MagazineMay 2009Children Tested for Genetic Ability

Children Tested for Genetic Ability

Illustration by Wade Mickley

77% No

There is no justification for genetic testing to determine something as trivial as athletic ability. Where would it stop—genetic testing for academic abilities or social abilities? Let children grow and develop naturally and determine what sports (if any) they want for themselves.
—Joe McAlister, Greer, S.C.

Genetics is only a small part of athletic ability—and other human attributes. Environment, education, and desire often outweigh genetics. Frequently genetics is used as a cop out for why someone cannot succeed at a given task. I put my money behind desire, motivation, and environment for what makes us what we are.
—Mark Wenger, Williamsburg, Va.

As a parent and teacher, I can say that the single largest factor to human success in all aspects of life is unconditional positive regard. When we treat our children lovingly, no matter what, they excel. Genetically testing children for athletic traits could have disastrous consequences on the child and their long-term health and self-esteem. Even considering the possibility of genetically testing kids for sports shows that we are not well developed enough as a species to use technology wisely.
—Jason Collier, Crozet, Va.

Athletes are not born—they are made. Undeniably some people have more talent than others, but the core of athletics is about pushing one’s boundaries and reaching for something greater. It has nothing to do with talent. It has everything to do with heart. If we begin genetically testing children for athletic abilities, we will destroy the essence of sport, which is supposed to be fun and personally fulfilling—an arena of play. It’s healthy for children to try many different sports, learn a variety of skills, and discover for themselves which ones they enjoy—which may not necessarily be the sport in which they are most genetically  proficient. Why should people—especially children—only do what they’re good at?
—B.J., Asheville, N.C.

23% Yes

These tests are painless and relatively inexpensive, around $150. They just require swabbing the inside of a child’s cheek to collect some DNA. I think the tests could be useful tools for guiding parents as children start to develop. As kids get older and try to decide which sports they want to play, parents can give them the right direction. I can easily see how this knowledge could lead to parents being overbearing. I’m not advocating that parents take this information and push their child to train for the Olympics, but if used properly, it could end up being a tool for positive reinforcement toward the right activities.
—Mary Saunders, Wilmington, N.C.

We now use genetic testing to check for predisposition to certain diseases. Why not use it to look for things we should pursue as well as prevent? If these tests are actually reliable, I believe they could be very helpful. Still, I am not sure that they actually work. We’ll have to wait for an athlete of tomorrow to succeed and get their parents to come forward and admit they were tested. If such proof surfaces, these tests will become very popular.
—J.J. Harmon, Gaithersburg, Md.

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