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.”

 

 

 



To build better support systems for Kansas children and families, the Center for Public Partnerships & Research is helping the Kansas Children’s Cabinet & Trust Fund expand effective early-childhood programs and services across the state. The Blueprint for Early Childhood focuses on healthy development, strong families and early learning. Read more: http://bit.ly/1xl3jEy Tags: #KUcommunities #EarlyChildhood
“I can't endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine." -Nathaniel Hawthorne #exploreKU (insta: halopaige) http://t.co/GcI24tqZWz
Inside KU: Protein research, biodiesel fuel, and KU's Bioscience & Technology Business Center "Inside KU" takes a look at how the expanded Bioscience & Technology Business Center (http://bit.ly/1zzPvrw) brings a number of beneficial services to small start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between. Also: A KU startup at the BTBC, KanPro, is producing proteins for research in medicine, biotechnology, and life sciences (See http://bit.ly/1DSY3s9). KU Innovation and Collaboration focuses on turning the university’s research into industry (See http://bit.ly/ZTOKZF). The "Feedstock to Tailpipe Initiative" grows algae to provide a sustainable source for biodiesel fuel (See http://bit.ly/1oPRovz). Undergraduate Research Awards allow students to explore their fields deeper (See http://bit.ly/KUcugr). **The Time Warner Cable Sports Network's "Inside KU" is hosted by Jeannie Hodes.**


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