Features of The Orphans of Davenport PDF
The Orphans of Davenport PDF-The fascinating—and eerily timely—tale of the forgotten Depression-era psychologists who launched the modern science of childhood development.
“Doomed from birth” was how psychologist Harold Skeels described two toddler girls at the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home in Davenport, Iowa, in 1934. Their IQ scores, added together, totaled just 81. Following prevailing eugenic beliefs of the times, Skeels and his colleague Marie Skodak assumed that the girls had inherited their parents’ low intelligence and were therefore unfit for adoption. The girls were sent to an institution for the “feebleminded” to be cared for by “moron” women. To Skeels and Skodak’s astonishment, under the women’s care, the children’s IQ scores became normal.-The Orphans of Davenport PDF
Now considered one of the most important scientific findings of the twentieth century, the discovery that environment shapes children’s intelligence was also one of the most fiercely contested—and its origin story has never been told. In The Orphans of Davenport, psychologist and esteemed historian Marilyn Brookwood chronicles how a band of young psychologists in 1930s Iowa shattered the nature-versus-nurture debate and overthrew long-accepted racist and classist views of childhood development.
Transporting readers to a rural Iowa devastated by dust storms and economic collapse, Brookwood reveals just how profoundly unlikely it was for this breakthrough to come from the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station. Funded by the University of Iowa and the Rockefeller Foundation, and modeled on America’s experimental agricultural stations, the Iowa Station was virtually unknown, a backwater compared to the renowned psychology faculties of Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton. Despite the challenges they faced, the Iowa psychologists replicated increased intelligence in thirteen more “retarded” children.
When Skeels published their incredible work, America’s leading psychologists—eugenicists all—attacked and condemned his conclusions. The loudest critic was Lewis M. Terman, who advocated for forced sterilization of low-intelligence women and whose own widely accepted IQ test was threatened by the Iowa research. Terman and his opponents insisted that intelligence was hereditary, and their prestige ensured that the research would be ignored for decades. Remarkably, it was not until the 1960s that a new generation of psychologists accepted environment’s role in intelligence and helped launch the modern field of developmental neuroscience..
Drawing on prodigious archival research, Brookwood reclaims the Iowa researchers as intrepid heroes and movingly recounts the stories of the orphans themselves, many of whom later credited the psychologists with giving them the opportunity to forge successful lives. A radiant story of the power and promise of science to better the lives of us all, The Orphans of Davenport unearths an essential history at a moment when race science is dangerously resurgent.-The Orphans of Davenport PDF
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After serving as a counselor and psychologist helping adolescents, Marilyn Brookwood entered Harvard’s Mind, Brain, and Education program to study the emerging science of early and adolescent brain development. There, she explored the downstream impacts of social, intellectual, and economic environments on the developing brain. At that time she also came upon a little-known history of Great Depression-era orphans who suffered intelligence declines while living in a destitute, unstimulating, and emotionally barren Iowa institution. When they were provided with persistent stimulation and affectionate care the children regained their intelligence. The discovery that environment influences intelligence might have revolutionized psychology but instead, it was spurned by the field’s eugenicist leaders, most of whom held classist and racist views. A brutal attack against Iowa’s research led to decades of disdain for the Iowa psychologists’ discoveries. Even after recent neuroscientific confirmation of Iowa’s landmark work, society continues to shortchange its disadvantaged children. The Iowa story, Brookwood recognized, had to be told.
Dimensions and Characteristics of The Orphans of Davenport PDF
- Identification Number : B08L6WR5DN
- Publisher : Liveright (July 27, 2021)
- Publication date : July 27, 2021
- Language : English
- File size : 28317 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 352 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Book Name : The Orphans of Davenport PDF
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If your answer was not “100% genetic”, it might be difficult to imagine a time when almost all professionals, including psychologists, believed that intelligence was static throughout one’s lifetime and was completely hereditary. That is the setting of Marilyn Brookwood’s new book, The Orphans of Davenport: Eugenics, the Great Depression, and the War over Children’s Intelligence. It recounts the story of the four Iowa psychologists who discovered that children’s intelligence can change dramatically due to environmental factors. However, these men and women were not believed by some of the most powerful people in the field at the time, so their names were besmirched and their research buried for years until other psychologists were willing to put aside their biases and listen to the truth.
A short history lesson may help with the context here. In the wake of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, some scientists quickly began to misguidedly apply Darwin’s theory to social questions. In other words, “survival of the fittest” began to describe not only how nature works but how social groups have gained power in history and in society. For example, some began to explain the white Europeans had become powerful on the global scale because they were “the fittest”: more intelligent than other racial or ethnic groups. This idea is often referred to as Social Darwinism. I could go into a historical analysis that debunks this idea, but most likely if you are reading this you would reject Social Darwinism out of hand.
Social Darwinism then led to the philosophy of eugenics, the belief that, since some people are born more “fit” than others, societies should encourage the breeding of “good stock”: those with “good” characteristics should be encouraged to have children and those with “bad” characteristics (“inferior races”, the poor, criminals, etc.) should be prevented from having children. Sometimes this prevention took the form of forced sterilizations in women who were deemed to have “bad genes”. Yes, this happened in America, and it was much more recent than we want to believe.
Many famous psychologists of the era were eugenicists. Francis Galton (cousin of Charles Darwin and a psychologist who pioneered psychometrics, fingerprinting, and much more), Charles Spearman (also a pioneer in intelligence research), and Lewis Terman (creator of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales and a major player in The Orphans of Davenport) were all eugenicists. The eugenics movement was the dominant force in intelligence research in the 1920s, and that is where the Iowa psychologists began to change the field forever (at least eventually).
The Orphans of Davenport gives immense detail to the story of how four psychologists in Iowa turned the assumptions of eugenicists on their heads. Harold Skeels, Marie Skodak, George Stoddard, and Beth Wellman conducted experiments on children from orphanages who came from terrible backgrounds. Yes, that sounds unethical, but the “experiments” consisted of testing the children’s intelligence after they were placed in more loving, stable environments. The psychologists saw the children’s extremely low IQ scores increase significantly in a very short time period, bringing Lewis Terman’s popular theory of IQ constancy into question.
The story within The Orphans of Davenport is as inspiring as it is insightful. Terman becomes the major villain in the narrative, as does the entire system that is willing to listen to the powerful few in the face of immense evidence that their theories are at least incomplete if not wrong. I do have questions about the accuracy of the intelligence testing at the time (I still have questions about it today, honestly, as I do our ability to define intelligence at all but that’s a topic for another day). The intelligence tests themselves are almost assumed to be accurate representations, and I’m just not sure about that. However, that does not diminish the power and importance of the story here. The Orphans of Davenport is written so that you don’t need a background in psychology or intelligence testing to understand the narrative. It is accessible, poignant, and important.
As questions abound on what gives a life worth, our society must come to terms with the eugenics movement and why it was morally wrong. It is not enough to say that such things are evil, because we may fall into them again in a different form. Knowing that someone’s intelligence is not determined by genetics is one way to counter the idea that one’s worth is not based on one’s birth. The Orphans of Davenport is a fascinating book to begin to learn about intelligence, child development, and the wonders of the human mind.
I received a review copy of The Orphans of Davenport courtesy of Liveright Publishing and NetGalley, but my opinions are my own.”
Haidt: The Righteous Mind
This was one of our best recent book club choices. It was well written, clear and thought provoking. The main point of the book to me was to demonstrate that morality has a social purpose, as the foundation on which social capital is constructed. What matters is that people share the same moral values, not whether those values are “right or wrong”. It has changed my thinking, and I have bought copies for friends of mine to see if it can also change theirs.
The book is divided into sections:
• Section 1: Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second
The central metaphor is that the mind is like a rider on an elephant, whose job is to serve the elephant without much control of where the elephant is going. Traditionally Western philosophy separated the body and the mind, with the mind being the “ghost in the machine”, but according to Haidt the two are intimately connected. In fact morality is rooted in emotion and not in reason. We act first (the elephant moves), and justify our actions later (the rider).
• Section 2: There’s more to morality than harm and fairness
The central metaphor is like a tongue with six taste receptors. Morality has evolved to bind social groups together. Haidt identifies 6 different moral foundations, each of which has a role to play in addressing specific human behaviours:
Care/Harm: evolved for the protection and care of vulnerable offspring
Fairness/Cheating: evolved to encourage sharing and punish cheating
Loyalty/Betrayal: evolved to bind people together in social groups and to punish defectors
Authority/Subversion: evolved to bind people within a hierarchical social structure within the group
Sanctity/Degradation: evolved to protect health by avoiding unsafe foods and encouraging hygienic practises
Liberty/Oppression: evolved to balance the personal freedom and group loyalty
• Section 3: Morality binds and blinds
The central metaphor we are 90 percent bee and 10 percent chimp. We naturally tend to aggregate into large social groups bound by shared morals. In this context religion should not be seen as a parasitic meme, but as a social tool that binds people together into a cohesive and effective unit. Further, our political inclinations are a function of our individual sensitivities to each of the 6 moral foundations. Socialists are primarily driven by Care/Harm considerations for “social justice” and equality of outcomes. Conservatives are more concerned with maintaining social capital in an imperfect world where people cheat and exploit the system. Neither has a monopoly on righteousness, and each has their place in maintaining a balanced society.
I thought that this was an excellent book, grounded in science, which succeeds in its main argument that morality is an evolutionary adaptation whose purpose is to behind social groups together. I also very much enjoyed the description of how the field of moral psychology has developed over time. I have only a few points to discuss:
1. Religion as a meme
Haidt argues that the new Atheists are wrong in characterising Religion as a pernicious meme, and that instead it has a social purpose in binding people together into a cohesive whole. I think he overstates his case, and that his argument is not incompatible with that of the new atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens etc). Although the set of religions as a whole may well have a social purpose (religion has spontaneously evolved too often for it not to have some use), each individual religion can also be regarded as a meme that exploits humanity’s social needs to propagate itself. Thus when Haidt states that religions change over time to fit the needs of a changing society, the New Atheists would argue that the meme mutates and evolves with its host to ensure its continued propagation. It is merely a question of perspective.
2. Moral foundations of political views
Although, the conclusion of Haidt’s discussion of the moral foundations for Conservative and Liberal viewpoints is a refreshing call for tolerance, I thought that this was the weakest part of the book. His claim that political beliefs can be traced back to differing sensitivities to the 6 moral foundations mentioned above was justified by social surveys in which people were asked their political orientation and then asked to answer moral questionnaires. Conservatives and Liberals were then found to have different reactions to questions that targeted particular moral foundations. Correlation is not necessarily causation I thought that some of the graphs showed relatively weak relationships. In order for Haidt to be right the questions must be formulated so that the subject interprets them in the way intended, and that each question must target the intended moral foundation correctly. There is significant room for error and ambiguity there. His results seemed strong enough to draw general but not specific conclusions from.
3. I have an old friend whose politics are different from mine (he is a lifelong Socialist), so I bought him a copy of the book in the hope that it would provide some perspective and allow us to better understand each other’s viewpoints. As I handed it over he took one look and said “Not bloody Haidt, I hated that book.” We continue to avoid discussing politics. I am pessimistic that Haidt’s call for political toleration will be heeded.
I thought that this was a terrific book, and one of the best we have read in a while.”
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