Thursday, February 18, 2010

DNA tests for talent

My last post got a good discussion going on talent. I personally believe, as you know, that talent is important. Some of you think that other things like hard work overshadow it. Like I said, hard work IS important. You can't get anywhere without it, but you can't get anywhere good without talent either. People in China seem to agree. They've taken it to an all new level!

In China, they believe talent is pretty important, so important that some are testing early--very early! DNA testing is now being done on kids ranging from 3 - 12 in a new trial program. "Nowadays, competition in the world is about who has the most talent," said director Zhao Mingyou. "We can give Chinese children an effective, scientific plan at an early age." A saliva swab collects 10,000 cells and can isolate 11 different genes. "For basketball, we can test for height and other factors," said Dr. Huang Xinhua, a leading scientist on the project. "We also test listening ability so that can tell us if (the child) might be talented at music."

"It's better to develop her talents earlier rather than later," Chen Zhongyan said of her four-year-old daughter, who is attending the genetics camp. "Now we can find when she is young, and raise her based on what her natural gifts are."

"China is different from Western countries," said Yang Yangqing, the lab's technical director. "There is only one child in our families so more and more parents focus on their children's education and they want to give them the best education."

The flip side of this, of course, is that a child can be pushed too hard into doing something and maybe they'll be pigeonholed. Maybe they'll miss their destiny! On the other hand, maybe they'll be fostered to become superstars.


Anonymous said...


Those kind of conclusions always make me very wary. Pushing one particular talent at such a young age can discourage all of the other gifts a kid might have. And it might stifle other kids from pursuing dreams just because they don't "have it" in elementary school. Really, who has anything in elementary school??

When it comes to art, the "class artists" are always determined in grade school by how accurately they can draw, not how much creativity or imagination they have. The rest of the kids stop drawing because, as they will say, they "can't". That attitude always makes me really sad, I know that there are so many other children who could be inspired to draw if they were just encouraged to develop their own style when they are young, regardless of talent.

Tests like those used in China should be used with caution. Should we tell a child he'll never be a talented writer/reader/thinker because he has a learning disability as a child? We would have lost many a genius in history that way.

Then again, if a child is begging to pursue a talent, they should OF COURSE be encouraged to be a superstar.

alexandra said...

I agree with you, Meghan. Talent matters. Hard work matters, too. However, the ingredient nobody mentioned in your last week's post goes beyond talent and hard work. It also goes beyond genectic planning and testing. What I am talking about is heart. My favorite writers, artists, athletes and musicians share one thing. They have heart. What I mean by heart is the amazing ability to tap in to the deepest part of yourself and work from that place. And heart cannot be tested in a tube. Heart cannot be maniuplulated with genetics. Heart cannot be controlled. If I have a child one day, I can only hope that he or she is graced with big, huge, enormous heart. Without heart, talent and hard work simply don't mean as much.

Christine Tripp said...

This is just really sad and honestly, knowing a little of Asian culture, I'm surprised the age range is UP to 13. It's too late by then from many accounts.
Do they also, in the study, mention the number of child suicides?
It's one thing to encourage your child's talent, it's another to put the demands and future of two adults on that child's abilities.

michelle said...

that's just-down right scary! What if you have a talent for writing, but you loathe writing? What if you love to paint, but you have no talent for it? I think talent can be about hard work, and we all work much harder at things we love...

Elaine Magliaro said...

This is scary! And a very narrow view of where one's talent issues from.

This story reminds me of Lois Lowry's book THE GIVER in which children are watched to see where their talents lie. Then their destinies/jobs in life are determined for them when they reach a certain age. They have no options.

Have these scientists isolated a single specific gene for each "talent?" Just because someone will be tall and/or have large hands it doesn't follow that he/she will be a good basketball player.

How about helping children to develop from a well-rounded educational approach? I have an only child. I would never have considered having my daughter tested in this way.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Honestly, there's one thing I wonder about all the time--what if my parents pushed me really hard in say tennis or basketball. When you hear about those successful, they started at a super early age and were pushed really hard. I showed talents of various degrees in a lot of things (I'm not bragging here - I also showed that I sucked at a lot too, like math)... so part of me wonders what I could have become. BUT I'm also the type who doesn't like to be told what to do, so being pushed too hard might have had the opposite effect. Also, even though I showed a talent for art very early on I was not pushed to do it at all... and I still ended up doing it. So in the end, maybe if it's in you to do it then you don't need to be pushed. Although, then again, if I didn't have an art teacher in high school who encouraged me to put together a portfolio then I would never have gone to art school. So maybe some pushing is needed.

And I agree that heart is also needed. With these crazy long hours and sometimes low pay you need it!

Regardless, what they're doing in China is a little crazy. Your path in life should not be chosen by someone else doing a genetic test! Although, they are also testing for genetic diseases, which can be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Sounds really quite Gattaca.

gael lynch said...

I love what Alexandra said...and in thinking about that, life's experiences spin the true potential for that really deep knowing of oneself. How can we have the capacity to experience or develop as artists without the wildly dynamic and changing range of possibilities that life has to offer? I'd hate to see humans pigeon-holed and then robbed of the richness of a more eclectic experience on this planet. I love looking back at my life now, and seeing that without the experience, there wouldn't have been half the stories (and the fun!).