Biology - modify our way of teaching
Issue A: cutting and dissecting
Solutions to issue A
Issue B: too many details
Solutions to issue B
I have never liked the educational perspective on biology.
The educational world looks at biology this way (some of which I think is wrong):
Biology is a central science. Let us teach as much about biology as we can. This means names and pictures of all the body parts and the details of how they work.
Furthermore, we want everyone to become Doctors and PhDs, don't we? So, we must prepare them for their doctor world...by cutting and dissecting, looking at blood and guts.
Remember, that I was trained as a scientist. So, its not like I'm just some artist who is out of touch. I know science, in its basics, and specifics.
Also, just by living... more years I've seen doctors, more types of exercises I've done to be fit, more books and articles I've read, more diseases I've gotten, more bruises and cuts I've had, as well as friends and relatives with their cancers and issues... in other words, the more I've lived the more I've seen biology in its most practical ways. This experience adds the perspective of knowing what young people should learn.
Issue A: The main issue has to do with cutting and dissecting.
There are many problems associated with this.
I will also offer solutions at the end.
1. Not everyone likes to cut and dissect. In fact, most people don't. Therefore, we should not do it.
2. We'd like people to have more respect for life. A principle moral rule is "Do Not Kill."
Yet, here we go, telling everyone it is okay to kill.
Not only that, we are taking innocent lives, killing them, and then dissecting them.
If this were done on humans, the person would be given the death penalty.
3. We teach about the environment (schools love that). They teach to be earth friendly.
Yet, here we go, taking creatures and killing them. And dissecting them.
4. Yes, some people will become doctors, but many wont.
Auto mechanics is a good career, but I have no desire to take apart cars. And its not a mandatory class.
So, why then is biology mandatory? Why is cutting up live creatures mandatory? This should not be mandatory. This should be an option.
Solutions to issue A, of cutting and dissecting.
1. Use computer simulations
Computer software is very good these days.
You can get computer software which shows the body of the frog in great detail. You can get very exact representations of all the organs, the blood, and everything else you'd see.
Many software programs are interactive. Hence, it would be simple to have something where you point to the screen where you would cut, and it will cut for you. You can point to an organ, and it will identify the organ, and talk about it.
Hence, no need to actually cut anything at all.
2. For those that want to see the real thing, that can be done in an advanced Biology course.
This way, only the students who want to will do it, and those who do not want to will not be forced.
Issue B - too many details
Oh my!!! Details details details!! So many parts of the body to remember.
This is good if you are becoming a doctor, but hey, this is being taught to high school freshmen. Its no wonder they are bored.
Furthermore, and much, much worse.... we lose the big picture. Students leave biology actually knowing nothing about the body!
The biology class should be a basic health class.
Such a class might ask: how does each part work? How do you keep it healthy? What are some of the major diseases? How do you prevent these diseases?
There are lots of parts - from each bone, to each muscle, to each organ.
Students should know the basics.
In addition there needs to be the basics of blood types, DNA-fingerprint forensics. (This is usually being taught already.)
I have learned more about health, by necessity for my own health, on my own, than I ever did from school.
I had to get it from asking doctors, reading books, and so on.
What a waste - I would have rather learned about it early on. This would not only save time, but would have kept me healthier in many areas. There are things I could have been doing for my health all along that I learned only recently.
I also learned more about basics of being a doctor from the Red Cross (this was in college), from Boy Scouts, and from friends later on, then I ever learned from school. Again...where was the practicality.
I've used nothing I learned from my high school biology class, and yet they taught me nothing of value that I really needed to know!!
Also, the freshmen are not ready for this advanced science. I think biology is much more difficult than any of the other sciences, yet it is taught first. And it has no relation to the scientific method, or what scientists do out there. All the course is...is just pre-med trying to be taught to high school freshman.
Finally, I always believe you must start with the basics of understanding, then move up.
You've got to start with getting them familiar with their body in real and practical ways. Only after they really understand that should you bother with complex terms and chemical processes.
Solutions to issue B - too many details
1. Turn Biology into a health type class.
Note that I mean a real health class, not the dippy "health class" that is usually taught.
There wouild be many specifics, such as:
How does each part work?
How do you keep it healthy?
What are some of the major diseases? How do you prevent these diseases?
Know the basics of blood types, DNA-fingerprint forensics.
Know all the basics of bruises, cuts, bites - how to prevent and how to treat.
Know all the basics of colds, flu viruses, and common diseases - how to prevent and how to treat.
Learn about recent diseases and how to prevent. (The specifics will change depending on the times. Today, for example, I would teach about Anthrax and SARS.)
Know how to protect your eyes and ears - how to keep them sharp, and the diseases to watch for.
Know good exercises for keeping limber.
Know about major drugs, from penicillin to steroid treatments. Understand common uses, and side effects.
Also learn how drugs are researched and how companies make enough money to continue.
Know about cancers, how to prevent, how to check, and how to treat.
Learn about safety and keeping healthy in the workplace and in common fun activities.
Know the branches of medicine, so you know who to see.
Also learn about health costs, and ways we can pay for them. Emphasize keeping healthy reduces medical costs.
Practice researching what you need to know. Practice reading medical books (any of the books in the health sections of bookstores) and summarizing what you've read. Learn to understand what you read in medical books.
There are all these types of REAL things about the body which must be taught.
Practical knowledge of the body, practical knowledge of diseases, practical knowledge of medicine...these are the things which should be taught in our "Biology" class.
Summary of how to change our Biology classes
Biology as it is should be scrapped.
I believe in practical knowledge. (Sadly most schools are actually opposed to teaching anything practical)
Biology 1, the mandatory class,
should be a detailed health class.
You want the students to actually know about their body in a practical way. You want them to know how all their parts work, and how to keep them healthy.
You want them to be able to take care of themselves, in any situation.
You can teach some terms, but lets start with the main terms.
Teach the common terms, the main organs, muscles etc. Remember, keep it practical.
The students should be able to talk effectively with physicians and others, be able to do research in books and on the internet.
When teaching, think that the students should be skilled in understanding, communication and research for keeping their bodies healthy. Do not think prep for medical school.
Real dissecting should be eliminated. Use computer software - these can be very detailed and interactive.
Biology II - now here is where we can put in real live animal dissections. Here is were we can talk the details of medical terms for all the veins, as well as all those chemical processes.
But keep it here, in the elective advanced class.
Maintain the mandatory freshman class as a practical "understand the body" course.