Dissection at School
In the public school system as early as grade 6, kids begin to dissect
animals. Starting with an earthworm, fish, or cow's eyeball, they
move on to fetal pigs and sometimes cats by Biology 12.
Students usually walk into the lab one day and are presented with
a tray containing the animal, white tissue paper, and various tools to
cut the animal open and remove its organs. The animal is usually
several weeks past death, and has been preserved and previously frozen
(for shipment.) The quality of the animal is usually quite poor;
the animal has begun to decay, and the organs are quite difficult to
To accommodate for this, supplementary line drawings are provided to
help the student identify the various parts.
The author has dissected a sheep's eyeball (grade 8), two fish (grades
9 and 10) and observed the dissection of a squid (1st year biology in
The psychological reaction of many students in the process of
performing a dissection is an attempt to mask any feelings of discomfort
or distress. Students usually respond by making jokes about the animal
that they are dissecting.
By first year university, most students are convinced that dissection
is the best way to learn about animals. [from an informal survey, not
I believe that there is something wrong with the process of dissection
for the purpose of learning.
There are zoology teachers who successfully teach zoology by bringing live
animals to the students (or vice versa) and by studying how the animal
breathes, and feeling its musculature and the way it walks and behaves,
the students have learned everything practical they will ever need to know
about the animal's appearance.
- Why must we have first-hand experience in looking inside animals in
order to learn about their internal structure?
- Why must an animal be sacrificed in order
for the students to learn?
- What can students learn from the dissection itself that they cannot
learn from the provided line-drawings?
|What information is there in an animal body that there is not in a
plastic model, video or picture of a dissection?
|The only answer I have been given: the texture of the animal's
organs; the resistance to the knife. However, why would a student need
to know that?
- Why are children required to dissect animals at an age when they
cannot make accurate qualitative descriptions, prepare slides or
cross-sections, or any of those things a professional biologist could
do to actually find things out about the animal?
- Does not the process of dissecting animals up desensitize students?
- Is not dissection inherently violent?