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Genomics Education

For as long as the concept of race has existed, racial prejudice has been justified on hereditary grounds (12). Justifications of prejudice often misappropriate the work of Mendel, who first expounded a scientific model of inheritance by breeding peas (3). Today, our understanding of inheritance has moved far beyond Mendel, and insights from genomics refute the prejudiced idea that racial inequality is determined by genes (1). Even so, many believe that inequality is genetic because they are biased by an inaccurate conception of race called “genetic essentialism” (124). We present data from a randomized trial to argue that if teachers move genetics instruction beyond Mendel and toward more complex genomics concepts—what we call “humane genomics education”—they can protect students from believing in unscientific notions of genetic essentialism and support their scientifically accurate understanding of race as a social construction.

Genetic essentialism is a form of psychological essentialism, which is an early-developing bias in humans (4). Psychological essentialism is observable across human cultures and refers...