为了孩子发展,一些中国家长已开始求助基因测试

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    In Shenzhen, even kindergartners have homework. You can see it in the workbook-laden backpacks weighing them down as they waddle through the school gates at 8 a.m. and back out again at 5 p.m. Many are not headed home yet. There are dance classes, piano lessons, English tutors, kung-fu sessions to get to. After classes, after dinner, it is time to tackle that homework. They are lucky to get to bed by 10.

    深圳小朋友压力很大。在深圳,甚至幼儿园小朋友都要每天写作业。每天早上八点,你可以在校门口看到小朋友们背着沉甸甸的书包来上学,下午5点又背着满满的书包回去。然而放学后,好多小朋友还不能回家,他们还有舞蹈,钢琴,英语,武术等很多课外课程要上。等上完课,吃完晚饭,才能开始做作业。如果能在10点之前上床睡觉,就很幸运了。

    Fears of seeing their children fall behind their peers have left Chinese parents searching for anything to give them a leg up.

    中国家长害怕看到自己的孩子落后于同龄人,恐惧之下,他们开始寻找各种能帮孩子变聪明的方法。

    Some are now turning to genetic testing companies that claim they can find children’s hidden talents within their DNA. There isn’t much scientific basis to the tests, but judging from the number of clinics sprouting up in cities like Shenzhen, it appears that “talent testing” is one reason for China’s fast-growing genetics industry.

    现在,有的家长已经开始向基因测试公司寻求帮助。这些公司声称,他们可以在孩子们的DNA中找到还未被开发的天赋。然而,这些测试并没有太多科学支撑。不过,从他们在深圳等城市的发展速度来看,中国基因产业的快速发展似乎可以归功于这类“天赋检测”公司的快速发展。

    I visited the office of China Bioengineering Technology Group (also called CBT Gene) on the 14th floor of a high-rise in Shenzhen’s Nanshan startup district. It is half is half medical clinic, half high-end spa. Glittering gold wallpaper covers the walls. Elegantly dressed sales agents share the space with serious-looking medical staff in white smocks. Besides genetic testing, the clinic offers everything from plastic surgery to a variety of traditional Chinese medicine treatments.

    我参观了深圳南山创业园区的中国生物工程科技集团有限公司(简称为中生科技),它可以说是半个医疗诊所,半个高端水疗中心。墙上贴着闪闪发光的金色壁纸,办公室里坐着穿着考究的销售人员和严肃的医务人员。除了基因检测外,该诊所还提供从整形手术到各种中医治疗的服务。

    The day I visited, an agent produced a thick book listing over 200 indicators the clinic will test a child for. They include potential hereditary conditions; musical, mathematical, and reading abilities; physical talents; attributes like shyness, introversion, extroversion, and memory.

    我去参观的那天,销售给我看了一本厚厚的书,书中列出了该诊所给孩子进行测试时的200多个指标。这些指标包括遗传性疾病潜在风险; 音乐,数学和阅读能力; 身体素质; 记忆力;胆怯,内向和外向等性格属性。

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    A genetic test sold in China claims to assess a child’s mathematical abilities.

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    在中国的消费型基因测试声称可以评估孩子的数学能力

    “We get around a hundred or two hundred parents testing each week,” the agent said. A complete genome sequence costs around $4,500, while a full battery of tests for hereditary conditions and talents is around $2,500. The simplest test, which looks at just 10 talent indicators, costs as little as $160.

    “每周都会有100到200名父母来我们这儿参加测试,”销售人员表示。测试完整的基因组序列需要花费4,500美元,而遗传情况和才能的全面测试需花费2,500美元。最简单的测试只包含10个才能指标,仅花费160美元。

    “Most parents choose the full test so they can better understand their children,” the agent told me.

    “大多数父母选择全面测试,以便他们能更好地了解他们的孩子,”他告诉我。

    The genetic samples, gathered with a swab to the inside of the child’s cheek, are delivered to the company’s lab in Hong Kong for sequencing and then sent back to Shenzhen for analysis by the company.

    家长只需在孩子口腔内部用棉签轻轻擦拭,就能得到用来测试的基因样本,之后,公司会把这些样本送到设在香港的实验室进行测序,最后拿回深圳来分析。

    Interest in DNA testing for children is growing in Shenzhen partly thanks to educators the industry has connected with. One big proponent is Chen Tiecheng, a principal of Xuefa Middle School, a short drive away from the clinic. He is pushing what he calls “happiness education,” based on finding and following the innate talents within each child.

    深圳人对基因测试的兴趣这么浓,主要是因为教育工作者的宣传。其中一位有力支持者就是深圳学府中学现任校长陈铁成。陈校长正在倡导“幸福教育”,而“幸福教育”的基础就是每个孩子都要知道自己的天赋所在,扬长避短。

    “There’s a saying in China: ‘Don’t let your child lose at the starting line,’” Chen said during a meeting in his office at the school.

    “在中国有一种说法:‘不要让你的孩子输在起跑线上’,”陈校长在学校的一次会议上说道。

    Chen has been giving public lectures on the value of allowing children to pursue their talents instead of pushing them through rigorous rote learning, if that does not fit their personality. His ideas include a heavy reliance on genetic talent tests, although even he admits that “the science might not be totally correct.”

    陈校长一直公开表示,孩子的发展要顺应天赋,不能用一刀切的的死记硬背逼孩子学习。 在他的主张里,发现天赋的过程要建立在基因检测的结果上,尽管他也承认“测试结果可能并不完全正确”。

    “In the past you might dig a well and not find water, but now we have remote satellite technology that can tell you where the water is,” Chen says. “Genetic testing is a little like this—a way to more accurately find talent.”

    “在过去,你费老大劲儿挖一口井可能还是找不到水,但现在,远程卫星技术可以告诉你哪里有水,”Chen说。“基因检测和这个原理类似,能更准确地找到天赋。”

    In fact, there’s relatively little basis for assessing a kid’s “mathematical talent” on the basis of DNA, as reports from CBT Gene do. Nor did China invent this scientifically dubious industry. In the US, companies such as Orig3n offer “child development” tests for genes lined to language, math, and perfect pitch.

    事实上,根据中生科技的报告,基于DNA评估孩子的“数学天赋”并没有科学的理论支撑。当然,这类公司也不仅是中国才有。比如,美国的Orig3n公司为儿童提供有关语言,数学和完美音调基因的“儿童发展”测试。

    “Currently most of these kinds of genetic talent tests lack enough scientific evidence,” says Chen Gang, cofounder and CEO of WeGene, a company formed four years ago in Shenzhen that specializes in ancestry analysis. “We still cannot explain the complicated relationship between the genome and a lot of traits—for example, like IQ, music, and sports abilities.”

    “目前,大多数基因测试仍缺乏足够的科学证据,”WeGene的联合创始人兼首席执行官陈钢表示。WeGene四年前在深圳成立,专门从事族谱分析。“我们仍然无法解释基因组与许多特征——例如智商,音乐和运动能力——之间复杂的关系。”

    Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is expanding so rapidly in China that Chen Gang fears talent testing could hurt the reputation of the industry. “These services do not represent the mainstream of China’s testing market,” he says.

    直接面向消费者的基因检测行业在中国正迅速膨胀,陈钢担心天赋检测可能会损害该行业的声誉。“这些服务并不能代表中国基因检测市场的主流方向。”他说。

    WeGene’s CEO, however, is not ready to say talent tests will always be a sideline. He got his own son’s genome sequenced and is in the habit of seeing what the latest discoveries say about the youngster.

    当然,WeGene的首席执行官并不是说天赋检测永远不会成为主流。事实上,他已经带自己的儿子做了基因检测,并时刻期待看到最新的关于年轻人的发现。

    “When my wife and I read some literature on genomics and traits, we check it against our child’s genome, but that is just out of curiosity, we don’t ask our boy the change his interests according to his genome,” he says. “Currently, I don’t think it is a good idea to promote this kind of talent testing to the public, but I believe due to the rapid development of genomic techniques and AI-based data analysis methods we will have a better understanding of ‘talent’ in the near future.”

    “当我和我太太读到一些关于基因组学和特征的文献时,我们也会看一下这是不是和我儿子的情况相符。不过这只是出于好奇,我们不要求儿子根据基因组去改变他的兴趣,”他说。“目前,我不认为向公众推广这种天赋检测是件好事,但我相信在不久的未来,基因组技术和基于人工智能的数据分析方法的快速发展,我们将更好地理解’天赋’这个词“。

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