About the Event
Join AAIDD's Director of Publications, Lisa O'Hearn as she interviews J. David Smith and Michael Wehmeyer, authors of Good Blood, Bad Blood: Science, Nature, and the Myth of the Kallikaks.
About the Authors
J. David Smith, EdD, is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His professional experience includes work as a special education teacher, school counselor, Licensed Professional Counselor, professor, department chair, dean, and provost. The author of nearly 100 articles and 14 books, Dave is a regular contributor to the literature on special education, human services, and public policy in scholarly and professional journals.
Michael L. Wehmeyer, PhD, is Professor of Special Education; Director, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities; and Senior Scientist, Beach Center on Disability, all at the University of Kansas. He has published more than 25 books and 250 scholarly articles and book chapters on topics related to special education, understanding intellectual disability, eugenics, and self-determination.
At the vortex of the American eugenics tragedy was the seemingly sordid tale of a “degenerate” family from rural New Jersey. Published in 1912, The Kallikak Family was a pseudoscientific treatise describing generations of illiterate, poor, and purportedly immoral Kallikak family members who were chronically unemployed, “feebleminded,” criminal, and, in general, perceived as threats to “racial hygiene.” Psychologist Henry Herbert Goddard invented the pseudonym “Kallikak”—from the Greek words Kallos (beauty) and Kakos (bad)—to illustrate the eugenic belief in the role of nature and heredity as unalterable forces leading to degeneracy.The starting point for Goddard’s moral tale was “Deborah Kallikak,” an inmate at The Vineland Training School, his institution for the feeble minded.
Incredibly, as revealed in detail for the first time in Good Blood, Bad Blood: Science, Nature, and the Myth of the Kallikaks, Goddard had it all wrong. No degenerate line descended from the purported Kallikak progenitor. There were only people—some of whom had resources and access to education, others of whom were poor, uneducated, and cast into the cauldron that was urban America at the dawn of the Industrial Age. The pseudonymous “Deborah Kallikak” became the poster child for societal fears regarding immigration, heredity, and racial integration, the flames of which were fanned by a select group of scientists marching under the banner of the new “science” of eugenics.