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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Passing the Tests

In the early 20th century, the great minds set themselves around to studying eugenics... which comes from a Greek word meaning "Good-born" in its literal form. Many made fascinating discoveries, some of which have helped, but many hurt... while we now have Planned Parenthood and the mainstreaming of the disabled, we also had people using these studies to allow for murder and neglect. The most disturbing scene to me, in the "Eugenic Photoplay" the Black Stork is not our syphillictic infant growing into a menace, and murdering the doctor who saved him, which was the nightmare of our "hero" the "good" doctor... and why he was allowed to die of neglect... it was the neglected newborn giving himself to a spectral image of Jesus. (It taught the lesson: If you allow the disabled to live, you are being cruel.) It was meant to be rather sweet, but ended up being not only cheesy, but just a little terrifying.

Photo From the frontispiece of The Kallikak Family:A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness-Henry Herbert Goddard (1913)

One of the great marvels set up a long running human experiment, using an 8 year old child who came to him without the capability to read or write and came from a family known to be "One of those families"... many deformities, one particularly lovely woman with all the signs of FAS, a boy sitting on a woodpile, who would likely be called Down Syndromed today, captioned :This boy is an imbecile.
This 8 year old girl grew to be a lovely young woman, and where she might not be mathematically inclined, showed a love for animals, music, could be mistaken for hospital staff, perform chores, take care of herself nicely, asked Santa yearly for something she could use to sew with, or to pay her dentist's bill, could do carpentry, was a capable seamstress. While the good doctor, one Dr. Henry Herbert Goddard, who in 1911, helped make it possible for disabled children to achieve education (So, not a complete arse.) But what he did was a fund a life long study of a child who had been born into a family presenting with numerous illnesses and character issues (the sins of the fathers---coincidentally, his common ancestor in the Kalikak studies were not father and son but two separate men, first cousins, presenting a 25% blood tie.) "Deborah" was actually a highly gifted girl who seemed to learn best using her hands, was very lovely, with a mess of dark hair, and from the diaries, quite a fighter. He had her classed as a "High grade moron"... in other words, had her family not been poor, had her mother not had some issues with men, had social services not directed her to this doctor and his home for the "hopeless" she could have passed the "Disability Paper Bag Test".
Many young men came forth to woo this lovely young lady, and were turned away, on account of the sins of her fathers, and the need for the good medical staff to maintain their pretty trained monkey. She died in 1974, in her late 80's.
Many have alleged that images in Goddard's book were tweaked on the side of the "bad" family... one particular image shows up... it looks like the children are poor, but freshly washed and neatly dressed... and while early 20th century photography is flawed, and controversy regarding whether or not some pen and ink was used to show some weakness on the "bad" side of the family... our heroine never receives this treatment.

For further information:
What The Butler Saw: Are You Feeble-Minded?
Four Bears Dot Com/ Kallikaks
Chapter 1 of Goddard's Treatise, from classics in psychology
Index, Goddard, Classics In Psychology

As a special bonus: Goddard regretted his behavior at the end. How nice.

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