20 April 2005

The Hard Stuff

As I've mentioned before, teaching sophomores has been one of my greatest joys as a teacher. There are things about all grades between 6 and 12 that I have liked, but there's just something about 15 and 16 year olds that suits me best.

One of the things I like most about working with sophs is that they're in the process of learning to independently think about some big muddy issues. Younger teens can often still be stuck in "black and white" mode---where a topic only has two sides...only one of which is "right." Biology is the perfect medium for helping sophs test their comfort level of grey areas.

Thankfully, the Terri Schiavo case has passed from media attention, but at its frenzied zenith, my sophs liked the opportunity to talk about it. Washington state has recently put together a "life sciences' fund." Do the kids know what stem cell research is---and why the controversy? Would you buy genetically modified produce (a/k/a "Frankenfoods")? What purpose is there in being able to clone an organism? Should parents be allowed to choose the sex of their child? If the state is making research in biotechnology a priority, what impacts will that have on you?

I love their opinions. I can often tell that our class discussion is the first time someone has asked them what they think about bioethics. They are always honest---even if their answers are occasionally a little on the naive side. But hey, they're 15 and 16. And they seem to be enjoying every moment of it.

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