Let Them Study Kant! (And maybe they won’t rape.)

Posted on Posted in Ethics, Kant, teaching philosophy

Here’s some interesting commentary on the “Steubenville Rape Case” from Henry Rollins:

What I am attempting to get at, and I apologize if I am not being clear enough is that this is a failure on many levels. Parents, teachers, coaches, peers all come into play here. I am not trying to diffuse blame or lessen the awfulness of what happened but I want to address the complexity of the cause in an effort to assess the effect so it can be prevented. . . .

It is obvious that the two offenders saw the victim as some one that could be treated as a thing. This is not about sex, it is about power and control. I guess that is what I am getting at. Sex was probably not the hardest thing for the two to get, so that wasn’t the objective. When you hear the jokes being made during the crime, it is the purest contempt.
So, how do you fix that? I’m just shooting rubber bands at the night sky but here are a few ideas: Put women’s studies in high school the curriculum from war heroes to politicians, writers, speakers, activists, revolutionaries and let young people understand that women have been kicking ass in high threat conditions for ages and they are worthy of respect.

 You can read his whole piece here.
I think this is a thoughtful response but I can’t help but think we ought to be doing more than just teaching high schoolers about great women of the past, I think the problem goes deeper.
Anyone familiar with moral philosophy will hear echoes of Kant in Rollins language in diagnosis of the problem that men see women as merely as things rather than individuals worthy of respect.
For those not familiar with Kant, the second formulation of his Categorical Imperative (the fundamental form of the moral law) is “Act so that you treat humanity always as an end and never merely as a means to an end.”
So why not teach Kant! Okay, I am a philosophy teacher, I confess, but it does make sense, right?
As a college teacher of philosophy I always find it sad that my students have never done any moral philosophy or serious thinking about moral and political issues, about issues of social and political justice (the very issues that profoundly affect their daily lives!!!). I think the problem is deeper than men not respecting the rights of women, although that is a huge problem with very serious consequences.
I don’t know how far teaching ethical and political philosophy in high school, or preschool for that matter, would get would get us but I know it wouldn’t hurt.
Hey, if nothing else kids would know how to write an essay by the time they got to college.

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