IF THERE exists a Mental Ladder that separates animal forms in terms of their abilities to think, remember, feel, solve problems, and the like, might there not be like separations to be found within species? Indeed, might not the individual members of a species be separable in terms of their mental capacities? If such distinctions can be made reliably, might they not be correlated with some other factors, especially genetic ones, for, after all, are not such capacities determined or at least limited by genes?
Just as Itard set out to test theories of the intellect current during his times with Victor and Singh to worry about the education of the soul during his times, so Witmer's Psychological Clinic was testing a nascent theory to be found at the turn of this century in the United States-- namely, that U.S.-style democracy, when appropriately arranged and applied, was capable of giving each human being the degree and kind of education suitable to that child's talent and ability. It was an audacious and a daring idea, for it argued tacitly that the effect of genetic variation was unrelated to class. Or, to press the point, that class status was unrelated to ability. Witmer did not develop the intellectual and political ramifications of this view, at least not in the journal he founded and edited, The Psychological Clinic. By his actions, however, he did demonstrate his view that mental ability could be measured in such a way that each human being could be offered an educational process that utilized her or his abilities, regardless of the wealth and social background of the parents. Hear Witmer make the point:
"One does not expect figs to grow from thistles, and the slum child seems naturally destined by the force of heredity to grow into an inefficient adult. There are many reasons, however, for repudiating this belief in the potency of heredity. The different races of men are not separated from one another as are the fig tree and the thistle. The different social classes of the white races constitute more nearly a single human family. Modern research, such as the parliamentary investigation into the physical deterioration of the English people, indicates that the degeneracy which
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Publication information: Book title: Feral Children and Clever Animals:Reflections on Human Nature. Contributors: Douglas Keith Candland - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 227.
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