Genetics class examines intersection between science and race

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Genetics class examines intersection between science and race

Senior Johnny Addicks O'Toole views the part of the RACE: Are we so different? exhibit at the Science Museum that discusses Native American mascots.

Senior Johnny Addicks O'Toole views the part of the RACE: Are we so different? exhibit at the Science Museum that discusses Native American mascots. "[The exhibit] grabbed my interest more than sitting in a classroom and reading about how science intersects with race," he said.

Noor Qureishy

Senior Johnny Addicks O'Toole views the part of the RACE: Are we so different? exhibit at the Science Museum that discusses Native American mascots. "[The exhibit] grabbed my interest more than sitting in a classroom and reading about how science intersects with race," he said.

Noor Qureishy

Noor Qureishy

Senior Johnny Addicks O'Toole views the part of the RACE: Are we so different? exhibit at the Science Museum that discusses Native American mascots. "[The exhibit] grabbed my interest more than sitting in a classroom and reading about how science intersects with race," he said.

Noor Qureishy, The Rubicon Managing Editor

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Although most students learn about scientific racism and eugenics briefly in their ninth or tenth grade history and science classes, the ways that science was used to support racist ideas and policies, along with how and why humans evolved to have different skin colors usually goes unexplained. The Advanced Topics in Biology: Genetics class, taught by Upper School science teacher Ned Heckman, decided to bridge this gap by going on a field trip to the Science Museum to visit the RACE: Are we so different? exhibit on Feb. 24.

We got to see how science and social issues collide – [the exhibit] gave more in-depth analysis [on how] science was manipulated to enforce superiority of a certain race.”

— Johnny Addicks O'Toole

Senior Johnny Addicks O’Toole, one of the students in this class, liked how the exhibit was able to delve into today’s social issues.

“We got to see how science and social issues collide – [the exhibit] gave more in-depth analysis [on how] science was manipulated to enforce superiority of a certain race,” he said.

The part of the exhibit on personalized medicine was O’Toole’s favorite, because it mentioned the controversy around BiDil, a heart failure drug that’s marketed as specifically for African American patients.

“I thought [the information about BiDil] applied really well to the genetics course,” he said.

The exhibit was able to create an interactive setting where students felt immersed and engaged in the material. The class first saw a short play where actors portrayed two men, one white and one African American, having a difficult conversation about race and then entered the exhibit itself, which discussed the history of race, science of human variation, and current experiences of race.

“When you’re immersed in something you can learn it faster,” O’Toole said. “[The exhibit] grabbed my interest more than sitting in a classroom and reading about how science intersects with race.”

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