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Learning the scientist's role: Animal dissection in middle school

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Abstract

Based on fieldwork in sixth-grade science classes, this article looks at how students managed the dissection of fetal pigs. Although most students were initially ambivalent and squeamish about dissecting, they learned to transform the animal and the situation into one that was not only neutral but positive. By transforming their contact with the fetal pigs, accentuating the positive, avoiding part or all of the dissection, becoming macho, and using light-hearted humor, the students could regard the animals as mere specimens and not feel ethically or emotionally uneasy. It is argued that this transformation serves as a rite of passage into the scientific community.
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... (Orlans 1993, p. 206) For instance, dissection activities can be observed in the science classroom, especially in the anatomy and physiology subject area. However, studies have shown that students at every educational level (i.e., secondary, undergraduate, medical) feel uncomfortable to a varying degree with the dissection or experimentation on live animals (Solot and Arluke 1997;Stanisstreet et al. 1993;Arluke and Hafferty 1996). In Solot and Arluke (1997), some students experienced feeling of "squeamishness" such that they chose to opt out of the dissection activity and/or leave the room, because they felt physically sick. ...
... However, studies have shown that students at every educational level (i.e., secondary, undergraduate, medical) feel uncomfortable to a varying degree with the dissection or experimentation on live animals (Solot and Arluke 1997;Stanisstreet et al. 1993;Arluke and Hafferty 1996). In Solot and Arluke (1997), some students experienced feeling of "squeamishness" such that they chose to opt out of the dissection activity and/or leave the room, because they felt physically sick. One student reported, "I would, like, throw up" (p. ...
... This proposition implies that anything we do or a construct that we characterize grows out of the traditions with which we are involved. Solot and Arluke (1997) eloquently demonstrate this point. In their study, consider the students who felt squeamish about dissecting, or, at first, felt ambivalent about the experimentation on live animal began to rationalize why the dissection was not as bad as they initially thought. ...
Chapter
Here, we tell the story of Jenna, a high school student who presents her research and poster, “The Effects of Alcohol on Chicks,” at a state science fair. We highlight a conversation that took place as Jenna discussed her research with science educators. The chapter centers on this case narrative and illustrates the importance of critically engaging youth in constructive discussions about human use of animals in research and the controversial nature of ethics pertaining to such practices . It reminds us that scientific advancements are meaningless if we begin to consider these endeavors superior to ethics and morals. The case is followed by a reaction from a science educator who views the story by feminist critique . As Jenna’s case shows, educators are responsible for creating spaces for these types of discussions. We must guide students to reflect and evaluate society’s over-emphasis on the primacy of humans over other animals, and consider how such notions impact the negotiations of what are ethical, human and moral decisions.
... However, it has been argued that dissection can encourage a decreased sensitivity toward animal life. Solot and Arluke (1997) observed sixth-grade students during fetal pig dissection. They found that many students described themselves as becoming "immune" or "adapted" to the situation, i.e., appearing hardened by the activity as the dissection progressed. ...
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Animal dissection has been a traditional teaching tool in biology for centuries. However, harmful animal use in education has raised ethical and environmental concerns in the last decades and led to an ongoing debate about the role and importance of animal dissection in teaching across all education levels. To understand the current status of dissection in secondary education and the attitudes toward humane teaching alternatives among the educators, I conducted a survey–for the first time–among high school biology teachers in Switzerland. The specific aims of this study were (i) to explore the extent of animal or animal parts dissection in high school biology classes, (ii) to understand the attitudes and experiences of high school biology teachers toward dissection and animal-free alternatives, and (iii) to gain some insight into the circumstances hindering a wider uptake of alternatives to animal dissection in high school education. In total, 76 teachers participated in the online survey. The vast majority (97%) of the participants reported using animal dissection in their classes. The responses also revealed that a large proportion of the teachers consider animal-free alternatives inferior teaching tools in comparison with dissection. As the obstacles to adopting alternatives were most often listed the lack of time to research other methods, high costs, and peer pressure. In conclusion, the wider uptake of humane teaching methods would require financial support as well as a shift in the attitudes of high school biology teachers.
... 2010 Using mammalian dissection in lessons is common (De Villiers and Sommerville 2005). Dissection develops students' skills and provides a direct experience of living tissue (Offner, 1993;Randler et al. 2016;Wheeler, 1993), and teaches students to be objective (Solot and Arluke 1997). Students can discover the structures of organisms and develop a greater appreciation for the complexity of life when dissections are integrated into the instructional process (National Science Teachers Association [NSTA] 2005)2019). ...
... Instead, practices like animal dissection in school science classes teach the view that animals are discardable commodities and objects for human curiosity, convenience, and learning [7,75]. The interests of the animal-industrial complex are protected by the dominant food regime in school canteens, the mystification of dietary alternatives, and the normalization of the exploitation and killing of animals [76][77][78]. ...
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The unfolding of the ecological disaster has led authors to reconsider the position of the human subject and his/her relationship with the earth. One entry point is the concept of ecological citizenship, which emphasizes responsibility, community, and care. However, the discourse of ecological citizenship often reduces the human subject to a critical consumer-citizen and citizenship education to the production of such a subject. The position outlined in this paper provides a more fundamental critique of consumption as a way of being in and relating to the world. In particular, it foregrounds objectification, commodification, and its impacts on human and nonhuman subjectivity and the possibility of care within a multi-species community. The paper brings animal-sensitive work in environmental education research and political theory into dialogue with a more general critique of culture and pedagogy in consumer society. From this perspective, ecological citizenship education seeks to liberate human and nonhuman beings from predetermined behavioral results and functions, and opens the time and space for the subjectification of human and nonhuman citizens within the complex dynamics of a multi-species community. With this proposition, the paper contributes to an ecocentric understanding of ecological citizenship education that builds on the continuity of life and subjective experience.
... The use of teaching methods that involve animal suffering, may also bring about a desensitization of the student (an obstacle to compassion), particularly once the student becomes accustomed to, and accepts, the instrumental use of animals (23). A clear deterioration in compassionate attitudes has been shown in qualitative studies, in addition to decreased sensitivity to animal suffering as students near completion of their studies, all of which clearly suggests a negative impact inherent in the education system (35). This desensitization process is seen by some teachers as an educational objective, aimed at better preparing students for the "real world" or else to "harden themselves," creating a scenario where the animal is seen merely as an "object of study "or a" tool" instead of being seen as a sentient individual or a patient (23). ...
Article
There is a strong case to be made to teach veterinary students without resorting to the use of animals in teaching in the first place, although some authorities may disagree. It is worth examining this issue in light of new developments and new knowledge in the field of cognitive animal ethology as well as a general increase in awareness and concern for animal welfare. The teaching of concepts related to bioethics and animal welfare is increasingly relevant to modern day veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, some veterinary faculties do not emphasize these topics in their curricula. The authors consider that it is possible to largely replace animals in teaching, with other modalities. Transition from the use of replacement modalities, such as the handling of synthetic tissues, to treating living animals should be gradual and be complemented by exposure to a clinical environment in which real animal patients will benefit from the practice. The initial basic courses and procedures should include the use of synthetic models and computer simulations, followed by the study of ethically sourced animal cadavers. Only after this stage should the student be exposed to real patients. This pedagogic approach will allow the student to obtain the necessary skills required for clinical medicine, in addition to fostering a respect for sentient beings. The combination of good clinical skills and a respect for life will contribute in a positive way to raising professional and ethical standards in the profession for the benefit of all concerned. © 2017, Chartered Inst. of Building Services Engineers. All rights reserved.
... Student-researchers, as revealed in their journals, also found the assigned sociology of education literature emotionally disturbing as they saw themselves in the studies they read. Students read a variety of articles on students' orientation towards learning (Holland 1990), student isolation (Evans & Eder 1993), and students' sense-making concerning animal dissections (Solot & Arluke 1997), among other articles that illustrated ethnographic approaches to education. Victoria said she was "surprised to find that the research did actually affect my sense of self." ...
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In the context of the national debate over the advantages and disadvantages of honors education, we developed a two-semester honors curriculum designed to draw upon the benefits of integrating teaching and research through student participation in an ethnographic research project. This paper recounts the process of the pedagogy and curriculum and discusses some key findings and outcomes of the students’ ethnographic study. Liberation pedagogy framed the critical questions addressed in the ethnographic study exploring how students in honors programs make sense of their academic selves and their honors program. We emphasize student-researcher findings concerning status and elitism among honors participants and then reveal how engaging in research helped transform student-researchers’ own self understandings. We conclude by arguing that liberation pedagogy through scholarship in discovery can serve as an effective tool to help honors participants construct more democratic ideals of honors programs and higher education in general. More importantly, liberation pedagogy can lead to a transformational educational experience as students engage in discovery and self-reflection.
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Choice in dissection has been characterized as an issue that intersects with teacher freedoms and student rights, sometimes resulting in a struggle between the two. This study investigated the experiences of former students (n=311) and teachers (n=153) in Ontario, Canada to determine (a) whether students are being offered a choice between participating in a dissection and using an alternative, and (b) the impressions students and teachers hold toward choice-in-dissection policies. Surveys and interviews with both groups revealed that teachers do not always offer choice. Further, while the majority of the student population reported that they were in favour of choice policies, less than half of the teachers supported their implementation. A consideration of these findings from a critical pedagogy standpoint highlights power dynamics and a privileging of traditional dissection in the classroom. It is argued that choice policies are progressive and necessary to decentre dissection as the “best” way to learn.
Chapter
Our relations with animals permeate human social life, culture and education. These relations are asymmetrically imbued with power. Although not always explicitly acknowledged, animals are displayed, classified, studied and represented, as well as confined, manipulated, consumed and killed; in a multitude of forms in education, and in other sectors of society. Asymmetric power relations, through which students are implicitly or explicitly taught to utilise, dominate or control other species, permeate not only the use of animals as dissection “specimens” in school laboratories or as food served in the school canteen, but also non-invasive human–animal pedagogical situations such as animal-assisted interventions (AAI), some versions of outdoor education, study visits to zoos and farms, and so on. These situations communicate messages of animals’ instrumental position in human society and their endless accessibility for human purposes (Pedersen, 2010), often under the guise of harmonious interspecies coexistence. As will be made clear throughout our chapter, we view such messages as deeply problematic and counter-productive to any liberatory educational project. How, then, should we teach and learn about animals, and what is the appropriate place of animals in education? Is there an alternative education; a critical animal pedagogy that opens other knowledges of human–animal relations? Put differently, what does education become when humans are not regarded as the only subjects?
Chapter
While children’s books portray the veterinary profession as the logical career choice for anyone who loves animals (Ames, 2010; Macken, 2011; Murray, 2013; Thomas, 2009), the actual reality of the profession and its relationship to animals is considerably more murky. For example, while the public image of veterinarians is centered on the kindly, trained person who knows how to take care of their companion animal (usually a cat or a dog), veterinarians also care for animals who are raised and slaughtered for human consumption and used in zoos, aquariums, circuses, and laboratory research.
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Based on ethnographic research in biomedical laboratories, this paper argues that sacrifice is an ambivalent notion in the culture of animal experimentation, requiring both objectification of and identification with the animal. Because of this ambivalence, laboratory animals are not accorded a single, uniform, and unchanging status but seen simultaneously as objects and pets. Animals are objectified by incorporation into the protocol, by deindividualization, by commodification, by isolation, and by situational definition. At the same time, laboratory workers develop pet-like relationships with the animals, which may be treated as enshrined pets, liberated pets, saved pets, or martyred pets.
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Discusses the meanings 1st yr medical students attribute to their experimentation on and killing of dogs. 41 21–30 yr olds were interviewed pre and post physiology lab where live, anesthetized dogs were drug injected, surgically manipulated, then killed. Before lab, there was widespread uneasiness among Ss regarding the moral implications of their use of dogs. However after lab, Ss described the experience very positively. Findings suggest that this attitude change stems from Ss' ability to neutralize the moral dirty work of "dog lab." The authors argue that Ss learn absolutions that permit denial of responsibility and wrongdoing. Unlike justifications, excuses, and apologies which neutralize the stigma of questionable behavior, absolutions morally elevate the behavior, making it a privilege to perform while leaving one's moral self intact. It is argued that doctors in training learn absolutions to morally elevate the negative aspects of their occupation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Focusing on the dissection of cadavers by first-year medical students, this article examines the process of professional initiation at a medical school in the United States. The essay argues that medical training reifies not only 'the patient,' but also 'the doctor': the first as an object that can be known and handled through disenchanted, professional routines, and the second as an agent who handles human bodies with such routines in all circumstances, even-the students learn-when the patient is so dead, and when professional routines only further its destruction.
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The purpose of this article is twofold: to characterize and describe school science as a rite of passage, and to expose problems in school science that are made visible through the use of this metaphor. Like other rite-of-passage studies by van Gennep, Turner, and White, school-science-as-a-rite-of-passage follows the classic model: First, science students are separated from other students through their enrollment in introductory science classes and laboratory (the phase of separation). Science students are then secluded in the classroom and laboratory where a specialized body of knowledge unique to the scientific community is transmitted to them (the phase of transition). Eventually, students are presented via graduation ceremonies to the ordinary world with accompanying changes in their status and rights (the phase of reincorporation). However, unlike traditional passage rites, school science is a lengthy and ambiguous process that muddles the points of separation and reincorporation and fails to clarify the value of transition rituals.