Thursday, September 30, 2010

Biology Class--Freshman Year

I've been in touch with one of the former Catholic Brothers, now a layman, who taught math at my high school, Bishop Reilly in Queens, New York. I mentioned how tough the biology class was and that biology simply escaped me. I might have done better if I'd ever opened the book, but I always thought I was smart enough to just listen in class and never read any of the books at home except for my geometry book--cause I loved geometry--the novels and plays in English--cause I loved English--and an occasional look through Mary Dolciani's horrible nightmare-fueling algebra books. And as if her books weren't bad enough, when I got to Hunter College, guess who I got for my first Algebra 101 class? MARY DOLCIANI HERSELF!!!!! God, she was awful. First day she announced that there would be no eating, drinking or smoking cigarettes in class. What? We were always allowed to do those things. Worse, as soon as the announcement was made, she opened a cup of coffee, unwrapped a muffin, and lit a smoke.
I objected.
"The reason I can do these things and you can't," she said, "is that I know when I am going to speak. You, however, never know when you'll be called on to answer something I ask and I don't want to waste the class' time while you finish chewing or put down your coffee."
Point well made but it only made me hate her more.
Back to biology. I told my former teacher this story about biology class.

Once, in the biology class, we had to get an animal and dissect it at home as a project. Well, I got an alligator from the pet store and Brother Walter gave me a syringe and a bottle of formaldehyde, but no directions. The formaldehyde opened on the Q-44 bus going home, and I lost the syringe, but I didn't think that was important as I didn't know what I was to do with it anyway. So I got home, put my little alligator into a pot and filled it with the remaining formaldehyde. Man did that little critter jump!
I put a lid on the pot, and then a cinderblock and waited him out. He took about an hour to die, it seemed at the time. And then I cut his head open with a chisel and hammer to take a look at his brain, which was supposed to have two distinct lobes. Of course I crushed the brain with the hammer and chisel, so I didn't wind up with much of an experiment.
BUTTTT.....what I learned, crazily, from that experience, was that I never ever wanted to kill anything I didn't have to from that day on. And even now, this morning, when a waterbug came into my kitchen I went to kill it, then decided to give it a pass, so long as he left quickly. He did.
I don't know that the experiment was meant to impart the sanctity of life, but it did. Funny world, eh?

1 comment:

northwestborn said...

Thank you for that splendid article. I found it interesting that we both share the same love of classes, Geometry of good, Algebra evil, English good, Biology evil. I think it has a lot to do with personality, learning style and that age old question "why do I need to know this?!"
As a (vegetarian) Sophomore aspiring to become a police officer, I quite honestly feel no need to understand how H202 reacts with cow liver.

Again thank you for you article, it was refreshing to find a like mind (great minds... you know)
God Bless