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EthicsCaseStudyForm edit

Title A Conscientious Objection
Long Title A Conscientious Objection
Contributor/Contact John Banja, PhD? (jbanja@emory.edu)
Contributor Details John Banja, PhD?
Director, Section on Ethics in Research
Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322
CTSA Emory
Case Study Provided This dilemma occurred some years ago when I was in high school. I was taking a biology course from a teacher I greatly respected. He was passionate about his subject; he took pains to teach it well; and I was doing well in the class.
Toward the end of the year, however, I became distressed over an upcoming project that would involve a dissection. While I will not argue about the pros and cons of animal experimentation, I felt then (and still do) that gathering up thousands of frogs, cats, fetal pigs, etc. for high school students (many of whom will go to college and study history or interior design) is simply a gross waste of life. At the very least, I believe that an honest conscientious objection such as mine constituted a reasonable justification for the teacher's assigning a substitute activity for the dissection project.
To say he disagreed with me would be putting it mildly. He was insistent that dissection was a mandatory part of the class and that if I refused to participate; my current grade of A would become a C. He also informed me that he was under no obligation from the school to accommodate me or my objections, claiming that "morals have no place in my classroom."
Fortunately, the school administrators were more understanding, once my irate mother called. They insisted that my teacher would have to prepare an alternative assignment for me or any other student who did not wish to participate in the dissection. He went along, but only after telling me he was doing so against his will. I also remember a remarkable threat: that if he so much as caught me or any other dissenter wearing a leather belt, he would fail us.
Ultimately, two other students and I completed the alternative assignment—which was more than twice the workload of the dissection project—and I kept my A for the course. But my relationship with the teacher was never the same. I could no longer respect him as I once had. I felt he had ignored my values and my rights and had only yielded from force and with bitterness.
On the other hand, a dilemma like mine raises the larger question about the limits of conscientious objection among science students. Suppose a student refuses to do an assignment because he (or his parents) objects to certain anatomical drawings in his textbook, or that he does not wish to participate in classes on reproduction, or learning about the construction of the atomic bomb? How might one discriminate between ethically reasonable versus unreasonable objections to certain material in science curricula?
Data Acquisition, Management, Sharing and Ownership Topics No Data acquisition_management_sharing and ownership Topics
Mentor and Trainee Responsibilities Topics No mentor and trainee responsibilities topics
Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship Topics No publication practices and responsible authorship topics
Peer Review Topics No peer review topics
Collaborative Science Topics No collaborative science topics
Research Misconduct Topics No research misconduct topics
Conflicts of Interest, Law and Policy Topics No conflicts of interest_law_and policy topics
Human Subjects No human subjects

URL http://www.actsi.org/areas/erks/ethics/index.html
RCR Keyword Students
Other RCR Keywords Alternative Assignment; Animal Anatomy; Animal Experimentation; Biology Course; Cats; Conscientious Objection; Dissection; Fetal Pigs; Frogs; High School; Morals; Rights; Science Curricula; Science Students; Teacher; Values
Type of Case

Source for Topic Areas Du Bois, J., & Dueker, J. (2009). Teaching and Assessing the Responsible Conduct of Research: A Delphi Consensus Panel Report. Journal of Research Administration, 40(1), 49-70.
References 1) Humane Society of the United States, Animals in Education, http://www.humanesociety.org/
2) National Anti-Vivisection Society, Alternative in Education, http://www.navs.org/site/PageServer?pagename=index

Topic revision: r1 - 31 Oct 2011 - 14:01:16 - MarkYarborough
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