Freshman Biology Majors

Bryan Ness bryan.ness at
Mon Feb 28 00:59:00 EST 1994

MDG>Before net.people get too badly bent out of shape concerning posts that
MDG>originate from Pacific Union College, a little background is in order.
MDG>A small number of people from that school have been posting to
MDG>bionet.general regarding biomedical ethics issues intermittently since
MDG>New Years'. I am not affiliated with PUC, nor have I ever been, and
MDG>cannot speak for them. However, I have followed the threads and in some
MDG>cases posted contributions to them. Their professor, Dr. Bryan Ness, who
MDG>occasionally posts himself, and with whom I've exchanged some e-mail,
MDG>pointed out to me that the posters are students in his freshman biology
MDG>class. He has been encouraging their use of Internet as a means of
MDG>gaining and exchanging information concerning their course topics, a
MDG>laudable goal. The students' posts are sometimes poorly edited because
MDG>the authors are new to using computers and haven't mastered the programs.
MDG>If they're writing with Unix editors like vi or emacs this is not
MDG>surprising. Their ideas are sometimes poorly written because, well, the
MDG>authors are freshmen. Some issues are dropped into bionet.general "out of
MDG>context" because the students apparently forget that the newsgroup
MDG>readership includes many thousands who are not in their class. The
MDG>students seem naive in the opinions they express, IMO, because they
MDG>*are* naive, IMO. But this is true of most freshmen; those of us who are
MDG>a few-to-many years ahead on the track would do well to remember what *we*
MDG>were like as first-year undergraduates. The final point I want to make is
MDG>that PUC is a Seventh-Day Adventist college; the religiosity expressed by
MDG>some of the students is more understandable in this light. I learned *that*
MDG>by looking up the entry for PUC in the "US News & World Report Guide
MDG>to Colleges."

Thank you Mark.  All of what you said is correct and well stated.
I am beginning to wonder whether I am pushing my "poor" freshman
students too hard (I hope none of them are reading this).  I do
apologize for their difficulties at this process of using the
Internet.  They are slowly getting better and I will keep
reminding them to sharpen their thinking and thier writing.

I chose to have them participate on the Internet because I wanted
them to rub shoulders with more than just their classmates and
professor so they could see that the scientific world is a bit
bigger than our classroom.  maybe I am being too idealistic, but
I hope to get atleast some of them discussing topics of
biological interest in a meaningful way.  Time will tell, and I
may decide to stop doing this with my freshman class.  I will
still introduce them to new ideas and challenge their thinking,
just in some other way.  For now I will continue to try and teach
them to broaden their horizons a little.

If anyone in the usenet group would be willing to do so, feel
free to write to the students via email as well.  Maybe one of
you will be able to make them think a little more deeply than I
have up to this point.  I would hope that any members of this
usenet group would be glad to see students attempting to discuss
pertinent topics to biology  and that they would feel it a
privilege to help in the development of a few of tomorrows
biologists, doctors, and dentists.  If I can convince them
biology is exciting enough I just may get a few to switch from
pre-medicine to "real" biology.

Bryan Ness
Asst. Professor of Biology
Pacific Union College
Angwin, CA  94508
bness at

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