Juvenile Delinquency

December 9, 2009 at 12:54 am (Uncategorized)

When I started working at the Juvenile Diagnostic Center in 1971, I noticed a bronze plaque on the wall of the administration building.  It was the profile of a distinguished-looking gentleman in bas relief.  The name on the plaque was “Dr. Henry H. Goddard.”

As I later learned, Dr. Goddard had been the head of the Ohio Bureau of Juvenile Research, the predecessor of JDC, many years earlier.  He also was a professor of psychology at The Ohio State University and, before that, director of the department of research at Vineland Training School (for Feeble-Minded Boys and Girls) in New Jersey.  He had risen to prominence as a result of his research on mental retardation.  Not only did he coin the term “moron,” but he advocated the segregation of feeble-minded people in colonies where they would be discouraged from reproducing (he actually supported forced sterilization, but realized that would be a hard sell).

One of Goddard’s best known books was The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindness. Although it was widely distributed and used to support arguments for eugenics or selective breeding, even he was forced to admit that his methodology was deeply flawed.  Goddard was so convinced that his theory was correct that he made certain the data supported it.

The testing protocol that Goddard implemented at Ellis Island led to the deportation of large numbers of immigrants, particularly Jews, Hungarians, Italians, and Russians on the basis that they were “feeble-minded.”  He believed that his testing proved some races were clearly inferior to others.  Goddard’s work was also a factor in the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924.

Remembered today as the Father of Intelligence Testing in the United States, Goddard was the first to translate the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scales into English.  However, where Binet never claimed that his test measured unchangeable qualities, Goddard argued that it did, in fact, accurately assess a person’s inherent ability.  Furthermore, he believed feeble-mindedness could be traced to a single recessive gene.

But what do you expect from the guy who coached the first University of Southern California football team?  That’s right, young Henry Herbert Goddard coached the USC Trojans. [I’ll omit the obvious joke, here.]  As the late Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know . . . the rest of the story.”

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