High school biology needn’t be all about memorization and lab reports. EDC is crafting a free bioethics curriculum that will have students discussing such thought-provoking topics as genetic enhancement, clinical trials, vaccination, and genetic screening.
Funded for two years by the National Institutes of Health, EDC researchers will work with a team of ethicists, scientists, and teachers on a high school biology curriculum. Materials in the form of case studies, student handouts, and group discussion guides will supplement existing textbooks and be made available to schools around the country.
The curriculum will encourage students to relate their biology learning to real-life issues of social importance. For instance, a unit on the nature of clinical trials might include the polio vaccine trials in the 1950s and questions about the ethics of using placebos when scientists might strongly suspect, but can’t yet prove, that a vaccine will work.
“Our pluralistic democracy requires informed citizens who can understand the issues and make wise judgments—both about their own behavior and about public policy,” says Mildred Solomon, EDC vice president and Associate Professor of Social Medicine and Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. “We want to prepare students for the scientific, medical, ethical, personal, and public policy choices they will face in the 21st century and learn how to reason about hard choices.”
Originally published on January 1, 2007