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Fri Jun 1, 2012, 01:17 AM

 

Origin of the Word Moron: Eugenics, Racism and Henry H. Goddard

By Allen Butler
August 1, 2007


Henry H. Goddard

It is hard to go through a day without hearing the word "moron" used at one point or another. We probably use the term liberally ourselves. Moron is one of our favorite epithets used to describe those we consider stupid or foolish.

The modern popularity of the word moron belies its dark and somewhat disturbing origins, springing from the mind of American psychologist and eugenicist Henry H. Goddard. At the turn of the 20th century Goddard was one of the foremost American researchers in the study of "feeble-mindedness" and the introducer of the Binet system of intelligence testing to the English language.

In the 1910's Goddard became world-famous for his ideas about "feeble-mindedness" particularly his belief that it was a hereditary trait. His seminal work, The Kallikak Family, studying two strains of the same family (one strain considered normal, the other considered "defective" became an international bestseller and became extremely popular in Germany under the Nazi regime. He personally instituted a testing system at Ellis Island in order to keep these "feeble-minded" people out of the United State used to reject an estimated 80% of potential immigrants and forcing them to be deported back to their home country.

It was in the midst of Goddard's work on intelligence testing that he coined the word "moron." He created a classification system for those on the bottom end of the intelligence scale: people whose IQ was between 0-25 would be classified as idiots, people with an IQ between 25 and 50 would be imbeciles and those with an IQ between 50 and 75 would be classified as Goddard's own invention: morons. He derived the word from the ancient Greek moros meaning dull or foolish.

Goddard believed that morons and the feeble-minded in general were a threat to America, and believed that an America filled with the feeble-minded was unfit for democracy. Aside from his work limiting immigration of the so-called "feeble-minded" into the United States, Goddard hoped for a plan of sterilization of the retarded, believing this would ultimately remove mental defects from the American population. Realizing that such a view would not fly in the world of public opinion, however, Goddard advocated what he felt was a more benign option: the segregation of the feeble-minded into specially designed colonies. This of course never happened.

More: http://voices.yahoo.com/origin-word-moron-eugenics-racism-henry-474052.html

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Reply Origin of the Word Moron: Eugenics, Racism and Henry H. Goddard (Original post)
UnrepentantLiberal Jun 2012 OP
napoleon_in_rags Jun 2012 #1
libodem Jun 2012 #2
HiPointDem Jun 2012 #3
Confusious Jun 2012 #4
pansypoo53219 Jun 2012 #5
FSogol Jun 2012 #10
veganlush Jun 2012 #6
Odin2005 Jun 2012 #9
libodem Jun 2012 #12
no_hypocrisy Jun 2012 #7
Odin2005 Jun 2012 #8
UnrepentantLiberal Jun 2012 #11
libodem Jun 2012 #13
Odin2005 Jun 2012 #15
libodem Jun 2012 #17
jwirr Jun 2012 #18
BOG PERSON Jun 2012 #14
libodem Jun 2012 #16

Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 01:32 AM

1. Check out "mongoloid" too.

It used to be used to describe folks with Down Syndrome. The doctor believed that Down Syndrome folks had genes corrupted by Mongolian invaders, thus the different look of their faces. The history of medicine and mental health is full of these kinds of errors, its a good reminder to remain humble today.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 02:29 AM

2. I've taken care of the least amongst us

And they are precious. Even the words stupid, dumb and idiot are common but unkind. Developmentally, delayed or arrested, actually equates to 'retarded'. We refered to our clients in my building as severely and profoundly retarded. It was a diagnosis not an insult.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 02:36 AM

3. "specially-designed colonies" did happen, in the form of state asylums, etc. i'd also like to

 

note that the eugenics movement was the origin of standardized testing, and is with us today still.

that is, the impulse to divide humankind up into the worthy and unworthy, superior and inferior, and call this "science".

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #3)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 03:25 AM

4. Really? like the ACT or SAT?

Those are standardized tests.

Actually, standardized testing has been around a long long longer then you said. The Chinese started giving a standardized test for its civil service about thousand years ago.

I suppose we should let anyone become a doctor, or a surgeon, or an engineer.

It's not like they do anything important, or have responsibility for people's lives or anything.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 03:52 AM

5. and before that-cretin. and as people grab these words to insult people,

the language adapts. now retard is like something like the n word. sorry, no it isn't. it has evolved from it's original use because now, to call the mentally challenged a retard is not right. how long before we start using challenged for boneheaded stupid. like the tebags. better start thinking of a new term now.

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Response to pansypoo53219 (Reply #5)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 09:59 AM

10. I propose, "Freeper"

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 05:09 AM

6. actually the colonies did happen

The tea party

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Response to veganlush (Reply #6)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 09:45 AM

9. What a disgusting and insulting post.

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Response to veganlush (Reply #6)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 03:24 PM

12. Her her her

*Snork*

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 05:57 AM

7. His "work" was persuasive enough to allow scores of states to justify the *legal* and

involuntary sterilization of their citizens under the guise of prevention of "feeble-mindedness". It culminated in the Supreme Court case of Buck v Bell, a Virginia case where the Chief Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes explicitly opined "Three generations of imbeciles is enough". Thousands of people were submitted for surgery, not being told its purpose, married, and later couldn't understand why they couldn't start families. This practice continued into the Seventies.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 09:43 AM

8. There are people here on DU who still use "retard" as an insult.

I always alert that shit.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #8)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 10:01 AM

11. In any forum you post to there are going to be posters

 

with family members who have intellectual disabilities. I don't see how someone could post to discussion forums for any amount of time and not be aware of that.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #8)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 03:39 PM

13. Rarely

Rarely if ever. I defend the right to see any word in print. I have to rebel on the thought police.

Real life abuse of MR clients should cost you your job. Word fads come and go in and out of vogue. Meanings evolve to a common lexicon. You just saw a group of synonyms listed above for DD that are used for a description of a client's functional level. Cretin and imbecile being two. Retard seems polite by comparison.

I hope your alerts fail. I am sick of so much PC behavior around trigger words to censor. Blech.

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Response to libodem (Reply #13)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 08:15 PM

15. You do nit understand the stigma that word carries.

I have above average intelligence, but because I went to the "Retard Room" (special ed room) for study hall I was called a "retard".

I have no problem with "Mental Retardation" as a diagnostic label, but "retard" should never, EVER be said.

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #15)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 08:50 PM

17. It is cruel what. was said to you

I felt the same way as you being a smart, shy kid. I felt like a retard if somebody called me that. The word first came to our schoolground around '64 or '65 along with duh. All the kids said duh Ralph, for some reason. I'm sorry you endured bullying behavior towards yourself.

Retard made a big impact on the baby boomers. Our parents the WWII generation called out anything abnormal with disdain. They were not very PC. Our generation has tried to be nicer to people with obvious deficits.

Someday it may fall to the way side like idiot, imbecile, deaf and dumb, mute, stupid, ignoramus, slack jawed cretin, and all the other abusive words for lack of intellect.

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Response to libodem (Reply #13)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 09:15 PM

18. At the base of your statement that it is harmless is the MR client who can understand what you are

saying. By assuming it does not hurt them you are assuming they are all totally unable to think/understood what is being said about them. WRONG. I rode as an aide on a bus with 35 clients including my daughter. We had regular conversations on many subjects including who to vote for. Words do hurt. Politically correct is a rw concept - being kind is a Democratic concept.

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Response to UnrepentantLiberal (Original post)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 03:56 PM

14. does this mean we shouldn't call people idiots or imbeciles anymore either?

maybe a person's intelligence should just be off-limits, insult-wise.

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Response to BOG PERSON (Reply #14)

Fri Jun 1, 2012, 08:27 PM

16. Or looks

Or weight, I believe in saying what you mean and meaning what you day. Sometimes just saying things how you see them in plain language is a way to communicate clearly and simply.

I am tired of being so PC that we need to pretend ideas, people, and situations don't or never existed, because being reminded how people say, in Huck Finns era, had no self consciousness about calling black folks the n-word. Should we ban Tom Sawyer, from the libraries so no kids will ever know how ignorant and abusive society in America was, 100 years ago?

But the point of the thread is eugenics. I think judicious and thoughtfully considered use of sterilization for people with subgenetic endowment or something awful they could pass on could be done with counciling and consent. That way high functioning DD individuals are able to have a sex life if they choose to do so. It is their right as well.

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