MINDS MADE FEEBLE: The Myth and Legacy of the Kallikaks by J. David Smith

MINDS MADE FEEBLE: The Myth and Legacy of the Kallikaks

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After Allan Chase's The Legacy of Malthus and Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, is there anything more to be said against the eugenicists? or for the unfortunate Kallikaks? The answer is yes, thanks to psychologist Smith's dogged investigation--prompted, he acknowledges, by Gould's disclosure that Kallikak photos in Henry Goddard's 1912 opus were retouched. Smith has reviewed the literature surrounding publication of The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness. Moreover, he has discovered who the Kallikaks really were. (Goddard's pseudonym, meaning beautiful-bad, was coined to protect the good side of the family: the lawful heirs of the Revolutionary War soldier who were prosperous professionals. Goddard never knew the name of the descendants of the illegitimate line, presumably rife with defectives.) Smith does not disclose the name in the book--to protect all members of the family--but presents sufficient clues for conviction (and, one suspects, to lead others to the discovery). But the book's real strength lies in Smith's quiet assurance as he unfolds the records of conversations and notes from the Vineland, N.J., school which, with its companion institution across the street, was to be Deborah Kallikak's home for 81 years: it was there she was banished at age 8, upon her mother's marriage to a man who wanted no part of the offspring of earlier liaisons. Deborah became Goddard's inspiration--the experiment in nature to prove his hypothesis. The kicker is that Deborah, as she emerges from Smith's research, was a real charmer, a beauty who could draw, play the cornet, make furniture, and take care of the director's children: in short, possessed of the classic womanly skills. As Smith traces the living descendants of Deborah's side of the family, additional correctives appear. He also goes on to track Goddard's contribution to the WW I alpha and beta intelligence tests, as well as the Ellis Island infamies. (Goddard's trained staff could tell at a glance who among the new arrivals warranted testing as potential defectives. These tests then showed that Jews, Italians, and other non-Nordics generally tested at the ""moron"" level--a word Goddard coined.) The immigration exclusion acts, the Nazi laws, the US state sterilization laws are reviewed as latter-day evils attributable to the (more benign) likes of Goddard. A valuable study, well presented.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1985
Publisher: Aspen Systems