Monday, June 4, 2018

Dissection debate; an ongoing issue

Learning about the dinky protest that took place outside of a high school district in suburban Highland Park couldn’t help but remind me of my own school years – particularly that moment when I was called upon to cut up a frog.

I don't recall a tongue being so prominent on our frog
Dissection – as in that so-called tradition of an assignment in which we use a scalpel to cut through the outer flesh so that we can peel it back and see, for ourselves, the inside of a living creature.

ACTUALLY, THE INSIDE of a creature that once was alive. These frogs were all dead and preserved in a chemical meant to keep them from decomposing. They were purchased from a company that provided these frog carcasses to school districts just for this very purpose.

I remember being called upon to identify all the inner organs and even take a crack at drawing pictures of what was inside my particular frog. And yes, the thought of having to handle the inner parts of a frog did make me squeamish.

Which is why, in a sense, I got lucky. My particular junior high school had a budget and the frogs were rationed out to us so that every two students had to share one.

In my case, I was partnered up with a guy who was of the sort that he wasn’t the least bit squeamish. He insisted on doing all the cutting himself.

I SUSPECT THAT if I had tried to pick up the scalpel, he would have smacked it out of my hand, then used it to cut me open.

Basically, he handled the cutting, while I wound up drawing all the pictures of what we saw inside – which I recall as being a fairly nondescript sight. I’m not sure how much I really learned about the inner workings of a living being by seeing the guts of this particular frog.

So there’s a part of me that sympathizes with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – the group that was behind the picketing that took place in the northern suburbs on Friday.

Protesters said dissection is “horrific and unnecessary” and a PETA official told the Chicago Tribune that, “With all the violence in the U.S., it is important we teach children compassion for all living beings.”

I’LL BE HONEST, I didn’t realize students were still doing dissection with any regularity. I thought it was something reserved for the most advanced classes where the end results were expected to be more detailed than the crude drawings I once did of a frog’s innards.

I have often heard of the computer programs that allow a person to “virtually” cut open a “frog” and see what the insides look like.

Which fits in with the modern concept of using technology in the classrooms and makes kids comfortable with computers in ways that older generations often aren’t, and never will be.

Although I’ve always been skeptical of such use, wondering if we’re creating a generation of people who think the computer is significant, instead of the tasks that you’re using it to do.

SO IN THAT regard, perhaps you need a real frog (albeit one whose life wasn’t all that pleasant before dying and becoming something for use in a biology classroom) to gain an educational experience.

Although perhaps there need to be elements of teaching about what the living creature went through during its life. So as to perhaps sway the thoughts of my one-time lab partner who just couldn’t want to cut open a frog’s belly.

One thing I do remember from that junior high dissection session – many of us in class were envious of the fellow student who, upon cutting open her frog, found that it had many bugs inside of it that remained undigested. This particular frog died with a full belly.

As for my frog, he must have died hungry. I found nothing inside, and there was little that was the least bit unique about the experience.


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