Many middle and high school biology students are trading in scalpels and formaldehyde for computer screens. New Jersey is the ninth state to adopt legislation allowing students to complete a computer-generated lab or research paper in lieu of traditional animal dissection. The Humane Society of the United States celebrated the decision by distributing letters to New Jersey teachers that offered to loan out CDs, models, and videotapes. “For schools that are struggling financially—and which one isn’t—it makes more sense to go with the virtual program, which has been found in peer-reviewed studies to be as educational or better than actual dissection—and cheaper,” says the Humane Society’s Kathleen Conlee of. But don’t expect all science teachers to give up without a fight. “[Actual dissection] allows students to feel the delicateness of the tissue and to appreciate the complexity of a living thing,” says Patricia Lord, science advisor for New Jersey’s Teaneck district, which has reduced the number of animals dissected from four to one. Bunny Jaskot, president of the Biology Teachers Association of New Jersey, says that she no longer dissects with her Bio 1 class, but continues to with her AP class because many of her students plan on attending medical school. “I wouldn’t want a surgeon working on me who had only worked on a simulation,” she says.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.