20th January 2006 at 00:00
DIY stomach pumps and 3kg of leftover mercury. Bill Hicks ventures into Science

Every week we get dozens of requests from forum users, asking us to remove what they regard as offensive postings. If we agree with them, we oblige.

Today, reading a thread in the Opinion forum called "What brings out the 'snob' in you?" I felt like sending myself a complaining email.

Now, I'm as big a snob as you could imagine, but I try to keep my prejudices to myself. And I find all this sniping at the so-called "chav" sector of society leaves a sickly taste in the mouth - a bit like the Blue Nun wine that snobs go on about.

Why shouldn't people have tattoos, shop at Lidl, eat Mother's Pride and wear lots of cheap gold jewellery, if it makes them happy, or it's all they can afford?

Feeling impatient with these petit bourgeois attitudes, I sought refuge in the least snobbish of forums: Science. The pursuit of knowledge continues here, untainted by the superficialities of class and taste. But you are also reminded of the lengths science teachers will go to in their quest to bring the subject alive for their pupils. (At this point, I would advise squeamish readers to avert their eyes - try Thank God it's Friday on the right, much nicer stuff).

In one thread, four science teachers are comparing notes on heart dissection in the classroom. Crustytoes has to do a dissection with a Year 10 group and wants "management tips so they don't start stabbing each other with scalpels". Hobbitfancier reckons "good quality dissecting scissors do all that is needed". And who could refuse this offer, courtesy of love sponge? "Morrisons, pack of three lamb hearts for about 90p - often the atria and arteries are still in place - some butchers cut these off as they don't look that nice."

In another thread, one recently appointed primary science teacher had a job on her hands even before she could start to teach.

Here's what she found when she first entered her new school's "science room from hell": "mouldy butter from 2003I rusty scalpels I unknowingly thrust my hands into... bottles and flasks of unnamed chemicals... filthy, disgusting, health hazard lab coats..."

And above all: "approx 3kg of mercury, some in decent bottles, some in flimsy glass flasks, and one in a masking-tape-covered bottle with no label - good job I am a nosy cow! How do I get rid of this stuff?"

This triggered a wave of sensible (and less sensible) advice, and opened a rich new vein of discussion: the dangerous and sinister things lurking somewhere at the back of the lab cupboard.

Meanwhile, in a thread about "KS4 biology - making it fun" a teacher seems to be seriously describing how he performed a DIY stomach pump on himself so as to show pupils the action of gastric juices on his recently consumed lunch ("a copious amount of coloured food stuffs"). Said teacher's comment:

"My throat still hurts, but you can demo pH and such from the contents."

Quick as a whip, there was pyrites: "Riiiiiiight... off to check the list of 20 tasks we're not supposed to do."

Me? I'm back to Opinion, sharpish.

Follow these threads at www.tes.co.ukstaffroom * Bookclub: TV v Reading * Opinion: Anyone else found kids being really bad? Is it something to do with the full moon?

* Pay and employment: How many frees do you have in a fortnight?

* Pay and employment: What if no one applies for TLR posts?

* Unemployed teachers: CRB - arghhhhhhhhhh!

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website

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