should daughter have to dissect in school

darkstarNovember 29, 2001

My 12 year old daughter is in middle school this year. She has always been very squimish about anything the least bit "gross". I don't know where she get's it, I am a vet tech and no one else at home has made a big deal out of gross things. Anyway, her class will be dissecting a sheeps eyeball soon. This is something she has worried about all year and she now says she is not doing it and wants me to write a note for her, to excuse her. I am really torn, I don't think anyone likes doing that kind of thing, but throughout her school years, I know she will be called upon to do these kind of science studies. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. By the way, she is a good student.

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    Bookmark   November 29, 2001 at 4:55PM
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The only reason I would let her not do it was if your family had something against animal research. Obviously, you don't.

We all have things in life that we don't necessarily want to do, but do them anyway because of necessity. If dissecting eyeballs is a part of her class, then it is a necessity for her. It's true that you might get her out of the project by writing a note, but she'll probably learn more about growing up if you don't.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2001 at 5:02PM
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Does she just think it's gross or does she get ill? Two different options then.

If she just thinks it's gross then I have to agree with not writing the letter. She may find out she isn't as grossed out about it as she thought she'd be (I was the same way).

If there is a possibility she'll get physically ill, talk to the teacher, let him/her know there is this possibility (won't be the first time this would happen I'm sure).

Then I would sit down and talk to DD and come up with a plan. Life is sometimes easier for kids if they have a "what if" plan. What if I start to get sick? WHat if I feel faint?

Good Luck.


    Bookmark   November 29, 2001 at 5:34PM
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Personally, I feel these exercises are rather pointless and could easily be replaced with a more humane substitute, but that's besides the point:

If it's just an issue of being "squeamish" then I'd agree that she should do it (with a contingency plan, of course. I still remember the boy who passed out when we pricked our fingers to look at the blood under a microscope in 6th grade, LOL).

If she felt strongly about animal rights, research, was a vegetarian, etc., then I would support her position to not do it. In this case she'd be making a visible statement and identifying herself as different from her peers -- and that can be a tremendous learning experience.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2001 at 11:46PM
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I wouldn't write a note asking that she be excused. I'd go talk to the teacher about DD's feelings & get the teacher's take on the subject.

She may not personally have a problem with it, it's possible that peer reaction is responsible for this request.

Talk to the teacher. They'd rather see you than a note, even if the end result is the same.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2001 at 8:05AM
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I feel for your DD. The thought makes me feel naseous! I got sick when we had dissect a worm and somehow got out of the frog one that came next. Would the teacher maybe let her do some sort of report instead? Just a thought.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2001 at 8:07AM
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I know exactly how your DD feels. I too was the one who hated this. We dissected frogs and I never touched or cut it. Fortunately, we worked with partners and I had a partner who had no problem doing it. It just turned my stomach. I never was a strong blood/injury person. When we were picking fingers for blood types, I passed out and it wasn't even my finger we were picking. (how's that for squeamish?) Quite honesty, I never learned anything from those lessons that I could not have learned by reading in a book. I had no plans to do anything in that field (obviously) and never found it necessary.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2001 at 8:36AM
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In ninth grade we had to dissect a frog in school--on the very first day, I got physically sick and told my teacher that I just couldn't do it. Thankfully, he knew I was a good student and didn't make me.

I personally hate any kind of animal dissection and don't think it should be done in schools (with the exception of medical school of course), it devalues life way too much in my opinion.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2001 at 8:41AM
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I agree she should do it unless she was upset about the animal being killed for science. If she gets an upset stomach the teachers let the girls leave the room if necessary. Hopefully she can handle it though, It woulnt be much different than if some day she had to tend to her child that fell off a bike and ripped open a big cut needing stitches. My friends mom usued to pass out everytime she cut herself and she had to go to her Grandmothers.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2001 at 1:01PM
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There is so much to be learned from "real" dissections. Think about it. The reason that you remember it so much is because it made an impact on you. I am sure that the material wouldn't have had as much as an influence if you would have just read it from the text. No, I don't think that she should be EASILY excused. No one really(except maybe a few boys) wants to TOUCH an eyeball, let alone dissect it! Your daughter isn't the only one. She should have to do as much work as she can without getting sick. Besides, how is she going to be a doctor, if she gets sick so easily;)

    Bookmark   November 30, 2001 at 1:03PM
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Dissection makes me very sick. In college I left class on dissection days..told them it was personal and if they wanted to do that, it should be optional. Throughout middle and high school things like this only turned me against science courses and the trend has continued.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2001 at 10:10AM
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I didn't continue studying biology even though I really liked it because I couldn't bring myself to dissect a fetal cat. I'm 32 years old and I still have unpleasant feelings about dissecting a fetal pig.

I think that if she has strong feelings about not doing it then those feeling should be respected. I don't think forceing her to do it is something she's going to be thankful for later. As you said, she's a good student. She will learn the curriculum without the actual dissection.

I think that in this particular case, it's better to err on the side of compassion. This is just my opinion.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2001 at 12:46PM
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I'd be willing to bet that if you took a poll, the majority of kids would prefer not to dissect--just as the majority would vote not to go to school at all if that question were asked. Also, dissection is one of those things were generally the anticipation is far worse than the actual 'doing'.

Personally, I feel that dissection is a wonderful way to learn and always found it fascinating when we did it in high school and college. No, my daughter didn't want to do it, but of course, she did and lived to tell the tale. Just think, what if a child's wish to not dissect is catered to... She/he avoids it and the world loses someone who might otherwise have gotten over their squeemishness, discovered an interest in science, medicine--someone who might be a wonderful surgeon or ophthalmologist or veterinarian who could make a great difference in the health of the world.

If she were my daughter, I'd try to assess just how deeply her feelings ran. If they're the ordinarly fear most kids have of their first dissection, I'd matter-of-factly point her in the right direction. If she had what seemed to be a more serious case of the jitters, I'd sit down with the teacher and work out a reasonable plan--perhaps letting her observe a filmed dissection before the lab was scheduled would be a start.

Just a question--has she ever gone to work with you and seen some of what goes on in a vet's office? Perhaps, if your employer was willing, she might benefit by volunteering to help a few hours a week. When she sees how the information learned is used beneficially, perhaps she'll understand more why it's a good idea to learn as much science as possible.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2001 at 3:05PM
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Talk to her teacher privately. You can ask them what exactly they will be required to do and why. Listen for good reasons, or otherwise try to figure out what goals will be served and whether they are worth it for your daughter. You and the teacher might be able to figure out some other way for your daughter to get similar benefits in terms of learning and skills.

Philosophical stances that have a clear 'yes/no' for a person are appealing because things can be clearly right or wrong and there isn't anything to weigh which could get messy. Sometimes the person who holds such a view on such a topic or in general is at least able to understand another viewpoint even if they will insist on living their own example. Sometimes not, even at a relatively tender age. Be careful to convey respect for your daughter's different point of view as you talk to her about the problematic subject. Sometimes, at that same tender age, adolescents will have anxiety over performance or school and will work hard to avoid doing or being made to do things they are really uncomfortable thinking of. Sometimes there can be mixtures of influencing things, as well as needing a parent to intervene on their side... who knows. The main tip is to talk and listen to your daughter before and after talking to her teacher about whether good alternative projects or assignments exist and what those might be. Your daughter might be able to make a choice, even if she's going to pick the alternative anyway it can be important to give her this kind of choice.

There are skills involved in dissection itself, fine motor control and being able to identify structures correctly. It requires a lot of finesse and some spatial ability (it's a sort of right brain-left brain unifying thing, being really weak on side or the other can cause a person problems with an activity like dissection). There are anatomical structures they will have to learn and dissection will give them a model for how those are arranged in space and what they look like in general. It is a hands on learning experience that cannot really be duplicated by book learning. Plastic models of organs which are similar which she could take apart and put together again are as close as she can get probably to that aspect. Writing a report and/or giving a report to the class might be a way to cover the academic aspects in a way not covered by the hands-on stuff of dissection.

You'll have to decide if she should or shouldn't; if she can make up similar work in another fashion; if she should just be excused from school that day; or if some or all those things could be done. Talk to the teacher. If your daughter is known to get squeamish about smells, and if the classroom is going to be full of organs, it might be good to excuse her that day. Since there are skills and knowledge and learning involved in what she is wanting to be excused from doing, it seems like a good idea to figure out some alternative for her. This can all be done individually and privately so she's not made to stick out to her classmates (that's important, so talk to her about whether she thinks her teacher will be respectful of that, and stress this to the teacher).

there are things to weigh; it's not a simple issue

    Bookmark   December 1, 2001 at 3:34PM
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I never understood what the point was to dissection. I did it in highschool (didn't bother me too much - except for the grasshopper - I hate bugs) but it was pointless, gross, and I learned nothing. A diagram in a textbook would have worked just as well.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2001 at 7:14PM
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So, did your daughter do the dissection? Having majored in Zoology in college, I never really understood those squimish types 8+) BUT, while I was in junior high WE had to dissect a sheep's eyeball also! I will NEVER forget it! The teacher had explained that we all would be doing the dissection, but when the day arrived he had a handcrafted sheep's eyeball about the size of a basketball that he had created with all the layers, correct parts, elastic bands to hold things in place and EVERYTHING! He allowed those in the class who felt squimish to "dissect" the huge eyeball instead, but let it be know he expected them to recognize the real parts because he would be doing a "real" dissection that they were to observe in the following days. It was this teacher that got me really interested in science which eventually led me into medical school.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2001 at 12:42PM
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While it is gross I found I was able to tolerate it better than I expected. I am a big animal lover & thought I'd never be able to do it. You get used to it. I had to dissect a frog, a pig's heart & a CAT in nurseing school! I'd never choose to do it again but it's true that you CAN'T learn the same things without actually doing it. A textbook just doesn't do it.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 11:48PM
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I refused to dissect a frog and something else - I forget what. I didn't talk to my parents about it, just told the teacher I wouldn't do it or watch it and he could give me whatever grade he liked for the course. Fortunately for me, he gave me an alternate assignment.

If I had a child who didn't want to dissect and had worried about it all year, I'm not sure what I would do.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 11:46AM
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:) a roomate in college led the fight to provide alternatives to dissection in her school district (about the only sensible expression of the flakiest vegitarianism I've ever encountered)

I think group dissection in school it helful or interesting to about 15% of the student body- and most of US have already been poking at critters for years...I;m the least squeamish girl on the planet (will not kill if I can help it, but I can field dress game like a pro) and I thought it was dumb- not to mention unpleasant (I'd rather deal with something fresh than preserved- they still embalmed things in my day, and the smell nearly made me pass out)

however- I've got very little patience for any child who whines that they 'can't' do anything they haven't tried, and think that teaching a kid to have a good attitude during unpleasant tasks is one that's gone missing in parenting circles...

but it's a little late to impose my opinions on a kid that age...

so she won't grow up to be a nurse- the world does need sales people and managers and there's no real need for her to take part.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2005 at 12:49PM
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I wouldn't write the note. I'd reason with her saying something like that...she needs to try this atleast once. Let her teacher know that she feels uncomfortable but you still want her to participate, but can he go over the procedure step by step so she knows exactly what to expect. and try to explain to her that it's not just about learning about this sheep's eye, but about learning to deal with difficult situations and that if you let her get out of this one, she'll never learn to deal with stuff in the future. now, if she throws up or faints, then write her a note for the next dissection.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 12:12AM
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When I was in high school, my biology class dissected a sheeps eyeball, a frog, a fetal pig, and we pricked our own fingers to do blood type analysis. No one fainted or anything. I found it rather interesting, especially the frog and the blood testing. I recently heard of a girl who protested her school for doing dissections. I think she even got a lawyer. I know it made the national news. She said she objected to the use of animals. It was not about being squeamish.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 12:45AM
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I think only one person suggested she speak to the teacher about being there but not actually doing the disection.

I do not think disection is necessary until highschool and do not see why my dd will have to do this in 5th grade!

My dh thinks she should do this, I think she should participate but not be forced to cut into an object. I bet if the teacher was asked about partnering kids, there would be a whole lot more enthusiasm in the classroom. The kids who really do not want to cut, will be able to assist those who do. I do not think one learns more by being the actual cutter.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 10:11AM
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Maybe mom should go to class with her on that day, whether she actively participates or not.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 10:57PM
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I would talk to her teacher, maybe she won't have to do the actual dissection, but just "look on". As I did the dissection when my partner was too squeamish to actually touch the scalpel even. And I thought I was the squeamish one!
I survived dissecting a frog and a worm and thought it was cool when I got done. (although I never did an eyeball)
Just make sure she has some smelling salts in her backpack (if the school lets her bring them!) just in case she feels faint. Or tell her to go to the nurse if she feels like she may pass out.
I passed out several times in high school - once I even hit my head - because of squeamishness and they STILL never let me out of anything like dissections.
I do personally thing 5th grade is WAY early to do a dissection though!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 11:43AM
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