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Thumbs up, Freddie!

Thumbs up, Freddie! THE FATE OF MILLIONS of frogs was in your thumbs, and you responded.

You'll remember that this past October, we asked your opinion on whether frog dissection should be required in high school biology.

The final tally: of 365 ballots cast, 200 (55%) said frog dissection should not be required in high school; 147 (40%) said it should be. (The remaining 18 [5%] who couldn't make up their minds obviously are candidates for top management at their respective organizations.) Thumbs up, Freddie!

I know what you're thinking: "OK, smarty pants, what's your vote?"

Personally, I have no qualms about dissecting animals. From my own experience, I've found that it's a good way to learn how living bodies function. So I favor keeping dissection in the high school curriculum.

However, to be a valid educational experience, animal dissection must be conducted in a dignified, scientific atmosphere. It should not become a perverse initiation rite or an occasion of ridicule--for either the animal or the willing but squeamish student.

For similar reasons I support the use of animals in legitimate scientific research, provided the animals are not subjected to undue suffering and the research has the potential to benefit humanity.

But, on the question of whether public schools can require students to participate in dissection, I vote with the majority of respondents to our poll. My objection is based strictly on constitutional grounds. I believe that making it mandatory for students to dissect animals against their will is a violation of their civil rights.

Admittedly, only a tiny minority of high school students oppose dissection on moral grounds. But for these individuals, it doesn't matter that the frogs are already dead on arrival in the classroom. They know how they got there and, for moral or religious reasons, they refuse to associate themselves in any way with the killing of animals.

I believe that their right to refuse to participate based on moral or religious beliefs must be protected from intrusion by the state--in this case, school authorities. That's precisely why the First Amendment separates church and state--to protect an individual's beliefs, however unpopular, from being trampled by the state.

Some would argue that "they're only kids" who can't exercise moral judgment. But as any parent knows, they can tell right from wrong. Precisely for that reason, some state legislatures have determined that juvelines can be tried as adults for capital crimes.

Nor is objecting to dissection the same as objecting to phys ed or algebra. That's sheer laziness, not a moral or religious objection, and any sensible parent or teacher would see it as such. Moreover, students who object to dissection should not be given a free pass. They should be required to learn the same material using books, Videos, models, or computer programs.

It is true, as many who voted thumbs down pointed out, that we might lose an occasional budding scientist by not requiring dissection in high school. But what greater loss do we suffer if we allow the state to violate the moral and religious beliefs of its young citizens?

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Title Annotation:high school students' refusal to do animal dissections
Publication:R & D
Article Type:editorial
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Next Article:There's crowding on the pads.

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