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When Smarty was in her bioengineering camp last week, one of the topics discussed throughout the week was bio-ethics. Students also watched Gattaca, a sci-fi movie made more than 20 years ago. At first, Smarty was really upset about being "forced" to watch a movie (she does not like fiction movies). She was also expressing her discomfort with what the main character did to penetrate the world of elite genetically engineered humans. As she put it, "My conscience retches at the thought of pretending to be someone you are not." However, as the week progressed, she got pulled into the story line and asked to re-watch the movie on the weekend together (we both liked this movie when it came out and have it on Blu-Ray).
In the not-so-distant future of this movie, parents can choose to engineer their babies - it sounds like basic removal of genetic diseases comes at no cost, and "add-ons", such as musical or mathematical ability can be added at an extra cost. The main character, Vincent, is a "faith child" and therefore discriminated against on the basis of his imperfect genetic profile. To fulfill his dream of going to space, he takes on an identity of a "perfect human" Jerome played by Jude Law (it was his first role) who struggled under the "burden of perfection" to the point of attempting suicide and becoming paralyzed. The scheme works perfectly... until there is a murder at the training facility and the main character is under suspicion. It all works out well, mostly because several people act honorably helping Vincent achieve his dream.
What fascinated Smarty in this movie is the realization that the world based on genetic engineering might end up flawed, denying people their dreams. Up to the point of watching this movie, she thought that human genetic engineering is an awesome idea. Now she is not so sure, especially after watching an alternate ending on Blu-Ray which profiled many famous people who had genetic conditions and might not have been born in the world of Gattaca. This movie also brought some good discussions about what the burden of perfection means and how to react when everyone expects great things from you.
For me, the movie also brought back my thoughts on IQ testing and how today we attempt to sort children based on a biased and imperfect method. Then we expect great things from individuals who test high, often withdrawing any additional support, because "they will be OK anyway". This is one reason why we never had a formal IQ test for Smarty (even though she was identified as gifted through a group COGaT test administered in school in second grade). To me IQ is just a number and not a destiny. As Gattaca movie says, "There is no gene for human spirit." Often, there is no accounting for creativity, persistence, discipline, and motivation when we talk about the future of our children, just an expectation of high performance based on IQ number and also sometimes sense of entitlement - that everyone has to create special conditions for a person of high IQ despite an amount of effort he or she puts in. Don't get me wrong - I believe firmly that highly capable children should be supported, but I think that it makes more sense to identify them through their actual academic/athletic/creative/musical performance against their peers than simply based on the results of an IQ test.
Have you watched Gattaca and how did you like it?