I observed an English class at my school reading the recent post by Betsy Childs entitled “Why We Should Legalize Murder for Hire.”
Some were horrified at first at the suggestion that “hit men [could] provide a valuable service to society” by helping women deal with “unwanted marriages,” but they quickly understood they were dealing with satire. Their appreciation of the author’s wit was evidenced by the readers’ giggles and parenthetic comments.
Students see that the author is building a parallel between killing one’s spouse and killing one’s unborn child.
The students commended the cleverness of Childs’ analogy when she says that “matrimony severely curtails a woman’s freedom” and that “the better course is to avoid unwanted marriage in the first place,” and “it is her marriage; only she can decide when it must end” . . .
One student pointed out that Childs correlates adoption to divorce when she says the latter “may be an attractive alternative to murder” but “some woman do not have the emotional and financial resources to go through a divorce.”
The students’ initial reaction to this article was positive.
Critical Thinking and Discernment
Teacher: How would you take this if you were pro-choice?
Student: I’d be mad.
It wasn’t very long and one student used the word “fallacy.”
The students continued to ask each other questions:
Yeah, that fits.
(Faulty analogy: an argument is based on misleading, superficial, or implausible comparisons.)
The students suggested that this argument is only effective if someone accepts that premise that a fetus was comparable to a husband. Someone who is pro-choice would not accept the premise. They concluded that if your audience was pro-life, Childs’ argument was effective, but if it was pro-choice the argument would be ineffective.
Who is the audience?
Since this article was posted on The Gospel Coalition website, one can assume that the audience was conservative to moderate Christians. The effect of the article was to reinforce the views of the audience. In other words, it was preaching to the choir.
What’s the point of writing this if your audience already agrees?
It was observed that the only effect of the article was to reinforce the view of those who agree that our society “celebrates [the murder of] family members”. Several students pointed out that this, in itself, is not wrong, but because the tone was mocking this article would simultaneously alienate opponents and inflame the passions of supporters.
Was this the purpose of the article?
Students wondered, if you get the two sides all riled up you can’t get anywhere.
How can Christians write about this issue that promotes dialogue?
It is not a faulty analogy. That is the whole point. I used to agree with the pro-choice position, and used to really bristle at statements like Childs is making. That initial turmoil was the starting point for coming to realize that the Biblical perspective sees life as beginning at conception.
This is an excellent point, HD. Bristling can lead to turmoil. From my personal experience, however, I find it usually does more harm than good. But I might be wrong in using the term “usually.”.
The students were saying this was a faulty analogy if one didn’t accept the unstated assumption that life begins at conception. If one accepts this premise, then the analogy holds.
Thank you for your reading, and you patience.
Sounds like this was an excellent class! I’m so glad the students caught the connection between divorce and adoption.
Don’t rule out a third option for the article’s purpose, namely, to motivate an audience that agrees with you but is apathetic.
Thank you so much for reading and replying. The students will be delighted. I don’t think they considered that third option, but perhaps I missed it. The initial response of most was far from apathetic. I will definitely be interested in sitting in on the conversation when they discuss Swift’s use of this approach.
Perhaps a closer analogy would be hiring a hit man to take out one’s five year-old son, but you couldn’t carry out the suspense as long as she did with the husband analogy.
It wasn’t my impression that the students thought the analogy was faulty, or even limited. Their response was, I think, exactly what the author intended it to be and they took some delight in that.
Those are some impressive students. Most roomfuls of adults wouldn’t have their empathy or insight. (Which means that’s also an awesome teacher.)
Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit
I was impressed by this class. First, the teacher was using a recent article and not some handout she had in her binder from 20 years ago. The students were very engaged by the article and responded emotionally, and then they did a beautiful job commending the article for its effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) for different audiences.