To dissect or not to dissect. That’s the question schools throughout the country are facing. Besides complaints from biology students who object to dissecting a real animal, schools face other problems. Brian Hand, director of Iowa State University’s science education program, says there are safety issues to consider.Hand says the students are given scalpels and scissors, and there’s the danger of microorganisms being in the dead animals, too. Hand says the supply of sterile, lab-raised animals, though, isn’t abundant. Hand believes computer-simulated dissections will become the norm in a few years.John Hieronymus, president of the Iowa State Education Association — Iowa’s largest teachers’ union, says dissection is an important part of the curriculum.Hieronymus says he agrees with the National Science Teachers Association, which says there’s no real substitute for dissection of a real but dead animal, especially for students interested in a medical career. But Hieronymus says it’s important for teachers to be sensitive to students’ objections.Hieronymus says a science teacher told him just last week it’s become difficult to find, and pay for, the lab animals. Last week, a 16-year-old honor student in Baltimore was removed from class after she refused to dissect a cat. Her school was picketed by protestors, and she was reinstated and allowed to use a computer program instead. Hieronymus says that computer technology is hardly available in every Iowa school.
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