Kill the Butterflies (Not the Students)

Knew it was going to be one of those days after the sad news on Pluto. Jeffrey A. Lockwood, a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming, has an op-ed in The New York Times on the environmental impact of selling butterflies to class rooms and then releasing them into the environment. His solution:

Kill them. Not the students, the butterflies. If the point of the educational venture is to teach important lessons, then here’s one: We are responsible for the harm that we may cause in the world. So once the butterflies have emerged, pop them in the freezer. Tell the children that protecting our environment is not always easy, that we must accept the responsibility that comes with bringing a life into the world, and that like other animals produced for our needs and wants (the industry refers to the butterflies as “livestock”) we owe the butterflies a quick and painless death.

If this is too harsh a lesson to teach in a culture that assiduously avoids confronting death, then a savvy teacher could work with students to collect local caterpillars, raise them and release the butterflies whence they came. That’s a real lesson in science — and ethics.

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