EDUCATION. The educational benefits of zoos are also viewed skeptically by animal advocates. Visitor studies indicate that relatively few people are interested in learning about animals or conservation, and there is little evidence that the zoo experience improves knowledge of biological facts or conservation issues (Kellert; Kellert and Dunlap). Given zoos’ poor record of educational effectiveness, critics suggest that films, lectures, books, and nature centers may offer superior learning benefits without the ethical costs of confining wildlife. Most important, critics charge that zoos may be presenting harmful information and values (Sommer). Seeing rare animals in captivity, for example, may give visitors an inaccurate impression of human abilities to combat extinction. In addition, witnessing listless creatures in sterile cages may diminish respect for animals or concern for conservation. Zoo advocates respond by describing the diversity of education programs and a growing commitment to educational progress (Chiszar et al.). Zoos attempt to teach casual visitors through signs, demonstrations, learning laboratories, and interactive computer technologies. Part of the revolution in exhibit design casino en ligne francais aims at enhancing learning by immersing visitors in natural environments. To extend their educational impact, zoos are developing curricula for primary and secondary students, holding workshops for teachers, visiting community centers, and organizing public lecture series. Michael Robinson (1989) promotes such changes as part of an educational revolution committed to teaching visitors about the interactions between wild animals, plants, and humans. Zoo proponents believe that, in our urbanized society, the zoo may be the only institution capable of demonstrating these vital links to the public. Education, in fact, may offer zoos their best hope of effecting long-term, large-scale benefits (Kellert and Dunlap). If zoo educators could demonstrate positive program impacts, they could defuse criticisms and justify program expansion. Zoos should embark on a coordinated program of systematic educational evaluation and implement their findings through innovative programs dedicated to further progress. Given the wide popularity of zoos, it is doubtful that the ethical debate will result in their abolition. If zoos can learn how to teach the public scientific information and humane and conservation values, animal advocates, zoo proponents, and wildlife will all benefit.
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