Stuttering: A Short History of a Curious Disorder

By Marcel E. Wingate | Go to book overview
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The orientation of the Iowa school, as with its originator, continues to be more rhetorical and forensic than scientific. In an analogue from a more recent time, Freeman's criticism of cultural determinism, interestingly, can be applied verbatim to the thrust of the Iowa school: "An ideology that, in an actively unscientific way, sought totally to exclude biology from the explanation of human behavior" ( 1983: p. 282).

Freeman's quotation appeared earlier in this book (Chapter 6). The paragraph following that quotation contained five points reflecting the actual historical value of Margaret Mead's report. Inasmuch as those points have similar import in regard to the writings of Wendell Johnson and those of his legatees as well, they bear here.

First, Johnson's writings, as did Mead's, afford an outstanding example of the proselyting potential of doctrine and the distorting power of doctrinal conviction. Second, they point up the circumstantial potency of the Zeitgeist, the "tide in the affairs of men," the accepting--if not eagerly adulating-- atmosphere of the times. Third, even people who ought to know better will help a myth along. Fourth myths quickly acquire juggernaut momentum and easily crush isolated instances of reason or contradiction. Fifth, once a myth has been accepted, much time and effort must be expended to rescind it, particularly when it has been cloistered in an attitude that is impervious to contradictory evidence, rational criticism, and logical analysis.

Some of Johnson's followers, and perhaps some others speaking as apologists, have made the point that his view stimulated a considerable amount of research. This claim overlooks the fact that such research was mounted in regard to a cause Johnson initiated and pursued. The research has not represented inquiry that extends from a foundation of careful observation and objective, unbiased exploration. The bulk of this research has been undertaken to demonstrate, not to investigate; and it continues to be pursued in this vein. 35 Research conducted under such constraints encourages confounding, not understanding.

One must also take note of how the management of stuttering has been influenced. In substantial measure the management of stuttering from this position has continued on the treadmill set in motion by Johnson's view. Unfortunately this condition is most explicit in respect to children -- and their parents -- as is alarmingly represented in the recent flurry of "prevention" assertions, all of which are founded in a melange of presumption, inconsistency, contradiction, and questionable motivation.


NOTES
1.
Tiffany, well known in the field of audiology, received his doctorate at Iowa in 1951.

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