How Will Genetic Profiling Affect School Funding?  Is this the New Phrenology?



This week, genetic researchers announced that they had discovered the genetic basis of intelligence.  Word is that certain genes cause those regions of the brain that confer intelligence to grow larger in some people than in others. 


Such research may go a long way toward resolving school decades-old debates in state courts and legislatures regarding whether we should equalize the amounts spent per student in poorer school districts with that spent in more affluent districts. 


Presently, most would rather not subsidize poor districts.  They assume that kids from richer districts score better on standardized tests than do poor kids because rich kids are genetically smarter.  Therefore, it is more efficient to spend money on rich kids because they will contribute more to society.


A tenacious minority  supports equalizing educational expenditures. This minority may be divided into two sub-groups.   The first sub-group also focuses on efficiency.  They assert that we should invest in students in poorer districts because the standardized tests that we currently use to measure academic potential  are culturally biased and that low scores misleadingly  indicate low ability.  Poorer districts have  many strong, understimulated  minds.


The remaining sub-fraction of the minority supports subsidies to poor districts because they believe that the universal perception of self-worth is more likely to promote happiness than  is high achievement by a few.   In this vein, Garrison Keillor once told a theater audience that “The fundamental basis of harmonious human relations is for every person to believe they are slightly smarter than the people they are surrounded by.  Now, you may be sitting there thinking, ‘I could write better stuff than Keillor.’ And you may be right....but, then again, I didn’t pay to sit and listen to you.”  


Genetic phrenologists  can now advocate using technology to lay to rest  this socially beneficial uncertainty.   Now that we know intelligence’s genetic basis, we can take cheek scrapings from all five year olds to determine who has academic potential and who doesn’t.   Intelligence  will be as clear as the bar code on a cracker box.


Kids with the right genes will be placed in well-funded schools. The kids who don’t stack up genetically can be placed in schools that are less well-funded.  It won’t really matter what we spend per student.   Inferior students will  know where  they stand and  respond accordingly.


Of course, grouping kids by genetic ability may entail some busing.  It may also cause some parental changes of heart regarding equalization, particularly  on the part of those whose kids don’t measure up.  


But there will no more need for public debate; only the tiny segment of the minority that values equality more than efficiency will be left to advocate for equalization.  When scientists can evaluate people so accurately, society needn’t consider cultural bias or affirmative action.  Instead, cocktail party talk can focus on avant garde art, finding a substitute for a political system predicated on the belief that all people were created equal or maybe what can be done with all those inferiorized kids who are unhappily and violently dragging society down.


What a wonderful world our big science will have delivered.




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