Teaching How to Treat Life (When It’s Not Human)

22 06 2009

You think PETA was pissed about the White House fly-killer? — what about South Florida’s cat-killing kid, and what does it all mean for “education?”

Posted on Mon, Jun. 22, 2009
Should schools cut animal dissections?

. . .Some classrooms are carving up dead fetal pigs, sharks, rats and cats.

Advocates say there is no substitute for learning about anatomy than hands-on experience, and many states, including Florida, allow students to opt out if they are uncomfortable with animal dissection.

Nevertheless, critics, including educators and animal rights activists, say dissecting animals — which goes back to the 1400s — is archaic. They say more humane, cost-effective and high-tech alternatives are just as educational.

The debate has been rekindled with the June 13 arrest of a former Miami Palmetto High student accused of slaughtering 19 cats across South Miami-Dade. Tyler Weinman, 18, who faces multiple counts of animal cruelty, dissected cats last year as part of his anatomy class.

While there is no evidence that dissecting cats — or any animal — will lead a student to violence, the crime has raised questions about the necessity of asking students to pick apart specimens that resemble many of their family pets.

Does anyone reading do dissection as part of a home education study? Would you opt your student/s in or out of it at school?

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28 responses

22 06 2009
COD

I think the high tech options are good enough for the high school level. Obviously dissection may remain an important part of studies for certain career fields, but I don’t any reason to do it as part of K-12. And this has nothing to do with the fact that 30 years later I can still smell the formaldehyde that those damn frogs were stored in 🙂

22 06 2009
Crimson Wife

My oldest has talked quite a bit about wanting to be either a veterinarian or a physician when she grows up. If she continues showing interest in that type of profession when she gets older, I will have her do dissections as part of her study of biology. High-tech simulations are fantastic and are probably sufficient for most students. But for someone who wants to go into medicine, I don’t think there’s any substitute for hands-on examination of a real animal.

She will be required to treat the animal in a respectful manner. And I’d try to get the animal from someone I know raised it humanely (like a fellow 4-Her). I’ve heard rumors of big supply companies rounding up stray cats for sale as dissection animals 😦

22 06 2009
JJ

Anybody read “Stiff”?

I heard the NPR author interview and bought the book for FavD but never read it myself. It’s partly about the psychological importance of med student respect for dissections of the HUMAN body . . .

22 06 2009
JJ

Oh me too, Chris! Except we had to do fetal pigs in BSCS. Ninth grade. Too young imo.

22 06 2009
Cherish

I think you could probably get by fine without it. I don’t see any problems with worms, frogs or crayfish, but I don’t know that it’s absolutely necessary, either. I did those in school, and I can’t say I got much out of it. I absolutely refused to dissect a fetal pig when I was in high school. I just don’t have the stomach for it, and the closest I ever got with homeschooling was buying a whole frozen fish the supermarket…but we didn’t dissect it, just looked at the fins and gills.

22 06 2009
Nance Confer

We ordered something and dissected it. What the heck was it? A frog, I think. More to see what a dissection was like and how the frog was stored and shipped. It was OK but, aside from the experience, I don’t think any particular anatomy lesson was achieved. More has been learned with the little microscope that plugs into the computer, I think.

Nance

22 06 2009
JJ

I can’t even get Young Son to eat an animal for sustenance, that he doesn’t have to see alive or think of as having a face, much less cut one up for science.

23 06 2009
Jenn

I think simulations are an excellent way to learn a lot. If a child wishes to go into a medical career it may be necessary to be exposed to that, but animals that have already died of natural cause would seem to make more sense to me. Just like in humans, bodies donated and treated with respect. Animals bred for this purpose, I don’t think I could agree with that, not in a grade school level at all. At higher levels I guess you need to look at a variety of factors but it still puts chills down my spine and I think a huge amount of discretion is needed.

Now as the Roe vs Wade is marked as a related post I was wondering how pro-choice poeple would feel about a human fetus being dissected in schools at the grade level of an pig fetus?

23 06 2009
Jenn

ps: I think the fly thing is ridiculous and will cost PETA dearly if they make a huge thing out of it. Can’t think it will go very far. and in the former I meant people not poeple, but it is late and I should shut my eyes.

23 06 2009
JJ

Jenn: “wondering how pro-choice people would feel about a human fetus being dissected in schools at the grade level of an pig fetus?”

I do see that as related, at least as thought experiment or moral musical chairs. It helps us get down into the value conflicts and irrationalities, face some hard truths about ourselves and develop a sort of mature moral hierarchy, a working value system with much more than mere um, shock value? 😉

And it’s something we all can consider — not only so-called “pro-choice people” — because wherever we are on the political spectrum issue by issue, we all respect life and we all want/need to choose its many meanings for ourselves.

Another post that connects all this thinking (in my mind at least):
Pro-choice? Quit Crying About Your Miscarriage

Here now is a disrespectful post about human life, drawing attention from humans who seem to respect inhumane beliefs ABOUT human life more than actual human life. . .I can’t find a scrap of respect personally, for the immoral and inhumane realities this belief inflicts.

But hmmm, maybe that’s the problem with all this respect in-fighting — People who don’t respect their own humanity much less mine or yours. . .

23 06 2009
Nance Confer

Coincidentally, there was a post at the DailyKos today commemorating the anniversary of George Carlin’s death with some quotes from him. The first one:

“Viruses, mold, mildew, maggots, fungus, weeds, the e-coli bacteria, the crabs…nothing sacred about those things. So, at best, the sanctity of life is kind of a selective thing. We get to choose which forms of life we feel are sacred, and we get to kill the rest. Pretty neat deal, huh? You know how we got it? We made the whole fucking thing up!”

That’s right, folks. We made the whole thing up.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t feel queasy watching a bunch of 6th graders dissect a human fetus but let’s remember who is setting the rules here. A dead human fetus is more sacred than some other dead fetus. According to us.

No, I’m not giving up burgers. 🙂 But let’s not make it more magical than it is that the burgers are made out of cows and not something else.

Nance

P.S. Carlin did, apparently, believe in the human soul though: “Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.”

23 06 2009
JJ

Mrs C and I were just discussing in the other thread here — and Luke’s thread too — whether human reality is external to us and imposed by the divine, or shaped by our own changing beliefs, feelings, reasoning and motivations. What is life, what is a baby or mother, what is education or respect or freedom or control? Spunky had a graduation thread outraged because an 18-year-old young man was perceived as disrespectful during the ceremony, and our debate turned on external clues about his observed behavior. But isn’t the real truth, that what we were arguing over was his intent behind the behavior, whether he was feeling humble awe or selfish rebellion, WHY he bowed and blew kisses and wore a non-standard “honor” around his neck?

I think all human behavior depends of what’s inside, and what’s inside fully sentient humans (even kids) is a riotous mix of feelings and thoughts, not simple binary stuff like yes-no, right-wrong, good-bad, comply-rebel, lead-follow.

So there can be no point-by-point rule book. For example, someone I love has died. Is it more respectful for me to go to the funeral, or not?

This is a trick question of course — what else do you need to know and consider, before issuing your pronouncement about what *I* should do?

23 06 2009
Nance Confer

How about: “I shouldn’t be issuing pronouncements on what you should do.”

Which is a hint to Terry in the other thread about my question on parental rights.

Nance

23 06 2009
COD

The real issue with the graduation stunt at Spunky’s is that the government told somebody to do something. The Anarchists over there don’t take kindly to that.

23 06 2009
JJ

Right — control and authority, shoulds and oughts. The blind spots are sooo interesting to me though. Shake the kaleidoscope just once and it all shifts, the colors tumble, but then every piece perceives it is right where it’s supposed to be, at the same time believing it is totally free to not be there. 😉

23 06 2009
JJ

Nance, you got me. I wasn’t even thinking of that point but you got me with it anyway. And of course you are right!

Let me rephrase — I am deciding for myself what is most respectful because I do want to show that intent, and I’m inviting input from my friends. So.

Say I am the dead man’s ex-wife, or hated mother-in-law, or secret lover. Or I am the surgeon who told him I couldn’t find anything wrong with him, or the IRS agent assigned to audit his dubious accounts and possibly strip the kids of their otherwise inheritance. Does it matter? Or I was his boss and he died on a business trip I sent him on and skipped myself. Does that matter?

Do other people think of stuff like this or am I just weird (don’t answer that! It’s not respectful . . .)
😉

23 06 2009
Nance Confer

No, it’s not just you. 🙂

But let’s say we have the “simple” example. You are the widow. The loving widow of the perfect husband. All hearts and flowers. Until the sudden heart attack.

Do you have to have a funeral? Can you skip it? Is it anybody’s business but your own?

We have people on both sides of that divide in my family.

DH’s Dad got the whole-nine-yards funeral. Any family that could make it was expected to attend. My Dad had his ashes planted in his rose garden. By my Mom. When she got around to it and found the bird bath she wanted to install over the ashes.

Both men were deeply beloved husbands. Deeply mourned by their wives and family. Anyone suggesting otherwise to either widow would be in trouble.

I am in the “it’s nobody’s business” category, as you might guess. But if you want to throw a huge funeral, who am I to judge?

And even if I knew the entire story of your life and history with your dear departed husband, I would still not be in a position to judge what you should be doing.

The nonsense with the blown kiss is just the school stuffed shirts giving the Spunky’s of the world ammunition. Neither is about thoughtful consideration of another person’s reaction to any situation or trying to do anything but impose one set of rules/beliefs on everyone.

Nance

23 06 2009
JJ

Excellent analysis! If I were still in the schooly grading and judging business. . .

And you cause me to remember many similar real-life conundrums. In fact, I have a much beloved and highly respected family member’s ashes in my own closet as we speak.

23 06 2009
JJ

Conundrums, hmmm. Conundra? Conundrae?

Here’s a funny look at why I think education is better judged by the quality of the questions than the answer, and why pronouncements of stations and shoulds, really aren’t very educational:

What is the correct plural of condundrum?

(Personally, I liked this answer, check it out.)

“I have sat here engrossed for half an hour after an engaging debate at work today where some suggestions included ‘conundri’, ‘conundrae’, ‘conundinomie’, ‘conundrinopigomipingus’ – all of which I dismissed as being utterly uneducated guesses.

I do not believe in the concept of overbearing pedants. Pedantry is a rare and beautiful thing these days and the mere sniff of it brings joy to my heart. So my hearty congrats to all of you who felt moved enough by this topic to contribute. By the way, the plural is conundrums. But I think conundra sounds posher.

Katy Attwood, Manchester UK”

23 06 2009
Mrs. C

JJ, I am ok with either funeral option, though please don’t expect me to drop everything to go because I have no one to leave the children with! :] I’m with you on the not judging thing about the funeral, but not everyone else is. My dh’s family is all Catholic except for one uncle who attends a Baptist church. When his grandmother died, the family held a Catholic funeral. The priest called the grandma “Martha” instead of “Marcella” during the thing, which shows you how much that family attends. The Baptist son faithfully attended HIS church and wanted the funeral there. I don’t know how that worked, but he never got his wishes on that… I could see both sides of it. I guess the Catholics won because ol’ “Martha” was Catholic at least in name.

My oldest son “Patrick” was going to dissect a frog in high school. I told him I would happily opt him out anytime. I didn’t want him to feel pressure from me, though I would strongly be against it. I mean, unless he’s going to be a frog doctor or something… I’m with COD on this. :]

But he wanted to participate. That was hard for me. I almost felt like an accomplice to frog-killing, but he has to grow and make his own decisions… even ones I disagree with.

23 06 2009
Nance Confer

“. . . even ones I disagree with.”

That’s the tough part when it’s our children. 🙂

Nance

23 06 2009
Crimson Wife

When my cousin’s father passed away, my aunt and all the rest of the family went to the funeral to support my cousin even though it had been an extremely nasty divorce (infidelity). It felt weird to be there given how we had felt about the deceased and the “other woman”, who was also in attendance. We all stood in one corner talking to each other and left as soon as it was polite to.

23 06 2009
JJ

Ah, that’s more what I had in mind. Respect for other people by not making it all about you and what you want or need, even if you suspect they won’t appreciate it as intended or might even criticize for THAT.

Been in a bunch of those situations myself.

I guess that’s where I get my definition of “being true to yourself” while also putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes? — doing the best you can for the best reasons you can manage. Respecting your OWN values, we could say, and trying to balance them out as best you can and then let the chips fall . . .

24 06 2009
Jenn

I would agree that all human life is sacred. I don’t think it’s o.k. to scoff at someone b/c they are pro-c if they lost a baby with a miscarriage. What happens to a baby that is aborted? Would they be buried? Would it be better to use the body for learning? How would the student drs feel about that? What should happen if a fetus survives an abortion? I know of one that did and was cared for by the nurses until adopted. Surely it’s life counts if it can take a breath by itself. When is a life valued, what about a full term baby that is left to die. Why does that mom get prosecuted? When does a woman cease to have control of what grew in her body?
Funerals are for the living and relatives. I think their feeling are more important than the intent toward the deceased.
??? Let the chips fall, respecting my OWN values, TRYING to balance them. What if my values rob you, or your values rob me? What if your values or my values get trod on by someone else’s opinion? Where is the balance between someone’s right and what is fair?

Anyway enough of my questions. I need to hit the sack.

24 06 2009
JJ

I agree about this:

“Funerals are for the living and relatives. I think their feeling are more important than the intent toward the deceased.”

When I say intent, I do mean toward the living, not the dead.

OTOH, it’s all so connected. The whole point is LIFE, not the living deferring to a dead body. When people I love have died, it’s nevertheless their life that is meaningful and that I respect, remember and pay tribute to — even as I’m trying to figure out how best to interact (or not) with all the other living people respecting and remembering them.

Well, it makes sense in my head!

And if that’s all anyone really has in the end — what’s inside — then it makes sense to live the best we can, while we can. . .

24 06 2009
JJ

Here’s an example of how much it matters among the living, when we do the best we can to respect each other’s thinking about “life”:

Americans are yearning for common ground. And President Obama both knows it and embraces it at his core. Hence his call at Notre Dame to stop “demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side” and approach our differences with “open hearts, open minds, [and] fair-minded words.”

. . . In a national poll by Third Way, 74% of Americans said that they wanted their elected officials to look for common ground on abortion. . .respecting those on both sides of the issue and holding up shared values . . .

When it comes to the culture wars, change really has come to America.

24 06 2009
JJ

My younger, only sister died recently, and I attended her memorial service in Washington, DC. The gathering felt like too many self-important people in one auditorium filled to capacity with former and current officials as well as friends and relatives.

Most meant well and were there to honor my sister’s life, but they wore suits and were very somber. It was the end of something, the departure of my sister for whom I had been big brother and mentor, and I felt incredibly sad.

After the service, my wife and I and my daughter and son-in-law took our twenty-month-old grandson to the National Zoo. The place cheered me a little. It was a Saturday afternoon and the zoo was crowded with families on a summer’s day outing. We showed my grandson Viggo the elephants and he stood wide eyed . . .That became his major topic of conversation for the rest of the visit, and for the plane ride home. Very basic and apolitical.

I’ve put aside my bedside pile of economics and foreign policy books and turned to futuristic fiction for summer reading.

. . .Children, outdoor cooking and eating, sports, music, escapist fiction — it will be a good California summer, a time of renewal and healing. I plan to give hope a chance in all things, even politics, and I hope to be pleasantly surprised come fall with the president whom my wife loves. I wish Sasha, Malia, Michelle and First Dog Bo a fine summer themselves. Barack too.

28 05 2010
Snook Animals We’ve Known and Loved « Cocking A Snook!

[…] fly and cat-killing, animal dissection as school science […]

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