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Editorial Archives The Altamont Enterprise, March 29, 2007
Choice is essential
"Late on the third day, at the very moment when, at sunset, we were making our way through a herd of hippopotamuses, there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought, the phrase, ‘Reverence for Life.’"
Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought
Albert Schweitzer didn’t kill the lizards in his mission hospital in Africa. The Nobel Prize-winning scientist and humanist had what he called "Reverence for Life." He was there, in Lambarene, though, to save human lives and we’d wager that he used disinfectant to kill germs.
As human beings, all of us make choices.
Some of us eat meat, some dont. The co-presidents of a club founded last year at Guilderland High School, Last Chance for Animals GHS, dont eat meat. Theyve circulated petitions to protest selling fur and the cruelty of foie gras.
Theyve also been working on a problem closer to home in their own high school the dissection and vivisection of animals in science classes. Because of their concerns, school administrators said the districts opt-out policy will be better publicized.
The administrators were right to listen to the students and take their concerns seriously. Science Supervisor Michael Piscitelli aptly framed the dilemma.
Piscitelli said of dissection, "It is educationally appropriate, but that is not where the argument lies...The argument lies in: Does the educational experience outweigh the death of the animal" That is a debatable issue."
For sophomore Corrina Goutos, the educational experience does not outweigh the death of an animal. An A student, she opted out of dissecting a frog in her biology class this year and completed the lab assignment by consulting her textbook instead.
She believes the community-at-large isnt aware of the problem and so she is organizing what she describes as a small and peaceable protest for this Saturday.
We admire Goutos for exercising the First Amendment rights that some of her schoolmates wrote about in this space just a few weeks ago. She has already petitioned her school on the matter, and used her right to free speech; shes now reaching out to the press and will exercise her right to peaceably assemble.
Good for Goutos. Such protests inspire worthwhile debate and discussion.
Ideally, said Goutos, shed like to see dissection and vivisection of animals completely eliminated from the school. While we admire her speaking out, we certainly hope this is not the outcome.
Goutos had a chance to opt out of dissecting a frog and she used it. That fit with her beliefs. She is passionate about art and good at it; she hopes to pursue a career in design. Learning about the inner workings of a frog a once-living organism by feeling the texture of tissue or understanding the dimensions within is probably not essential to meeting her goals.
But what about another student who plans to be a scientist, or one who wants to be a doctor or a veterinarian" The experience of dissecting might be essential to their learning. They may hold different beliefs than the students who will be protesting on Saturday. They, too, should have a chance to learn as they see fit within the guidelines set up by the state and their school district.
To his credit, the high school science supervisor, Piscitelli, termed dissection "a debatable topic." "There are sound educational reasons why we do it," he said, "but I respect these students’ position that all life should be valued."
Making choices, as we said at the start, is essential to the human condition. A school that allows and encourages students to do that is a good one.
The students who formed Last Chance for Animals GHS last year are proud that theyve gotten the school cafeteria to serve vegetarian burgers. Now students who dont eat meat can still choose to eat a burger.
But eliminating hamburgers and other meat-based foods wouldnt be fair to the students who chose to eat meat. The same holds true of dissecting animals in science labs. Students who want to learn by dissecting should be able to do so.
We thank Corrina Goutos for bringing the issue to our attention and having the courage and conviction to inform the community.
As Albert Schweitzer said on receiving the Nobel Prize in 1952, "You don’t live in a world all alone."
Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor
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