This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
How teachers need some knowledge of feeble-mindedness is well brought out in the first chapter of Dr. Goddard's book, which tells "The Story of Deborah."
One bright October day, fourteen years ago, there came to the Training School at Vineland, a little eight-year-old girl. She had been born in an almshouse. ... On the plea that the child did not get along well at school and might possibly be feeble-minded, she gained admission to the Training School. . . . Deborah's teachers have worked with her faithfully and carefully. . . . The consensus of opinion of those who have known her for the last fourteen years in the Institution is as follows:
"She is cheerful, inclined to be quarrelsome, very active and restless, very affectionate, willing, and tries; is quick and excitable, fairly goodtempered. Learns a new occupation quickly, but requires a half hour or twenty-four repetitions to learn four lines. Retains well what she has once learned. Needs close supervision. Is bold towards strangers, kind towards animals. Can run an electric sewing-machine, cook, and do practically everything about the house. Has no noticeable defect. She is quick and observing, has a good memory, writes fairly, does excellent work in wood-carving and kindergarten, is excellent in imitation. Is a poor reader and poor at numbers. Does fine basketry and gardening. Spelling is poor; music is excellent; sewing excellent; excellent in entertainment work. Very fond of children and good in helping care for them. Has a good sense of order and cleanliness. Is sometimes very stubborn and obstinate. Is not always truthful and has been known to steal, although does not have a reputation for this. Is proud of her clothes. Likes pretty dresses and likes to help in other cottages, even to temporarily taking charge of a group."
For example, she can set a table and wait on it very nicely. She can put the right number of plates at the head of the table, if she knows the people who are to sit there, but at a table with precisely the same number of strangers, she fails in making the correct count. At a recent test made before a prominent scientist, the question was asked, "How many are 12 less 3?" She thought for a moment, looked around the room and finally answered, "Nine." "Correct," said her questioner. "Do you know how I did it?" she asked, delighted at her success. "I counted on my fingers."
By the Binet Scale this girl showed, in April, 1910, the mentality of a nine-year-old child with two points over. . . . This is a typical illustration of the mentality of a high-grade feeble-minded person, the moron, the delinquent, the kind of girl or woman that fills our reformatories. They are wayward, they get into all sorts of trouble, sexually and otherwise, and yet we have been accustomed to account for their defects on the basis of viciousness, environment, or ignorance.
It is also the history of the same type of girl in the public school. Rather good-looking, bright in appearance, with many attractive ways, the teacher clings to the hope, indeed insists, that such a girl will come out all right. Our work with Deborah convinces us that such hopes are delusions.
Here is a child who has been most carefully guarded. She has been persistently trained since she was eight years old, and yet nothing has been accomplished in the direction of higher intelligence or general education. To-day if this young woman were to leave the Institution, she would at once become prey to the designs of evil men or evil women and would lead a life that would be vicious, immoral, and criminal, though because of her mentality she herself would not be responsible. . . . How do we account for this kind of individual? The answer is in a word, "Heredity," - bad stock. We must recognize that the human family shows varying stocks or strains that are as marked and that breed as true as anything in plant or animal life. - The Kallikak Family, pp. 1, 7-12.
Just as it has been recently learned that the moron represents a higher type of mentality than the idiot, so also we may learn that there is a higher type of defective mentality than that of the moron. Here is the testimony of a college teacher, and it can be duplicated by every teacher who has been long in a college or normal school:
Fair-haired, blue-eyed, child-faced, he came to our college three years ago. He failed to pass in his English composition; the head of the department rescinded his entrance credit and sent him back to the preparatory school. Here he worked for a year and was perfunctorily passed, as he had been in the high school. Again he attempted his freshman English, coming this time to me. His themes were impossible; they were the work of a child. Meantime, although constantly making conditions in other courses, he had been permitted to remain in the college on probation until he now regarded himself as a junior. Everyone had evaded the responsibility of telling him he was incapable of doing college work. . . . His parents were thick-witted farm people who had put all their money and their hope into making their boy that which they could never be. . . . It fell to my lot to tell him he had failed. He looked at me in silence for a full minute and then blazed out in such a fury of wrath and impotence as I should have thought could never move his mild soul; and slamming my office door, he flung himself downstairs and out. . . . He had wasted three good years in absolutely fruitless effort; he had been tacitly encouraged in dreams of a power and influence that could never be his, and by those three years he had been just so far unfitted for anything which he could possibly do. - The Western Teacher, November, 1912, Helen Ogden Mahin.
Here the regular schools, from college down to kindergarten, have an important function to perform. It is in the schools that the defectives can best be discovered and measures begun for their proper care. The "Deborah" of the Kallikak family had learned only a few letters by attending the public schools up to her eighth year. This backwardness led to her being sent to the school for the feeble-minded at Vineland, N. J. From the study of her case in this school came the study of the entire family and the writing of the book from which the long selections on the preceding pages have been taken. Some knowledge of the various types of defectives is part of the professional equipment of a school principal, though the final decision of a case should be made by a specialist. The development of industrial education during the past five years has put many systems of schools in position to give a large proportion of the defective children the kind of education needed by each. Manual training, gymnastics, and various systems of tests, physical and mental, with the truant officer and the probation officer to supplement the work of the teacher, now give much greater certainty to the diagnosis of suspicious cases.
Diagnosis of mental status should be made by a clinical psychologist.
... He should be the one to take the responsibility for all the activities which lead to the segregation of the child. For such a position a well-trained psychologist is necessary. He must be as well trained for it as the chief medical inspector must be for his field. . . .
Needless to say a physical examination should be given to make sure that the child does not suffer from physical disabilities. For this purpose an examination by a physician must be made. ... - Mitchell, Schools and Classes for Exceptional Children, pp. 92-94.
I knew a girl who never passed in any grade in school. She simply could not learn, and only finished the graded school because the teachers promoted her when she was old enough and there was nothing more that she could get. In many of the studies she never made 75. After leaving school she learned the millinery business. In that she has made a success and has developed into a first-rate woman besides.
The school delinquent and the court delinquent are frequently the same person. The boy who is absent from school runs a great risk of being the boy who is charged with some offense, the result of misguided energy. . . . Give us then, as a truant officer, the man or woman who is a student of sociology, of psychology, of pedagogy, of hygiene, and of those factors which lead to a broader knowledge of men. Give us constructive agents. . . . - Educational Review, Vol. 43, pp. 81, 84, J. L. Fieser, "The Attendance Officer as an Interpreter of Social Forces."
The old policy of attempting to give all children the same education, at the same rate of speed, is at least twenty years behind the most advanced school policy actually in operation in our own country. Twenty years ago, Boston established special classes for backward children. Their number grows each year. They are no longer an experiment. An investigation made in 1913 showed that at least ninety cities in the United States had established such classes. That number has greatly increased in the last five years. Wisconsin has now some fifteen such classes, ten of these being in Milwaukee, and will probably open fifteen more next September. Definite plans for six of these fifteen are already made, and the children for the others already selected.
It seems fair to say that no one thing looms more important for the efficiency of an entire school system than the segregation and intelligent handling of backward and defective children. - Wisconsin State Department of Education, Educational News Bulletin, May 1, 1918, Elizabeth Woods.
In dealing with defective or peculiar persons of any kind it is well to remember Cooley's dictum: "Real reform must be sympathetic."
A group of six girls fifteen or sixteen years of age met to do fancy work. One of them stole silk from the others. Another discovered it and won the culprit's confidence before the others knew about it. Then all arranged to have her do work for them to earn money with which to buy supplies for her own work.
The selection from Dr. Goddard's book on pages 173 and 174 tells how Deborah's teacher "clings to the hope, indeed insists, that such a girl will come out all right." This must necessarily be the attitude of the teacher. The pupil will put forth his best effort only when he believes in himself, and he can hardly do this unless he sees that the teacher believes in him also. In the face-to-face work with a pupil the teacher must be an optimist; he must believe in free will; he must assume that all things are possible to him who tries. Sometimes it is proper to admit, as Dr. Goddard does with Deborah, "that such hopes are delusions"; there is a place for belief in determinism and heredity; but that attitude must ordinarily be kept out of sight in the presence of the pupil; the teacher who cannot do that should be taken out.
I once gave a talk to our students on the Kallikak family, and was followed by another teacher with a talk on the Edwards family. I kept closely to the facts as set forth in Goddard's book, but the other teacher - he was our institute conductor - closed with an eloquent portrayal of the success that comes to determined effort. He won the applause.
It was fitting that he should; the view he presented is the wholesome one for most students and young teachers to take; it is better for them to wait until they become principals and superintendents before they respond heartily to the other view, and by that time they will prefer to express their approval in other ways than by the clapping of hands. But every teacher should know that there is such a thing as inborn mental deficiency, and should be ready to cooperate with the specialists employed by public authority to discover and segregate the cases of it.