False Science Activities Teachers’ Notes. Background



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False Science Activities Teachers’ Notes.

Background

Eugenicist campaigners for ‘Mental Deficiency Legislation’ which included many scientists, medical doctors and psychologists at the end of C19th and first half of C20th believed that people with learning disabilities were a threat to the population for several reasons:




  • They were seen as ineducable-with the introduction of compulsory state education (from around the 1870s) and the requirement from capitalism for a literate and numerate workforce.

  • They apparently lacked ‘common sense’, which limited their usefulness in maintaining Empire and competitive complex societies.

  • Intelligence was thought to be contained on one gene, such as hair and eye colour and so those carrying the weak gene of mental deficiency would, if allowed to procreate, weaken the gene pool and so limit the success of the country.

  • Mental capacity was believed to be fixed and could not be enhanced very much by education and so could only be eradicated by the setting up of separate sex segregated colonies /hospitals; sterilisation; or as eventually under the Nazis in Germany - extermination.

  • Once ‘mental deficiency’ was identified by a number of culturally biased and subjectively applied tests from a burgeoning science, other categories were added such as the morally defective.

  • Vagrants, long term unemployed, those living in poverty, the sexually promiscuous, criminals and petty thieves, prostitutes and immigrants were all gathered up and classified under mental deficiency legislation.

These were the social and moral prejudices and beliefs which largely reflected the morality and social position of the elite in society, but were not scientifically proven. But many scientists feeling sure such differences existed and were provable set about proving these assertions. So rather than setting out to prove what they thought was wrong by rigorous methods, they did the opposite. They made a number of fundamental errors because they wanted so much to prove what they thought was right.






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