Sports Genetic Testing–Winning at what cost?

With recent hype escalating around a newly released sports genetic test that can determine a child’s athletic ability and, quite possibly, potential for college scholarship and professional athletic career, many parents are flocking to the source and asking, “How do I get my kid tested?”

Some experts say in these achievement-oriented, win-at-all-costs times, it is no wonder parents want to get their kids in line for the race. And it is no wonder that the marketers for the test are having a field day playing off the obsessions of parents.

But what of this race? What are the implications of letting a test decide what kind of athlete a person can be who is not old enough to understand what that means?

Laura and Malcolm Gauld say “detrimental.” Recognized as leading experts on character education and parenting, the Gaulds believe genetics are only a fraction of what defines a superior athlete or person and the mentality that believes otherwise is contributing to a trend that lures kids into a false sense of fulfillment.

Recent surveys indicate there is a cheating crisis in our schools, and the problem is not confined to low-achieving or unmotivated students. Cheating is common among most types of students–boys, girls, athletes, smart kids, student leaders, even those with “strong religious beliefs.” Why are so many students cheating? “Our culture has become preoccupied with achievement,” the Gaulds explain. “Pressure for grades, scores–to win parents’ approval and gain admission to colleges–leads many students to cheat. While many students are pushed to succeed by parents and a grade-based system that starts naming winners at an early age, students also feel pulled by a desire to get on a path to top colleges and high-paying job. Now genetics testing is being used to decide a child’s potential with absolutely no consideration for pure determination, effort, or character of any kind.” There are serious ramifications to ‚Äòwinning at any cost,’ according to Laura–including lack of character in students, and also the lack of self-esteem.

“Never kid a kid,” Malcolm says. “They will never misread our true expectations of them. They know we have created an educational system that values their aptitude more than their attitude, their ability more than their effort, and their talent more than their character. They are surrounded by signs that tell them that what they can do is more important than who they are.”

Unfortunately, an environment that values only achievement can make it extremely easy for genetics tests, test scores and awards to lure good kids into a false sense of fulfillment. This is not the genuine self-esteem that is earned from the learning process–which includes mistakes and some hardship–and it can leave kids feeling empty.

“In a character culture, achievement is valued, but principles are valued more,” says Laura. “That is, what you stand for is more important than merely how you stack up against others.”

In addition to this pressure for external achievements, Malcolm Gauld identifies another debilitating grip on today’s kids, which is the result of a prevalent mindset in our homes, schools, and culture, that asserts that kids need to feel good about themselves all of the time.

“Applied to education, this mindset seems to say, ‚ÄòIf we make kids feel good about themselves, they will do great things,'” explains Malcolm. “But, in fact, it’s the other way around. When kids do well, and do it honestly, they will feel good about themselves. ”

“Character is inspired, not imparted,” Malcolm continues. “We cannot pour it into our kids or our families. Self-esteem–real, authentic self-esteem–is essential, and once earned, it can never be taken away. Our children should graduate from schools with a healthy amount of it. Given that, why would any parent let a test decide a child’s future?”