Monday, June 22, 2009

How much of us is our genes?

In 7th grade in Israel, the kids spend the entire year researching their families. They interview them one-by-one, create family trees, and discuss traditions and recipes handed down from generation to generation. The grand finale is an evening in which everyone prepares a family recipe and brings it to the school and then listen to a whole lot of speeches about what our roots mean to us.

Some of the speeches annoyed me. I know that there's a girl in the 7th grade who was adopted shortly after birth and there could be others, so statements like, "If we don't know our past we will never know our future" just sounded wrong to me. Do adoptees feel that the parents who raised them had no impact on their lives? And how about kids born from sperm or egg donation? How do they feel when they hear things like this? And then we can go to an even simpler example - what about a child who grew up in a single parent home because one parent just walked out one day? (I can think of several readers of this blog who were in that situation.) Does the fact that a parent was far from perfect mean that they don't have a chance to be amazing people?

I realize that schools can't ignore the fact that most children have two pretty-much-OK biological parents, both of whom they have contact with on a regular basis, but is there some way to make everyone feel like they're OK even if they don't know exactly what their genetic heritage is? Thoughts?

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