HONING SKILLS: Trinity biologist Robert Blystone says dissection provides the opportunity for students to develop scientific observational skills.
Poring over a frog's insides once was nearly synonymous with biology class. Although many life scientists contend that dissection is crucial to understanding body form and function, several factors have converged to challenge such use of animals in the classroom. "The dissection of anatomical specimens such as the fetal pig has fallen on hard times in the introductory college biology laboratory," observes Robert V. Blystone, a professor of biology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

At the high school level, objections to dissection largely reflect animal rights concerns. Five states (California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) have passed legislation guaranteeing students the right to refuse to dissect without penalty. On the college level, the issue is more complex. Although animal-rights activism certainly impacts the use of dissection, shifting curricular...

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