What comparisons can be drawn between Ender's Game and Gattaca?   What would be a good essay style question to set a senior level high school student for these texts?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One distinct comparison between both works is the presence of a social order predicated upon division.  In Ender's world, conflict against the Buggers defines all aspects of being in the world.  War and conflict represent the means of social configuration.  Stratification is evident based on one's prowess in warfare and the more one embraces the war mentality, the greater the chance for social advancement.  Speaking out against the war is unheard, and social positioning is rooted in how effective the individual is immersed in a war mentality. In Gattaca, the social stratification is rooted in eugenics and genetic modification.  Those who are "invalid" or naturally born are seen as inferior to those who have been prescreened in a genetic enhancement process.  In both settings, one's position in society is rooted in how much one emulates structures of power.  Difference is viewed as a weakness in both social settings where social advancement is rooted in how much one replicates the dominant order.

Another comparison between both is the protagonist in each seeks to articulate their individuality in a world that does not value it.  Social advancement in both settings is rooted in conformity to a larger entity.  Yet, both works depict protagonists who are fundamentally different than the world around them. Ender realizes he is different.  He is a "Third" in a world where there are only two children.  Graff recognizes Ender's differences and seeks to appropriate these for the purposes of war against the Buggers:

We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them. So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine.

This compassion is evident when Ender recognizes his actions and seeks to atone for his own role in the machinery of death against the Buggers. Ender's difference is what defines him.  His individuality and distinct traits form the trajectory of his characterization as the narrative progresses.  

Vincent is an agent of difference in Gattaca.  He seeks to follow his own vision and not accept the limitations of the world around him.  It is in this regard that he is different.  He understands that he must appear as a Valid in order to be eligible for the mission that he knows is a part of his destiny.  His will and his sense of drive are unique elements to a world that preaches adherence to the social configuration and conformity to it.  While Vincent has to pretend to be something he is not, he clearly understands that his individuality is a threat to himself and the social order around him.  It is in this regard where he voices his individuality and sense of self in a world that does not validate such experiences.

In terms of essay questions, much will be dependent on what topic is to be explored.  For example, an essay question on science and technology could be to discuss the role of science and technology in the worlds of Ender's Game  and Gattaca. How is science and technology shown to be powerful in the hands of the few and denied to the many?  This type of question allows the Senior level to engage in critical thinking about a particular element in both works. Another question would be to discuss the role of ethics in both works.  What role does ethics from a social and individual point of view play in defining individual identity?  This question might be effective because it allows the student to creatively think about ethical approaches to the individual and society.

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