Dissection in schools (and everywhere else) should have gone the way of the dodo long ago. Yet many pigs, frogs, rabbits, cats and other animals are still sacrificed each year in the name of science at those institutions that hold on to this arcane and inhumane practice, even though advanced modeling techniques are making humane alternatives to dissection easy, cost-effective and highly educational. However, all that is changing in Connecticut, thanks to the successful passage of a law mandating schools to allow students to opt out of dissection and related curricular activities.
Fewer than half of US states currently have such legislation, leaving many students without legal protection or recourse if they want to refuse dissection. With biology a required part of the curriculum, such students may be effectively forced to participate in something they find unethical, distasteful and upsetting. Youth in the United States often have limited civil rights in school environments, and this is a powerful example of such limits. No student should be faced with the choice between failing a course and engaging in a morally repugnant lesson plan, yet many students across the country do just that when they take biology courses.
For Connecticut students, this represents a major victory, but it represents more than that for the country at large. As more and more states take on such laws and signal that they want dissection-free options for their students, it puts pressure on those that don’t have such protections to consider adopting them. Animal activists can use such legislation to create models for use in other states and to pressure officials who are resistant to the idea of offering dissection alternatives.
Furthermore, it adds weight to the argument that schools should abandon dissection altogether. If numerous students at a school organize objections and protest together, the school experiences pressure to consider adopting humane alternatives. These options are often more educationally useful, but more than that, they’re also less expensive; administering a dissection program can get costly, while a one-time investment in simulations with periodic upgrades as-needed will cost far less over the life of the program and offer a number of advantages including increased teaching tools and flexibility.
The hard work of advocates, organizations, students, teachers and supporters of dissection alternatives has created changes in educational environments in the United States, and it’s also poised to set up a domino effect. Once a critical mass is reached, the country may turn against dissection in the bulk of schools, creating a world where dissection is the outlier, not the norm, and where people (rightly) find the idea of killing animals in the name of education to be bizarre, outdated and perplexing.
Students can learn more from a model than from the remains of an animal, and they do so without the emotional trauma and ethical quandries of dissection. The sooner policymakers and school officials start recognizing that, the better — animals bred for dissection, stolen from the streets, wrenched from their parentsand cruelly killed for classroom use can’t wait another day.
Thanks to Care2 members who took action and helped make this possible.
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