pedagogy in graduate training is not a recent shift in academic life: it runs very deep, back into the old days when average grades were much lower. As a result, then and now, you tend to start your teaching career in higher education with almost no sense of what other people are doing in terms of grading or how they do it. You get a vague, possibly erroneous sense of what the local norm is and you try to hit close to it. That’s a system which is almost intrinsically vulnerable to positive feedback effects. If the perceived norm drifts even slightly in one direction, that drift is going to feed on itself, and push the entire system towards an attractor. It doesn’t require any deeper underlying explanation or intent, as long as there’s nothing that “pushes back” or corrects on the system. I think to some extent providing extensive information about grade inflation and the distribution of grades within an institution is just such a corrective, and now that many institutions are doing that regularly, I suspect that there will be some push-back.
I had all sorts of thoughts when I first read this, but I'm a bit spent now, so I'll just throw that up there as food for thought and maybe we can get back to it later.