ISHPSSB 2001 || Quinnipiac University, July 18-22, 2001

Analogies & Constructions in Biology Education

To a good extent the claims scientists make about the natural world are shaped by the system of cultural values predominant in their society. Consequently, students of biology do not only learn about the natural world - they also learn about cultural convictions and practices as if they were a part of nature. Metaphors in textbooks and other educational contexts are thus not just isolated lexical phenomena. On the one hand they help to create new models of understanding. On the other hand they can remain invisible and help to construct a distorted, but apparently objective truth. This session examines educational constructions of the human immune system, human fertilization, sociobiology, and heteronormativity regarding sexual orientation.

Dorthe Ohlhoff, University/Hamburg
"On Sleeping Beauties, Dancing Cells, Devilish Germs and Mrs. Femme Fatale: Narratives in Biology: Toward a critical theory of metaphor in science and education"
In my paper I will describe how textbooks of biology tackle the human immune system and human fertilization. In doing so, I will demonstrate how an analysis of the used models and metaphors helps to criticize seemingly impartial concepts of reality. According to Max Black metaphors emerge from an interaction between two dynamic systems of meaning. So metaphors are no longer thought to be based on analogy ore likeness. Rather analogies appear as a result of the metaphorical process. This implies, of course, that metaphors are not just isolated lexical phenomena and that there are many ways in which they have a part in science. It takes a critical theory of the scientific use of metaphor to expose the powerful concepts by which we learn to view the world in a supposedly scientific way: On the one hand metaphors can help to create new models of understanding. On the other hand metaphors can pose an obstacle to thought when they remain opaque and invisible and help to construct an indisputable, so-called "objective" truth.

Carmen James Schifellite, University of Toronto
"Constructing Legitimacy in Introductory Texts"
In this paper I look at both controversy and textbook presentation. I look at the ways in which authors and textbooks construct legitimacy for their positions. It is my contention that E.O.Wilson engaged in a good deal of rhetoric in the formulation of his work on human sociobiology; and that his work and other work in human sociobiology relies on both rhetorical devices and other complex constructions of legitimacy.

Steve Fifield, University of Delaware
"The Natural Way of Things, Genetic Rejects, and Immoral Traits: (Homo)Sexuality as Subject and Object of Knowledge in High School Biology"
This paper examines the interwoven relations of heterosexual norms and understandings of self and science in the biology classroom of Lee, a student teacher. Lee's experiences illustrate how heteronormativity mediates relations among teachers, students, and scientific knowledge. Some students targeted Lee as a non-heterosexual Other, while others tried to clarify his ambiguous identity by creating a fictional girlfriend for him. The rendering of biology and religion within dominant sexual norms amplified Lee's struggle to make sense of himself in light of authoritative texts. Scientific and religious texts taught that it was natural for males pair with females, but being gay felt natural and right to Lee. This analysis of the relations of identity and knowledge in a classroom challenges dominant practices in science education and suggests paths toward more empowering approaches.

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