You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Do dissections teach animal cruelty?


Connecticut students will soon be able to opt out of participation in classroom animal dissection. Earlier this month, the state legislature passed a bill requiring that students who object to dissection activities be allowed to perform an alternate assignment, as long as they receive permission from their parents.

With this legislation, Connecticut joins 10 other states that maintain “student choice” laws, and five more with informal policies (adopted, for example, by a state’s department of education).

Georgia is not one of those states with a student choice law, and thus our children do not have this freedom. Hopefully, this news from Connecticut will inspire school districts here, and perhaps even the Legislature, to consider adopting policies that give our students the option to learn anatomy lessons through activities morally acceptable to their families.

There are multiple reasons why a student may object to educational dissection in the classroom. Students may personally find it unethical to slice open an animal specimen, especially one killed specifically for an assignment. Students may also have environmental concerns — for example, objecting that frogs for dissection are largely sourced directly from the wild despite their endangered status. With these objections in mind, it seems appropriate to adopt policies that give a student the freedom to learn the same material through alternate activities consistent with the student’s conscience.

With the increasing sophistication of computer simulations of dissection, students now have adequate — and in many ways superior — educational alternatives to the dissection of an animal specimen. As seen in the increasing realism of computer-generated imagery in video games and movies, cutting-edge computer-simulated dissections offer sufficient stand-ins for the experience of hands-on dissection.

Many dissection simulations even include lessons that extend far beyond the traditional dissection experience. These can involve video and animation to show the motions of internal bodily systems — lessons impossible in the case of an inert corpse — and interactive tutorials about an animal’s habitat — again, impossible for a specimen snatched from its natural environment.

Of course, some will argue that the real value of classroom dissection is that it provides students with a memorable and visceral hands-on experience. But you can be a defender of hands-on learning in general and still oppose this particular hands-on activity.

For example, parents may be concerned that classroom dissection inadvertently teaches the wrong lessons about how we should treat animals. We should instead support hands-on undertakings less loaded with ethical and environmental issues, such as class trips, microscopes, chemistry experiments and interactive simulations.

What’s more, using computer-simulated dissection makes financial sense. By investing in dissection simulations, school districts can save money in the long run compared to the accumulating costs of disposable animal samples. Add to this the fact, several animal advocacy organizations will lend simulations to schools for little or no cost. Ideally, these savings could be reinvested in materials for other hands-on activities that are less ethically fraught.

We should not let the news of Connecticut’s student choice legislation pass by without considering how similar policies here in Georgia might benefit our own children. It is time to start exploiting the untapped potential for computer simulations in biology instruction. It is time to talk about putting the ethical choices involved in classroom dissection into the hands of students and their families.

Robert Rosenberger is an assistant professor of philosophy in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech.

Robert Rosenberger is an assistant professor of philosophy in the School of Public Policy at Georgia Tech. He studies how users interact with technologies, investigating topics such as educational devices, Mars imaging and cell-phone-induced driving impairment.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Why would you want Putin as a friend?

Leaving aside the question as to whether there was actual collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election, it is undisputed that candidate Donald Trump was eager for a friendship between our two nations. The most recent accounts of the president seeking out more one-on-one time with Putin at the G-20 dinner...
COMMENTARY: Wait for Trump to sabotage your health care

Is Trumpcare finally dead? Even now, it’s hard to be sure, especially given Republican moderates’ long track record of caving in to extremists at crucial moments. But it does look as if the frontal assault on the Affordable Care Act has failed. And let’s be clear: The reason this assault failed wasn’t that Donald Trump did a...
Readers Write: July 24

Laissez faire doesn’t work in health care The big lie in the ongoing health care policy debate is that if government were simply to butt out of the health care industry, the invisible hand of the free market would create the competition necessary to improve health care and bring down prices. There is no free market in health care because it&rsquo...
Opinion: Health care is now a right

The Founding Fathers made no mention of a right to health care in the U.S. Constitution, nor did they add it to the Bill of Rights. Those first 10 amendments guaranteed us many important things — the right to free speech and the right to worship the god of our choice, among others — but not a right to health care. Subsequent generations...
World shows way forward on health care

Let’s play a game of guess “who said”: On CNN in 1999: “If you can’t take care of your sick in the country, forget it, it’s all over. … I believe in universal healthcare. About the Australian system similar to Medicare for all: “We have failing...
More Stories