GATTACA Questions and Teacher Guide


1)      Compare the genetic traits of Vincent and Anton.

2)      What does the character “German” do for a living?

3)      What is an “in-valid”?

4)      List 3 ways that the society portrayed in the movie routinely “reads” a person’s genetic profile.

5)      What two major surgeries did Vincent have to enhance his genetic “imperfections?”

6)      List three things Vincent did on a daily basis to maintain his “Jerome” identity.

7)      Who is murdered in this film?  Why?

8)      What evidence pointed towards an “in-valid” as the murderer?

9)      Describe the different attitudes Vincent and Irene have toward their imperfections.

10)  What ultimately happened to Anton?  Why?

11)  If Anton was genetically superior to Vincent, why was their ultimate fate so different?

12)  What is the relationship between Vincent and his brother?  How is it ultimately resolved?

13)  What is the significance of the word “Gattaca”?


Students could also be asked to read the article “Gene Readers” from the Nov. 1998 Popular Science Magazine and discuss the following: Describe the gene reading chips and how they work.  There are a multitude of current periodical resources that could be used for enrichment by the students.  Rather than list too many examples here, I encourage teachers to utilize the most relevant and up-to-date information.


Students will then be taken to the computer lab to interact with the GATTACA website to do the “Design a Baby” simulation described below.

In order to complete this activity, you will have to work with a partner to simulate a couple interested in having a child.  Your partner does not necessarily have to be of the opposite sex, but you must keep in mind that all decisions made in this activity must be agreed upon by both individuals in the “couple.”  As you work, keep a log of the places where you had differences of opinion and how you were able to resolve them.  Some of the issues faced in this activity ask for some very personal information and opinions about potentially sensitive information.  If students feel uncomfortable with any of the questions, they may choose to omit them.


Begin by logging on to the GATTACA website:


Click on “Design a Child,” where you are faced with the “Big Question”… “Do you wish to tamper with nature in anyway, or would you rather leave your offspring to chance?” Choose from either “YES, I want to design my own child” or “NO, I want to role the genetic dice.”  Follow the instructions given.  Remember all decisions must be made mutually by both members of the “couple.”  Keep a log of all your choices along the way and note any interesting discussions.


Students will be asked for a genetic history of each parent, including questions about their physical makeup, IQ, athletic ability and sexual orientation.  They will then be given a long checklist of inheritable diseases and asked if they are present in their family history.  Students should be encouraged to answer honestly and to the best of their ability.  Students are then asked about the presence of other inherited traits that occur in their family history including things like obesity, baldness, learning disorders, addictive susceptibilities, personality traits, intelligence and longevity.


Along the way students are asked if they would like to clone a child from one of the parents.  This should also be a point of discussion for the members of the “couple.”  Students should delve into the ethical issues and dilemmas associated with cloning.  Also, along the way, students are asked if they want to reconsider their choices, which should also spearhead discussion between the members of the “couple.”


If the students elect to genetically engineer their child, they will eventually be given three genetic engineering options: 1) clone, 2) disease free child (which allows them to eradicate all inheritable diseases but not other undesirable traits, or 3) health and enhancement (which allows them to eliminate inheritable diseases and select desired traits including gender, physical characteristics, intelligence, physical prowess, musical/math/artistic ability and sexual orientation).


As the “couples” become more daring with their options, they are told along the way that undesirable traits can be eliminated for a “modest investment.”  This also brings up another important ethical issue: how much are you willing to pay for these services.  Should they be available to everyone?  How much would students be willing to pay?  Encourage them to address these issues in their log. Again, students should be reminded that all decisions must be a consensus between both “parents.”


For students that choose not to roll the genetic dice, they will also fill out genetic profiles and are given a list of traits (good and bad) that the child could potentially inherit.


Another activity associated with the GATTACA website is the Gen-ethics Discussion page.  Students are asked to vote their opinions on three separate genetics issues and then able to see how they fare compared to others on each of these issues.  They are then linked to a discussion site for each question.  The questions include:


Topic 1: Your two-month-old baby is about to be taken off of life support. You and your partner can no longer bear children.  Would you clone the child if it were an option?


Topic 2: Do you consider rejecting an 8-cell embryo to be an abortion?


Topic 3: You are an employer and know from genetic testing that the most qualified applicant for the job has a 70% chance of developing multiple sclerosis in one years time.  Would you hire this person?


Students can log their votes and compare their perspectives with others.  Students should be given time to research their particular stance for each of these questions and come prepared to participate in classroom debate.  Tackling these ethical questions is an excellent opportunity to give students the details of a decision making model to approach these difficult issues.  Students are encouraged to use a four step approach to making decisions: 1) Gather information – collect resources on both sides of the issue; 2) Consider Values – students should try to factor in as many values that could be potentially impacted in each issue, including economic and moral values; 3) Explore Consequences – students should develop a chart that defines the short term positive and negative consequences as well as the long term positive and negative consequences; 4) Make a Decision – this decision making model is one that they can use to tackle a variety of ethical dilemmas.