Utterly Meaningless » Blog Archive » AN UTTERLY USELESS “SKILL”

    Filed at 6:34 am under by dcobranchi

    From the UK, the dumb lede of the day:

    Generations of biology pupils have learned the marvels of nature by dissecting specimens ranging from rabbits to worms.

    But the skill is dying out in schools because of health and safety red tape, concerns over animal welfare and pupil squeamishness.

    Who cares? Despite what the “overwhelming majority” of biology teachers claim (No conflict of interest there), it serves little or no purpose to have the kids cut open a from or a fetal pig. As the article points out, the teacher can do the dissection before the whole class. And there are some pretty good simulations available for the computer, too.

    There’s really no reason for kids to have to handle razor-sharp scalpels and breathe in carcinogenic formaldehyde.

    10 Responses to “AN UTTERLY USELESS “SKILL””

    Comment by
    Tim Haas
    May 25th, 2007
    at 8:16 am

    Not trying to make any great case about the “marvels of nature” here, or that dissection is any sort of skill, but I did find I was better able to understand the similarities and differences of anatomical structures among the four animals we studied in advanced bio (earthworm, frog, cat, fetal pig) by dissecting them myself — much more so than if 20 of us had been trying to crowd ’round the teacher, and certainly more so than if watching a screen. I’m not sure we should be so ready to discard one of the last bits of hands-on-edness in science ed. We could throw a chunk of virtual sodium into a jar of virtual water, too, but it’s the boom that really sends the message home.

    And what’s with this scalpel phobia? Is that why you went into chem instead of bio? 🙂

    Comment by
    May 25th, 2007
    at 9:44 am

    Dissection in Jr. high and High school – didn’t do much for me. (Maybe they were off brand specimens but I couldn’t see a damn thing)

    Dissection in college was helpful – the red/blue latex really helped you to follow … er….well, you get the picture.

    The ‘live’ smooth muscle action lab was really over the top. I did NOT NEED to see you prong that frog in class, Dr. B. I would have taken your word for it, honestly! (or what you did to that turtle – which I have since blotted from my mind)

    I think dissections in Jr. High & High school are a waste of time & money unless it’s a special class for students intending to pursue biology in college. YMMV.

    Unique the biologist
    (but not an instructor)

    Comment by
    May 25th, 2007
    at 10:28 am

    It’s a rite of passage, like prom and hazing. If we take this away, test scores will plummet and the world will be overrun with frogs and fetal pigs.

    Comment by
    May 25th, 2007
    at 1:24 pm

    Why is it useful for 18 year olds to do this in a college biology lab, but NOT useful for high school students?

    Or is it not useful for college students either?

    Comment by
    Crimson Wife
    May 25th, 2007
    at 3:12 pm

    I had the misfortune to be partnered with the class psycho during the dissection lab of my AP bio course. He attacked that poor fetal pig like he was Patrick Bateman. Needless to say, I didn’t learn a d*** thing from the exercise!

    Comment by
    May 25th, 2007
    at 4:30 pm

    It’d be useful for the 18 year old going into biology. For an 18 year accounting major? Not so much.

    Comment by
    May 25th, 2007
    at 8:25 pm

    I cited not having to dissect anything as one of the top reasons to homeschool, when I was a teen. My public school friends agreed, but my private school friends had only dissected things on computers and didn’t understand my reasoning.

    However, I was one of those college students who took the (required) biology class at the last possible moment, and then picked the softest, least-icky version (Marine Biology) possible. Meanwhile, I had to drop First Aid because the illustrations in the textbook made me pass out (I also pass out every time I get blood withdrawn at the doctor’s office — it’s kind of entertaining when I get brand-new nurses, because they hook me up to oxygen and everything.) So, umm, yeah.

    Note: I did get an “A” in Marine Bio. I was so terrified of failing it, I actually worked harder and spent more time with the specimens in the lab than anyone else in the class. And we didn’t have the budget to dissect anything — most of those squid and sponge specimens were older than I am, and the jars were all leaking.

    Comment by
    JJ Ross
    May 26th, 2007
    at 6:05 pm

    I’m still fretting about poor Crimson Wife — being forcibly paired with a psycho is not a good thing with or without dissection! 😉

    Comment by
    May 28th, 2007
    at 1:27 am

    In my school, the exercise effectively separated the shy freshman girl from the macho, swaggering varsity football player.

    The young cook, used to cutting up whole chickens at home, did the butchery and clucked disapprovingly at the pea-green hero cowering in the corner of the room with his face in a paper bag.


    Comment by
    Daryl Cobranchi
    May 28th, 2007
    at 2:42 am

    I didn’t know you played football. 🙂