Contact

Karen Henry
Life Span Institute
785-864-0756

Professor’s book refutes basis of classic psychology text

Thu, 04/11/2013

LAWRENCE — In 1912 eugenicist and psychologist Henry Herbert Goddard published his highly influential book, "The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness." While the book is now seen as pseudoscience, Goddard’s chronicle of a family with two hereditary lines, one presented as a cavalcade of outstanding citizens and the other rife with criminals and the “feeble-minded,” still resonates in culture, policy and science. In fact, the immutability of the inheritance of intelligence was an article of faith for much of the 20th century.

Michael WehmeyerNow, 100 years later, KU professor of special education Michael Wehmeyer and co-author J. David Smith have brought together evidence that disputes the very basis of Goddard’s book, that a degenerate line descended from the progenitor Revolutionary War soldier’s dalliance with a barmaid in "Good Blood, Bad Blood: Science, Nature, and the Myth of the Kallikaks."

Wehmeyer, director of the KU Center on Developmental Disabilities and associate director of Beach Center on Disability, will discuss his book at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 11, at Jayhawk Ink in the Kansas Memorial Union.

The pseudonymous Kallikak family so named by Goddard from the Greek Kallos (beauty) and Kakos (bad) was actually the Wolverton family, a fact discovered by a genealogist in the 1980s. With this genealogy, institutional records and interviews with Wolverton descendants, as well as other sources, the authors concluded that there was no “bad blood” at all.

“These were just poor people who lived in rural areas of New Jersey who were then cast into the quagmire of industrializing America at the turn of the 20th century,” said Wehmeyer.

Emma Wolverton, an inmate at VIneland State Training School.Goddard used the case of a young woman he called Deborah Kallikak (Emma Wolverton), who was an inmate at his Vineland State Training School, to justify his argument for the segregation and even sterilization of people deemed intellectually inferior.

Whether Emma even had an intellectual disability is up for debate, said Wehmeyer. She could read and write and became the nanny for the institution superintendent’s children. She died at age 89, incarcerated for 81 of those years.

“It was time to tell this woman’s story to reclaim some of her dignity as a person,” said Wehmeyer.  “The point of this book is that society makes decisions, it isn’t just scientists. How society responds to, takes in, and what it does with that information matters. We need to be careful who gets to make the final decision.”

 

 

 



Jan. 22, 2015, was a historic day on the Hill: President Barack Obama visited the University of Kansas campus (http://bit.ly/POTUSatKU), the first sitting president to do so in a century. More than 7,000 people — including many students and faculty who had spent hours in line to get tickets for the event — packed inside KU’s Anschutz Sports Pavilion to hear the president speak. Welcomed by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little with “Barack Chalk, Jayhawk!” Obama told the gathering “I’m a Kansas guy,” because his mother was from Wichita and grandparents were from Augusta and El Dorado. In his 35-minute talk, the president discussed themes (see official White House transcript http://1.usa.gov/1yMWJqy) from his 2015 State of the Union address, including his goal to lower the cost of attending college.
Do you think KU excels at innovation & economic development? Help us get an important @APLU _News designation: http://t.co/O8iSGG64tY
KU welcomes President Obama Jan. 22, 2015, was a historic day on the Hill: President Barack Obama visited the University of Kansas campus (http://bit.ly/POTUSatKU), the first sitting president to do so in a century. More than 7,000 people — including many students and faculty who had spent hours in line to get tickets for the event — packed inside KU’s Anschutz Sports Pavilion to hear the president speak. Welcomed by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little with “Barack Chalk, Jayhawk!” Obama told the gathering “I’m a Kansas guy,” because his mother was from Wichita and grandparents were from Augusta and El Dorado. In his 35-minute talk, the president discussed themes (see official White House transcript http://1.usa.gov/1yMWJqy) from his 2015 State of the Union address, including his goal to lower the cost of attending college.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times