At George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee, the doctoral training program for research psychologists in what was then called “mental deficiency” started in 1954, long before the 1979 merger of Peabody with Vanderbilt University. On May 21–22, 2004, the program held a 50th anniversary celebration and a reunion of its faculty and graduates. The program had been funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) for 49 of these years, and specifically by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD) after its initiation. The program is now the longest-standing training program funded by NICHD. By 2004, it had graduated 140 PhDs (Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, 2004). A 1987 NIH analysis of the Science Citation Index found that 19% of all citations of psychologists publishing on mental retardation were Peabody graduates or faculty members (Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, 2004). During the two days of the anniversary celebration, a number of presentations were given, including a briefer version of this article. This should not be considered an official history of the early Peabody program, but an attempt by one of its early students to reflect on the field after a remarkably long career in it that, as of 2007, was still in progress. One of the things other than my memory that helped me to reconstruct some of this history was that I still have my notebooks from many of the courses I took.
Graduate Training in Mental Retardation in the 1950s
As far as I know, there were no universities in 1954 that offered a doctorate explicitly focusing on mental deficiency in any professional field whatever. At that time, it was even hard to get a doctorate in special education in the US. In the 1953–1954 academic year, there were only 12 American universities that offered one other than in the area of speech impairment, and I do not believe that any of these 12 were explicitly focused on mental deficiency. A third of these 12 were at teachers' colleges. There were a total of only 130 part-time and full-time doctoral students in these 12 programs. The first full-time professorship of special education in Mississippi was appointed in 1965 (personal communication, James Mann [who filled that position], February 2007). By the 1982–1983 academic year, there were 59 special education doctoral programs with 1,300 doctoral students. (To ascertain the number of current doctoral programs in special education in the US proved to be more complicated and uncertain than expected. Apparently, there were at least 80 in Spring 2007.)
What there was in the mid-20th century were a few academic training programs to enable teachers to get certified to teach the mildly retarded; the Training School in Vineland, New Jersey, an institution for the mentally retarded, had also held summer sessions to train mental retardation teachers since 1905 (Kanner, 1964); in 1945, E. Arthur Whitney, (medical) superintendent of the Elwyn Institute (an institution for the mentally retarded near Philadelphia), offered a course on mental retardation at the institute to professional students of the Philadelphia area (Curry & Peppe, 1978). Here and there, there were a few brief training courses for nurses (e.g., Peppe & Sherman, 1978). And, for medical people, there was in the 1950s and early 1960s an intensive but short annual Graduate Course in Mental Deficiency given by George Jervis at the Letchworth Village institution for the mentally retarded in New York state that gave what amounted to an introductory orientation to mental retardation from the medical perspective. Other than that, I suspect that only at some of the above-mentioned 12 graduate programs in special education would one have been able to get a regular one-semester, graduate-level course in mental deficiency, and it most likely would have been a course on the education of mentally deficient children. Most professionals who acquired any teaching on mental retardation at all received a few hours of it as part of courses on abnormal psychology or “exceptional children.”
For years to come, medical students received next to no training on mental retardation, and much of what they received was usually factually outdated, and ideologically rooted in the social Darwinism and eugenics era. For instance, when I was director of research and training at the Plymouth State Home and Training School in Michigan in 1963–1964, the very eminent senior pediatrics professors of the nearby University of Michigan, who had written the pediatric texts of their era, still taught their students from the perspective of the eugenics era (e.g., to institutionalize children with Down's syndrome at birth), which of course had repercussions for decades.
Features of the Early Peabody Doctoral Training Program
When the Peabody mental deficiency doctoral program started, it was envisioned to have two full-time faculty members and 10 students called “fellows.” But by 1961, it already had the largest faculty devoted to mental retardation in the US, with seven full-time persons.
When I entered the program in the fall of 1957, there had been—I believe—14 students admitted ahead of me, and one of the first students, Rick (originally Franz) Heber, had just graduated. Entering at the same time as I were Martin Miller, Gail Bostelmann, Mary Mehl, and Dorothy Shipe, the latter three being the first women in the program.
Among the requirements for the doctoral students in psychology was that we take a prescribed curriculum of at least four courses in mental deficiency, as well as enough special education courses for a graduate minor; that we do a research dissertation in mental deficiency; and that we have a year's research internship experience off-campus under the supervision of one or more qualified specialists. As part of our special education minor, most of us had to take a fifth course in mental retardation dealing with education of the mildly retarded. Those of us who were interested in the clinical aspects of mental deficiency usually had already had training (and even experience) in testing, but on top of that, we were given a course devoted entirely to testing handicapped children, including profoundly and multiply impaired ones. This may have been the only full-length course of its kind in the world. Furthermore, we were required to take a large number of courses in statistics and experimental design, on top of those we already came with; few graduates of other doctoral psychology programs ended up with as much training in this topic as we did.
A requirement for any doctoral degree, not specific to this program, was that one had to pass examinations of knowledge in any two foreign languages sufficient to read publications in one's field, written in those languages.
It was some years before programs similar to the Peabody one, but rarely as demanding, were established elsewhere.
The graduate students in the mental retardation program were at that time among the financially best-supported graduate students in psychology in academia. Aside from free tuition, they received a very generous stipend without which many of them would not have been able to go to graduate school, particularly since many of them were relatively old, and some of them were married, with children. At barely 23, I was probably the youngest to enter the program, and a bit in awe of the students ahead of me.
The generous stipends enabled the program to be extremely selective from among its applicants, all of whom were highly intelligent individuals with strong records of accomplishments in whatever they had previously done, though a fair number of the early ones seemed to be of humble backgrounds (e.g., one had been a carpet salesman, one came off a cattle ranch, and two were immigrants). Nicholas Hobbs (the founder of the program, and later president of the American Psychological Association) believed strongly that the program should select students so as to have a wide variety of backgrounds, and so in other respects, we were very heterogeneous.
New students were admitted to the program on one of two tracks: a clinical or an experimental one, with Rue Cromwell supervising the students in the clinical branch and Gordon Cantor the ones in the experimental one. Because there were more students in the clinical track, Cantor ended up having to advise some of them as well, but I made a strong and successful argument to be assigned to Cromwell. Cromwell held frequent informal and very instructive non-credit evening seminars for his graduate advisees, sometimes continued yet more informally over a beer at a pub.
At least by the time that I entered, the program had instituted a mentorship which paired up each of the newly-entering graduate students with an already established one. I had the good fortune to be paired up with James Moss, who graduated in 1958 and behind the scenes had much influence later in getting the US Department of Education established. His friendship, guidance, and hospitality, and that of his wife Corky, were invaluable to me. Before entering the program, he had spent two years working at the Muscatatuck State School for the mentally deficient in southern Indiana, and helped me land a job there for two long summers in 1958 and 1959 as a staff psychologist, which was one of my most formative experiences with mentally retarded persons. Also, in 1959, I met my future wife there, whose mother was working at Muscatatuck, and whose grandmother had worked there some years before. By the way, I was visiting at the Moss' married students' primitive campus apartment on the evening of 4 October 1957 when the news broke that the Soviet Union had launched its Sputnik satellite, and we were all very much amused by the total confusion that this caused among television announcers.
Peabody also had an eminent doctoral program in special education, headed at that time by Lloyd Dunn, who in 1958–1959 was president of the Council for Exceptional Children. He was my secondary advisor. Its doctoral program in the education of the blind (starting up under Samuel Ashcroft about the time I arrived) was one of the first of its kind. The special education students were also highly selected, took many of the same courses we did, and we often studied together, so that we generally considered ourselves to be almost in the same boat. I found Dunn's courses to be among the most enjoyable, in part because of their clarity, and his good practical judgment. Dunn and Ashcroft both passed away in 2006.
By the way, it was in our advanced seminar on educational and social aspects of mental retardation, taught by Dunn in 1959, that he presented (perhaps for the first time) his conclusions that classes for the trainable mentally retarded had not been demonstrated to be effective, that the education of such children was thus not compatible with the goals of public education, and that the training of such children might just as well be taken over by health or welfare departments rather than the public schools. I am under the impression that he presented these ideas to us as a sort of rehearsal for a speech he gave soon after. He then reiterated these ideas in a more nuanced form in his 1963 textbook on Exceptional Children in the Schools, where he said that individual instruction of “trainable children” had been shown to be effective since Itard's work with the “Wild Boy of Aveyron” in the early 1800s, but that there was “little evidence” that group instruction of trainable children in special day classes “as presently constituted” was effective, and that such classes should only admit children with IQs above 35 or 40 (p. 155). He then presented these ideas again before the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children in 1967, and in his frequently-cited but usually misinterpreted 1968 article in Exceptional Children, “Special Education for the Mildly Retarded: Is Much of it Justifiable?”
Nicholas Hobbs—a courteous and soft-spoken but iron-fisted Southern gentleman—exercised what gave the probably false appearance of a somewhat distant or vague directorship of the program, and taught some of the advanced psychology courses that we took that did not deal specifically with mental retardation.
Major contributions to us students were also made by Professors Julius Seaman and William Rhodes who were in other psychology-related areas. Rhodes supervised some of our clinical psychology practicum experiences, which, however, might not include much contact with retarded children or youths.
In my first semester in 1957, all of us new fellows had to take the graduate introductory mental retardation course taught by Gordon Cantor. Among the notebooks I still have is the one from that course.
While I had one of the strongest clinical psychology backgrounds when I entered the program, I found some of the psychology courses very difficult because of my limited background in general and experimental psychology. Also, I had only been in the country for less than seven years and still found many things mysterious. After having finished most of my course work, it was arranged for me to spend a year of research internship and develop a dissertation with one of the foremost groups of doctoral-level psychology researchers in mental retardation in the US at that time (Leonard Blackman, Herman Spitz, Ron Lippman, and Belver Griffith), namely at the Johnstone Training and Research Center in Bordentown, NJ. This was a state institution for mildly and moderately retarded youths, as well as troubled youths who were not very bright. It was not until then that I had time to do some unpressured background reading that helped me greatly to consolidate my knowledge and understanding of psychology.
Because the Peabody program was relatively affluent, it could afford to give us many unusual opportunities. Among these were at least four.
1. Once a semester, the program brought in some of the most illustrious senior figures in our field for two days to give us (and other students) presentations and demonstrations. For instance, while I was in residence, Leo Kanner and George Jervis were thusly invited. Kanner, originally from Austria, was considered one of the world's leading child psychiatrists—indeed, the father of child psychiatry—and was also an expert in mental deficiency. He had written the first child psychiatry text (Kanner, 1935), this first edition now being very valuable on the antiquarian market. He also wrote what appears to have been the first book on the history of mental retardation published in America (Kanner, 1964). However, in our field, he is remembered mostly for the first delineation in English of an autism syndrome (Kanner, 1943). To us, he lectured on childhood psychopathology, including Heller's disease, infantile autism, and mutism.
George Jervis, originally from Italy, was one of the world's leading pediatrician specialists in mental deficiency. Virtually undocumented in the literature, and almost totally forgotten, is that he probably taught more physicians about mental deficiency than any other physician in North America, and more than they could learn anywhere else, namely at his aforementioned annual Letchworth Village Graduate Course in Mental Deficiency in the 1950s and early 1960s. He had done pioneering work on phenylketonuria (PKU) which—at that time—was one of the “glamour syndromes” of mental retardation, because it had become medically treatable. During his January 1958 visit, Jervis lectured to us about clinical syndromes. From my voluminous notes on his lectures and demonstrations, I recovered that he mentioned that phenylketonuria was sometimes called the “blond idiocy,” because it disproportionately occurred in people of Nordic heritage. We traveled with him to the Cloverbottom State Home and School in Donelson, just a few miles outside of Nashville, which was then the only state institution for the mentally retarded in Tennessee. There, a number of mentally retarded persons were led onto something like a stage, and apparently without prior knowledge of them, he explained to us their syndromes, and the characteristics of these syndromes. He had a habit of referring to all retarded persons regardless of age as “children” because, as he explained, he considered them eternal children. He, as well as Kanner, spoke English with a very distinct accent.
Such teachings had curious pay-offs. For instance, about 30 years later, I was with a group being shown around an institution when we passed by an unoccupied plastic-covered sofa. Having an unusually good olfactory sense, I thought that the sofa smelled peculiar. I subjected it to an exacting sniff test, and eventually announced that I thought that it had been used by a person with PKU. Taken aback, the tour leader said that this had in fact been the case some months earlier.
If I remember right, psychologist Harry Harlow was also one of the special guest speakers. Whether he was or was not, I did hear him speak several times on his research on monkey infant-rearing. This was very relevant to the issue of early deprivation, which was then in a second period of great interest. It was quite clear that he meant for people to generalize his findings to humans, while smirkingly claiming not to be making any such claims. I thought that this was not forthright, and wondered why people did not take this up with him.
2. The program paid our expenses to travel to some professional conferences, such as national and regional ones of the American Association on Mental Deficiency.
3. The program allowed and encouraged us to take paying summer jobs in our field without discontinuing our stipends. For instance, during my two long summers as a staff psychologist at Muscatatuck, I was allowed to draw a salary there while also receiving my monthly stipend. My experience at Muscatatuck bonded me to a commitment to mentally retarded people for the rest of my life, even though my interests upon entry into the Peabody program had been primarily in relatively traditional clinical psychology.
4. The program also paid fees to specialists outside the faculties of psychology and special education, and even outside the university, such as faculty members in medicine at Vanderbilt University, to give lectures or demonstrations for our advanced mental retardation seminars, especially those on biomedical aspects.
One sad thing is that a disproportionate number of the graduates of the program died relatively young. Daniel Ringelheim, one of the very early students in the program who graduated in 1958, was apparently the first one to die, namely in 1978 at only 50 years of age. Others were Earl Butterfield, Fred Girardeau, Rick Heber, Tom McConnell, and James Moss, all graduates of between 1957–1965 (there may have been others that I did not learn about). The demandingness of the program may also have played a role in several of the marriages of the early fellows foundering. Further, because so many students were older when they entered the program, and often took longer to complete their degree because of its demanding nature, some had relatively short careers.
The Training Considered Against the Background of the Mental Retardation Scene in the 1950s and 1960s
I will now elaborate a bit on what the conditions were like in mental retardation in the 1950s and 1960s, and sometimes later.
While the era of social Darwinism and eugenics was over by the 1950s, the sentiments and practices of that era were not dead yet. There were still professionals in mental retardation who loathed retarded people, and some who viewed them as subhuman, and members of another species. For instance, for about 20 years, Cyril Burt's The Subnormal Mind had been a popular text (I had read it as an undergraduate ca. 1954), and it referred to retarded children as monkeys and chimpanzees. Also, the phrase “subnormal mind” evoked associations to subhuman minds. Even into the late 1960s, there were literature references to “human vegetables” and “so-called human beings,” and electric cattle prods were being used on retarded people (see documentations on the subhuman role in Wolfensberger, 1972).
As late as 1973, a book (Wills, 1973) based on a 1970 dissertation of research conducted in 1966 identified certain retarded residents of an institution as lacking humanness even though they “have human bodies.” The author called these “non-cultural retardates.” Quite logically, he also posited a dichotomy rather than a continuity between cultural and non-cultural retardates; in other words, one either was or was not human. The publisher called this “an important breakthrough in the behavioral sciences.”
Relatedly, a great deal of psychological research of the 1950s was of a nature that implicitly or explicitly posed the question whether retarded people were like other humans in the way they perceived, reacted, responded, learned, developed, and so forth. Were retarded people merely slower than others, were they like other people except less of something in some areas and/or more in others? Were special laws of psychology needed to explain their mentation? For instance, some of the studies at Peabody still probed the question whether the retarded learned in accord with the general laws of learning applicable to “normals.” Very revealing of the lingering of the social Darwinistic mentality was that psychologists generally were strongly convinced that the laws of learning inferred from studies with rats, pigeons and other animals applied to humans, but felt quite uncertain whether they applied to retarded people.
Questions on how retarded people differed from non-retarded ones overlap with those asked by so-called deficit theory, but nowadays, at least people familiar with mental retardation recognize that the retarded population is heterogeneous. Many post-modernists even pretend that there is no deficit in mental retardation at all, and that retarded people only differ from others in needing more “support,” usually meaning very expensive services.
Aside from all the above, the 1950s and 1960s were times of extremely low expectations and poor conditions for retarded people. Many mental retardation institutions in the 1950s employed hardly any professionals, including no registered nurses, and the more fortunate ones maybe had one or two. Even institutions with as many as 2000 residents might have no more than one psychologist, and that one possibly with no more than a master's degree, but 22% had no psychologists at all (Garfield, 1957). What may have been the largest institution ever in the world, in Milledgeville, Georgia, with about 10,000 mentally disordered, retarded, or otherwise committed residents, did not employ a psychologist until 1951 (Cranford, 1981). As late as 1963, when I took the directorship of Research and Training at the relatively new Plymouth State Home and Training School in Michigan, there were only one teacher and one teacher's aide for close to 1000 retarded residents.
Well into the 1970s, most institutions for the retarded either were snake pits, or had snake pit units. For instance, in 1966, when I visited Mississippi's only state institution for the retarded in Ellisville, there were still iron rings in the masonry walls to which inmates used to get shackled, and the state spent only $2.30 per day for each of its 1,200 residents. In fact, only six states then spent more than $10 per day per resident. As late as the mid-1970s, institution attendants in some states still had to work a 72-hour week (Dokecki & Mashburn, 1984). At Ellisville in 1966, they worked 60 hours at $1.75 per hour.
Also well into the 1970s, there were innumerable handicapped people who had never made a telephone call, contributed to a meal preparation, cleaned up a room or kitchen, been on a picnic or vacation, shopped for groceries, knew what an olive was, and certainly not selected their own clothing. Many had never been to a restaurant or in any number of public places or facilities. Certainly, it was most unusual for handicapped people to vote, and those known to be mentally retarded were usually not even legally eligible. I suspect that there were next to no retarded people who had a bank account. Thus, one can hardly imagine today how sensational some miniscule improvements were considered to be around 1970 unless one recalls how deprived retarded people had been. For instance, in July 1970, I saw—for the first time—a pay telephone freely accessible to the retarded clients of a service, in a sheltered workshop, and that was something worth recording in one's diary!
Also, when I entered the training program in 1957, mental retardation was a pariah field. The bad image of retarded persons that social Darwinism and eugenics had created had rubbed off on people who worked with the retarded. Almost all reputable professionals had fled the field. The few reputable ones left were often only part-timers, such as the handful of leading physician teachers who had academic appointments in pediatrics or psychiatry. Almost all the full-time professionals in the field were marginal: people with alcohol, sexual or mental problems or criminal records; people with health, bodily or sensory impairments; people of low competency; foreigners with licensing, language, competency or credibility problems; etc. Many of these constituted the bottom rung of employable professionals. When I announced that I was entering a mental deficiency training program, almost everybody who cared about me was taken aback, or even shocked. They had anticipated a more rewarding career for me.
Relatedly, the very idea that there was something about retarded people to be researched struck many professionals as ludicrous. They might say things such as, “If there is nothing there, what is there to be researched?”
In 1948, a psychologist (McPherson, 1948) undertook a survey of all experimental studies of learning by “mentally subnormal” “defectives.” She found a grand total of 13 such studies. In 1958, she published an update (McPherson, 1958) that we were required to read by one of our professors, which reported that 14 additional such studies had been published in the ten years since. Also, by current standards, most of these studies were simplistic. Any of us students could become world experts on the learning of retarded persons by becoming familiar with these 27 studies.
Also, when I entered Peabody, the term “mental deficiency,” coined around 1900 by the mentality of social Darwinism, still reigned, as readers may have noticed by now. The classification into morons, imbeciles, and idiots was just in a stage of transition to the more descriptive terms mild, moderate, and severe mental deficiency. It was several more years (i.e., 1959; see Heber, below) before the qualifier “profound” arrived. In mental retardation institutions especially, residents were at least informally referred to as “high-grades” or “low-grades.” Some institutions had wards for “low-boys,” “high-boys,” “low-girls,” and so forth. When one retarded person wanted to badly insult another one, then he or she would call the other a “low-grade.” Another common classification was “tidy” and “untidy,” referring to whether residents soiled themselves or not.
The phrase “mental retardation” had been derived from the educational concept of “grade retardation,” in the sense of a youngster being one or more grades behind in school. Then gradually, grade retardation morphed into mental retardation. In its current sense, the term became popular virtually overnight ca. 1958, and apparently so with hardly any public debate! It was seen as a major step toward enlightenment, and away from a dark era. From 1952 on, a Committee on Nomenclature of the American Association on Mental Deficiency had been working on issues of diagnostic classification, and in 1957, it produced a new (fourth edition) of the organization's statistical reporting manual. From 1957–1959, the work was continued by two committees: one on medical, and the other on behavioral, classification. (My advisor, Rue Cromwell, was one of eight members of the latter.) However, with the exception of one article (by Jordan, 1958, arguing in favor of the term “mental deficiency”), the only thing that got debated in the American Journal of Mental Deficiency (AJMD), and not even very much, was how to define whatever “it” was called, but not what “it” should or should not be called. Even a 1958 preview of the eventual product of the two committees (Heber, 1958) did not debate the merits of “mental retardation” over “mental deficiency,” nor did an article by Dorly Wang, entitled “Pitfalls of Nomenclature” in the September 1959 issue of the AJMD. Nevertheless, the new term was officially endorsed by the American Association on Mental Deficiency at its May 1959 annual conference. The product of the committee work, A Manual on Terminology and Classification in Mental Retardation, was published under the editorship of the previously-mentioned Peabody graduate Rick Heber (1959) as a monograph supplement to the September 1959 issue of the AJMD. The whole episode was very similar to other sudden turn-arounds in the field with little published debate. A later example is the virtually overnight switch from the term “mainstreaming” to “inclusion.” Ironically, the organization did not change its name to the American Association on Mental Retardation until 1987, 28 years later, when the American Journal of Mental Deficiency also changed its name to the American Journal on Mental Retardation, and changed its cover design. (The Association's second journal, Mental Retardation, had began to appear in February 1963, and in 2007, changed its name to Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.)
Unfortunately, much as mentally defective people had previously been called “mental defectives,” or only “defectives” for short, so it also quickly became customary to call them “retardates.” This demonstrates that terminology changes, powerful as they can at times be, can also be mostly window-dressing. One compensation for retarded people being called “retardates” was that non-retarded people also continued to be “nouned” by being called “normals.” This lasted about 15 more years, until Gunnar Dybwad—a leader in the field from the 1950s on (and especially while executive director from 1957–1963 of the National Association for Retarded Children, now The Arc)—began to facetiously refer to non-retarded people as “normates,” which was one of the things that put the jinx on the term “retardate.”
Very revealing of the poverty of our field in the 1950s is the fact that the primary textbook in my introductory mental retardation course at Peabody in 1957 was a 1949 American text by J. E. Wallace Wallin (1949), and the secondary text was the 9th 1956 edition of A Textbook of Mental Deficiency by Tredgold and Soddy (Tredgold & Soddy, 1956), published in Britain! This Tredgold (R. F.) was the son of the author (A. F.) of the first 1908 edition of the text. Wallin and both Tredgolds had been eugenicists, the elder Tredgold since at least 1908. Indeed, he had steadily suggested “euthanasia” for at least certain mentally defective people from 1915 on, proposing gas as the means in the 1915, 1920, 1922, 1929, and 1937 (2nd through 6th) editions of his text. Euthanasia continued to be suggested all the way through at least the 11th edition in 1970. As Margaret Mead pointed out (1959), many American scholars inside and outside the field had learned whatever they knew of mental deficiency from one of the Tredgold editions. No wonder that professionals were not only alienated from the field of mental deficiency, as noted earlier, but also from mentally deficient people.
One idea that was universally held for a long time, and still widely defended into the 1970s, was that in order to develop expertise in mental retardation, and to train specialists, there had to be large congregations of retarded people in controlled residential settings, such as institutions, for two reasons. Namely, only in such large congregations would one (a) have an opportunity to encounter several of the rarer clinical syndromes (“types”) associated with impaired intellect that an expert was expected to be knowledgeable about, and (b) be able to constitute sufficiently large groups of research subjects with shared characteristics.
Despite all the weighty arguments against institutionalism, both above rationales also have considerable truth to them, though the first one more than the second. It is my impression that mental retardation specialists today are much less likely to personally encounter, and learn about, retarded people with a great variety of identified rare syndromes. However, what was then not well recognized—and by many people not at all—was that the retarded people congregated together in institutions had been rendered very abnormal by both their earlier experiences, and their institutional ones. After all, hardly any professionals of the ca. pre-1970 era had ever met a retarded person who had been unequivocally cherished, as well as raised under normal—or even highly favored—circumstances. Not even retarded people of highly privileged families had had that good fortune, as exemplified by Nobel Prize-winner Pearl Buck's retarded daughter (Buck, 1950), and the sister of President Kennedy, Rosemary, who was savaged by a lobotomy. Thus, the residents of institutions were actually not really good research subjects if they were to be representatives of what retarded people were naturally like.
At any rate, Peabody's good relationship with the aforementioned Cloverbottom Institution was very problematic. Cloverbottom was a snake pit; brutality was commonplace; and the residents were very fearful. Some had their food—such as bologna sandwiches—thrown onto the floor, whereupon they would dive onto them and eat them unchewed in a few huge gulps in a painfully animalistic manner (yes, with mine own eyes did I see it). Today, we would say that the situation screamed out for advocacy, but in those days, advocacy from any parties for better institutional conditions was virtually nonexistent or very genteel; most people did not even know the word “advocacy” then.
Also, visions of alternatives were largely lacking then, as documented in Wolfensberger (1999), though Lloyd Dunn was a major exception, for instance, in envisioning a variety of specialized smaller residential arrangements on which he had taught us in 1958 or 1959. (He made a keynote presentation on it at the 1961 convention of the Southeastern area of the American Association on Mental Deficiency, but he was too far ahead of his time, and nobody followed up on it. Probably, his ideas were considered utopian. However, I drew on his ideas in the late 1960s when I played a major role in planning and launching the world's first area-wide [county and state] comprehensive normalization-based community service system [Governor's Citizens' Committee on Mental Retardation, 1968a, 1968b ,1968c; Menolascino, Clark, & Wolfensberger, 1968a, 1968b]. I then prevailed on him to update and publish these ideas in the landmark President's Committee monograph in 1969 [Dunn, 1969].)
The administrators at Cloverbottom really had no options other than better indoctrination of staff, because as in most other institutions, they had no control over many admissions, and the allocations by the legislature were so low that only the least employable people could be hired. And if the Peabody faculty or students had antagonized any one of a chain of actors from the governor on down, Peabody might have lost its access to the institution for clinical demonstrations, and for crucially important subjects for the steady stream of research carried out by the students under faculty supervision. There would have been no alternative access to at least more severely retarded persons, in that there were virtually no school classes for severely retarded children, and hardly any severely retarded adults in any day services. I am not aware that any students even thought about any relevant advocacy on their own, and if they had, it would almost certainly have been stifled by the faculty. So for these—and possibly other—reasons, the plight of the Cloverbottom residents went unaddressed by the faculty and students of the premier non-medical training program in mental retardation in the nation, and probably even the world. The Letchworth Village institution in New York where Jervis taught was probably not much better than Cloverbottom.
In the mid-1950s, Governor Frank Clement wanted to construct a building to be remembered by. So he got funding for a new building at Cloverbottom, and it was indeed named for him. It was designed for severely retarded non-ambulatory residents, and was widely considered highly innovative and progressive—indeed, a prototype model for non-ambulatory retarded people. The building held a large number of cage-like bed cribs that had big, tall slabs of very hard and cold Tennessee marble on three sides, and a strong wire mesh gate in front. Any resident with uncontrolled movements—such as many residents with cerebral palsy or epilepsy— were at risk of breaking bones against the marble, and/or of abrading their skin against the sharp wire mesh. These cribs were mounted at about tabletop height so that the aides would not have to bend down when attending to a person in a crib. A jack could be wheeled under each crib, lift out the springs and mattress with the resident still on them, and move them to a sprinkler (informally referred to as a car wash) to rinse them. This was efficient, but also minimized the amount of contact that staff would have to have with residents. Had there been an emergency, such as a fire, the residents could not have been evacuated on their beds, as in hospitals or nursing homes.
I recognized right away (and not just in retrospect, or as a false memory) at least the danger of residents injuring themselves against the stone or wire, but did not feel certain enough of myself to make an issue of it with anyone, nor would I have known then whom to raise the issue with.
When the dysfunctionality of this building was more widely recognized only a few years later, it was decided to tear it down (one might even think of this as an attempt to destroy evidence), but just as it was about to be demolished, Clement—who had been out of office—was re-elected as governor, and halted the demolition. However, in the late 1960s, the marble cages were replaced with crib beds—and none too soon, because a fire with much smoke did break out soon thereafter, but all residents were able to be safely evacuated. In 1979, the building was converted to nonresidential uses.
How Trends in Psychology, Medicine, and Human Services Were Reflected in the Training Program
Now a few thoughts on how some of the trends in general psychology and human services were reflected in the training program.
Prior to the 1950s, there had been a lot of psychometric work on retarded people, and a lot of describing of their mental characteristics, but with the exception of the work of Kurt Lewin and his school, there had been hardly any efforts to extend psychological theorizing to mental retardation. Cantor and Cromwell at Peabody were among the pioneers in this respect, Cantor mostly in regard to behavioristic learning, and Cromwell in regard to personality, social learning and performance, especially in reference to the social learning theory of Julian Rotter. These theories were very productive in inspiring a wave of student research and dissertation studies at Peabody. My own dissertation (Wolfensberger, 1962; an article based on it appeared in 1963) was very much along the same lines of trying to tie the mentation of retarded people into generic psychological theory. The study was an effort to extend certain aspects of Köhler's gestalt theory of perception (namely the well-established phenomenon of so-called perceptual satiation) into the conceptual domain, contrasting the verbal processing of retarded youths with that of non-retarded ones. A positive result would have been a small sensation, but none could be demonstrated, which did not particularly surprise me.
During my early days as a psychologist in the 1950s, behavioristic concepts were normative in American psychology, but what one might call generic or Hullian behaviorism had reached something like exhaustion, or at least diminishing returns, while Skinnerian theory and operant conditioning were in the ascendancy. However, the application of operant conditioning principles to humans was still in its infancy. In the late 1960s, it euphemistically began to be called “behavior modification” (for public relations reasons, it seems, because operant conditioning is a much more precise term) and, once more, without any public debate that I am aware of. The pioneers in bringing operant conditioning into institutions were a very beleaguered minority that had to fight an uphill battle, but much of this was their own fault; so many of them had primitive materialistic ideas about retarded people, could not deal with their humanity, did not empathize with them, and therefore made many serious mistakes, or were even abusive. In institutions, research generally got so abusive that in 1973, the delegates to the National Association for Retarded Children (i.e., the parents' association) passed a resolution that there should be a moratorium on “medical experimentation” in public mental retardation institutions. As late as 1985, the Association's convention also unanimously passed a resolution condemning all “aversive behavioral intervention.”
With generic behaviorism having disappointed so many expectations, new schools of psychology that eventually gave rise to so-called cognitive psychology were prepared to theorize boldly in ways that behaviorism was not, though in my opinion, some of the new theorizing was at least in part merely a more sophisticated return with a different idiom to earlier “mentalistic” approaches that had been pushed into disrepute. However, it was not until 1967 that the first book that was actually called Cognitive Psychology appeared (Neisser, 1967) and eventually lent its name to a field and an agenda. Even some schools of behaviorism themselves tried to reclaim the mind through various clever schemes of behaviorizing mentalistic concepts. An example is the so-called “mediation” construct, promoted among others by Charles Osgood, including in his 1963 presidential address to the American Psychological Association, which I witnessed. After his presentation, I and one of my friends were the only ones from among an audience of thousands who went up to talk to him. This was amazing because usually after a presidential address, the speaker was mobbed.
At least during my time at Peabody, we were taught very little about operant conditioning. One of us fellows, Joe Spradlin, had a keen interest in it, but was a bit worried that this might be an obstacle to his progression toward the doctorate. So he held back a bit on this interest until he graduated in 1959, and then went back to Kansas to promote it, and do a lot of research on it, including on how it might be used to foster verbal or language development.
Amazingly, by the mid-1980s, the operant paradigm had become one of the dominant behavior change-related ones in many sectors of human service, including mental retardation.
When I came into the field of mental retardation in 1957, one of the many false—or at least exaggerated—hopes that had sprung up was that all one had to do to achieve great breakthroughs was to make things more “inter-disciplinary.” Perhaps related to this exaggerated hope was the idea that there were many kinds of disciplines that had virtually no involvement in mental retardation, and if one could only somehow corral their attention or interest, they would come up with pearls of wisdom from their perspectives that other people in the field had overlooked, and that would prove extremely useful.
One example of this expectation was that if only anthropologists and sociologists would turn their attention to mental retardation, all sorts of marvelous insights and developments would occur. However, there was much disappointment (including among some of our professors at Peabody) with the socio-anthropological portion of the much-looked-forward-to stock-taking of the field by Masland (1958), and Sarason and Gladwin (1958), commissioned in 1954 by the National Association for Retarded Children, and published in May 1958 as a special monograph by the American Journal of Mental Deficiency (and also very confusingly—and with little or no explanation—published in several other outlets, including in Masland, Sarason, & Gladwin, 1958). Masland was a physician with specializations in physiology, neurology, and psychiatry; Sarason was a psychology professor who had earlier worked in a mental retardation institution, and was and is highly respected in mental retardation circles; and Gladwin was an anthropologist with the National Institute of Mental Health.
Then the Woods Schools in Langhorne, Pennsylvania (an expensive private institution for retarded and other problem youth) took a crack at the problem by devoting one of its annual spring conferences (May 1–3, 1959) to the topic of “Approaches to Research in Mental Retardation.” It invited some very illustrious people from within and without the field of mental retardation as speakers, and the rest of the mental retardation world as attendees. Included among its speakers were sociologists, social psychologists, and at least two anthropologists. The Peabody program (I thank it belatedly) dipped into its grant monies and sent a whole cohort of us mental retardation fellows by plane to attend this conference, as well as two faculty members: Rue Cromwell (my Doktorvater) who gave a presentation, and Nicholas Hobbs who gave a major address in the opening session. This was very exciting for us students because we would—many of us for the first time—see some of the great names in person and hear them speak. Also, for some of the younger and less experienced people, such as myself, this meant an exposure to Philadelphia, which was then just beginning to make progress in restoring some of its heritage.
One of the big guns who had been recruited to the conference was anthropologist Margaret Mead, and I recall that the first thing that struck me when I first saw her was how very short, as well as mannish, she was. When her moment to speak came, she stepped up to the microphone and found that it was much too high for her. There was much commotion to lower it, and much commentary on her part about this, which I thought was peculiar, insofar as she had been short all her life, and this should have been a familiar occurrence. The proceedings were very quickly published as the September 1959 issue of the American Journal of Mental Deficiency and reprinted as a monograph shortly after (still in 1959) by the Woods Schools. Mead spoke very colloquially without notes, and her later proceedings article (Mead, 1959) was based on an edited audio transcript. Some participants may have been much impressed, or at least impressed with hearing such a well-recognized person speaking in the flesh, but I—and perhaps others—felt let down. Almost everybody apparently had expected her to bring forward great pearls of wisdom previously unrecognized by our field, but if there were any such pearls, I thought that they were mighty small.
Very revealing of the mentality of the field was that as far as I know, Gladwin and Mead had no record of publications on mental retardation prior to 1958, and none after 1959. Yet so much hope had been placed on their brief “guest appearances” in the field.
About the time I came to Peabody, huge excitement was breaking out in the field about new biomedical discoveries, and the prospects they were believed to hold for “treating” mental retardation.
In 1956, an engineer by the name of John Holter, who was a parent of a child with progressive hydrocephaly, invented—virtually overnight—a valve (the Holter valve) that the child's physician (Spitz by name) immediately and successfully installed. This opened up a new generation of shunt installations that eventually virtually ended the era in which one would see in institutions rows of beds of children with huge heads, and gruesome decubiti, often ending in burst crania. However, for years yet, many physicians resisted shunt installations as futile—or merely cosmetic—treatments where brain damage had already occurred.
About the same time, there was also huge excitement about genetics. There were three major contributors to this. (a) In 1953, Watson and Crick discovered that DNA was a helix. (b) There had been several important developments about inherited metabolic disorders (“inborn errors of metabolism”). (c) A number of chromosomal discoveries were being made.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) had been discovered as long ago as 1934, and over the years (largely through the work between 1937–1953 of the aforementioned George Jervis), the enzyme deficiency at issue was eventually identified. This opened the door in the early 1950s to treating PKU with a diet, and if done early enough, to even preventing the brain damage that caused mental impairment. This door opened really wide when in 1959, Robert Guthrie came up with a quick, easy, and inexpensive test for PKU, enabling mass screening of infants. (I later met Guthrie on several occasions, including when he came from Buffalo to Syracuse for boat shows.) Although there had been earlier specific treatments of syndromes associated with mental retardation (hypothyroidism/cretinism being a prime example), the ability to identify PKU at birth, and prevent mental deterioration through a diet, raised hopes for the “treatment” and “cure” of mental retardation like never before since the age of Guggenbühl in the 1840s. In turn, this drew the spotlight onto inborn errors of metabolism generally. One big hope was that more such metabolic disorders would soon be identified as the specific causes of a significant percentage of instances of mental retardation that previously could not be ascribed to a specific cause, and would then be amenable to treatment.
While it had been discovered long ago that humans had X and Y chromosomes, it was only in 1956 that the number of human chromosomes was determined to be 46 instead of 48, as had been taught since 1923. This caused a sensation, as did the finding by Jerome Lejeune in 1959 that there was an extra chromosome in Down's syndrome (or, as it turned out, in at least most cases thereof).
The result of all this was that these areas became the glamour focus of several fields, including mental retardation. Genetic biochemistry and chromosome labs and studies mushroomed, though many of these actually did rather pedestrian work. Everywhere one turned, somebody was giving a lecture on these topics, or a conference on them was being held. Karyotype pictures became almost iconic. We students were exposed in many contexts to lectures on these topics, often to excessive depths for people in a different discipline. But as important as these discoveries were, they did not prove to be as important as they were widely made out to be, or expected to be.
New discoveries are always thrilling, but normatively get vastly over-hyped. The new shunt operations impacted on only a small number of people (mostly children), though often decisively so. The metabolic studies had much fall-out, but contributed only a drop in the bucket to the prevention of mental retardation. As far as children with chromosomal anomalies was concerned, the new discoveries brought on mass killings. For instance, it is estimated that about 90% of the unborn discovered to have Down's syndrome are now aborted. Even beyond that, many pregnancies believed to be high-risk get aborted, and it is not uncommon for abortions to be recommended and performed on the basis of ambiguous test results, outright false positives, and/or prejudices where the baby turns out to be actually healthy. Some initially healthy babies even get injured from amniocentesis, and the long-term impact of intrauterine ultra-sound tests has not yet become clear. To paraphrase the famous British Judge William Blackstone (1723–1780), many people obviously consider it preferable that 99 healthy babies be killed rather than that one unhealthy one slip by and get born.
An amazing thing is that one can now plow through literally scores of general—and even medical—texts on mental retardation and not find any mention of Jervis, and even less of Holter, nor any exact dates of the above-mentioned events that in their day were the glamours-du-jour. Even in Scheerenberger's two-volume A History of Mental Retardation (Scheerenberger, 1983, 1987), Holter is not mentioned at all, and Jervis only once.
Some Weaknesses of the Peabody Training Program, and Their Sources
Now a few words on what to me seem to have been six weaknesses of the Peabody training program.
1. One mistake which I believe some of the faculty members made was that after being extremely selective in admitting students to the mental retardation and related programs, they applied grading standards that were based on a normal curve, which did not seem to make any sense. It was a little bit like taking people performing above the 95th percentile and then trying to throw them into a normal curve distribution so that relatively small differences in performance could result in big differences in grades. The situation can be likened to some of the Olympic competitions where the grades in terms of gold, silver, and bronze are handed out on the basis of differences in a hundredth of a second that are not discernible to the senses. I believe that this injected competitiveness, dissonance, and tensions into the program and among the students, which was in sharp contrast to the collegial and even loving atmosphere that I had been used to as an undergraduate student at a Dominican college in Memphis, Tennessee, and later as a Master's degree student at the Jesuit St. Louis University. I believe that this also contributed to the fact that once the students graduated from the program, most of them had relatively little continued contact with each other, contrary to what one might have expected. And I cannot say that they were particularly supportive of each other professionally, with few exceptions. Altogether, surprisingly little bonding had taken place, despite the intensity of the shared experiences over several years. I suspect that this also accounted for why so few graduates were interested in a reunion that had been contemplated for an earlier anniversary of the program.
2. One thing that struck me only many years after leaving Peabody was that few of our faculty had had very much experience in mental retardation, or deep knowledge of retarded people. Lloyd Dunn, who was an educator rather than a psychologist, seemed to have had the most extensive experience with so-called “exceptional” people. Of course, in those days, there were hardly any people in psychology who had this kind of experience unless they had worked in mental retardation institutions, and in this respect, several graduate students (such as James Moss) who had actually worked in such institutions for several years were more experienced than the professors.
While there had been scholars in what we now call mental retardation since at least ca. 1800, services to retarded people had been brought very, very low by the sequence of social Darwinism and eugenics, World War I, the Great Depression, and then World War II. The biggest service for many decades was the institution system, but for the most part, the institutions were just one or two steps away from conditions in the “better” concentration camps. There was a bit of segregated special education for the mildly retarded, and virtually none for the severely retarded until about 1950. (There were no English-language textbooks on the education of severely retarded children until 1955, when three came out at once.) Altogether, there simply existed few full-time professional jobs in mental retardation; almost all of those that were not for special education teachers in the public schools were in institutions; and people who held any of these jobs were not necessarily very knowledgeable about mental retardation. In essence, our psychology professors had to boot-strap themselves, and the ones teaching mental retardation courses had to themselves learn from the literature the subject matter they were teaching. In retrospect, it is amazing how well they did this.
When in 1960, Norman Ellis (who in 1966 began to edit the series of occasional monographs entitled International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, published by the Academic Press in New York) joined the psychology faculty in order to replace Gordon Cantor who moved to Iowa, he was apparently the only such faculty member who had had a great deal of experience working with retarded persons, from years of tenure in a mental retardation institution in Louisiana where he had been recovering from tuberculosis.
As a result of their own newness to mental retardation, the faculty also had little sense of the history of mental retardation other than some of the stock stories, such as about Itard and the Wild Boy of Aveyron, and the founding of residential schools for retarded youths, first (apparently in 1840) by Johann Jakob Guggenbühl (1816–1863) in Switzerland, and later by Hervey Backus Wilbur (1820– 1883) in 1848 in Barre, Massachusetts, and later that year, by Samuel Gridley Howe in Boston. However, in this respect, not too much seems to have changed in most mental retardation training programs even today.
Given the then-prevailing realities, it is hard to see how one could fault the Peabody program for recruiting faculty that had to boot-strap themselves, but in my opinion, it did leave the program with a distinct weakness.
At the 2004 anniversary celebration, four of the 15 earliest fellows were able to attend, plus amazingly, three faculty members who had been at Peabody in 1957 or earlier: Samuel Ashcroft (who died in 2006), Rue Cromwell, and William Rhodes. Also present was Carl Haywood who joined the faculty about the time I left. Dunn could not attend, but sent his greetings and a generous donation. How often can doctoral graduates meet with their professors of 45 and more years ago?
3. Relatedly, while we learned probably more than anybody else at that time about mental retardation in the abstract, we hardly got to meet mentally retarded persons as persons, and in relatively normal ways, as many graduate students in many similar programs today probably would. This was not peculiar to the Peabody program, but to the professions generally. It was not until the early 1970s that professionals began to socialize with retarded people outside their own professional roles and functions, on an unpaid basis, and in ordinary kinds of contacts. One of the major contributors to this revolution was the normalization movement, and perhaps even more the l'Arche movement, which has not been adequately credited for this.
I believe that Problems 2 and 3 contributed to two subsequent other problems.
a. Some of the early graduates of the Peabody program went forth into the world without a strong commitment to the mentally retarded, and drifted into work with other populations.
b. All but a few graduates seem to have taken jobs in the field through which they would not naturally have much, or any, contact with retarded persons; and I am not aware that at least the earlier graduates made up for this by having informal contacts with such persons, perhaps as part of their ordinary lives.
4. The program seemed to be imbued with the huge misconception that research was the key to betterment of the life conditions of retarded persons. In fact, the Peabody Views periodical said in 1962: “The program was set up on the belief that little could be accomplished in mental deficiency unless persons were trained specifically for research in the field” (undated issue, p. 1). It also did not help that “research” was conceptualized entirely as manipulative (experimental) research, as many people erroneously still think. Much of my own published work after graduation required an enormous amount of research, but relatively little involved controlled experimentation. At any rate, faith in manipulative “research” is still widely shared today, in our field and many others. However, it turned out that the most important thing that was needed was a revolution in ideology.
One of many illustrations of how limited the role of research can be is the story of lead poisoning. The harmful influence of lead on mental development had been known at least as early as 1908 (see Saleeby, 1909, p. 286). At Peabody, we students learned in our seminar on the medical aspects of mental retardation how pernicious lead poisoning was, and that much of it came from the lead in house paints. Enough research had been done on lead to take decisive action even then. Instead, lead additives increasingly began to be put into gasoline until by the late 1960s, and for many years, it became virtually impossible to get lead-free gasoline. Also, it took another 30 years to achieve a significant reduction in lead use in many products, including paint. Lead paint was not banned from baby cribs until the mid-1970s. Only during the 1980s was lead gradually phased out again from gasoline. However, there are still many old houses with lead water pipes; solder with lead in it was used on water pipes until recently; lead poisoning from old house paint is still a problem, especially among the poor; and some people have kept contesting the research evidence on the dangers of lead to this very day.
5. One other thing that the designers of the Peabody mental retardation training program had apparently not anticipated was that the dearth of people highly trained in mental retardation was so great that most graduates of the program would get sucked into all sorts of leadership positions other than the research functions for which they had been so highly trained. In retrospect, it would have been just as well to provide them with a lot of training on mental retardation, but let the trainees evolve their own related specializations of clinical practice, higher education, research, administration, sociological aspects, or whatever. However, such a program probably would not have been funded.
6. Eventually, the faculty of the training program got a big surprise: there was no correlation between the performance of the students as students, and their later accomplishments. Some of the star students over whom the faculty fawned, and for whom they had highest expectancies, disappeared into the proverbial woodwork after graduation, and/ or published little on mental retardation; a few left the field altogether. (In the special education and school psychology programs, some of the star students also disappointed.) In contrast, some of the less promising students made significant contributions. Also, the graduates whose later contribution was primarily in manipulative research seem to have had little discernible impact (at least so far) on what really happens in the lives of mentally retarded people, while there were such impacts from those who occupied positions or roles as administrators, advisors to influential parties, or ideologues. For instance, some of the latter graduates had strong impacts on legislation and government policies, on programs such as Special Olympics that eventually affected hundreds of thousands of retarded people, and on the development of the normalization and community service movement (and not just research on it) that changed the service landscape as well as the lives of retarded people outside the service system.
I was not a particularly good student at Peabody, and was not grade-avid as some students were. Because of my limited background in psychology, compared to many other students, I struggled in certain courses. I did not like the competitiveness, and also, if I did not like a subject matter or a textbook, my motivation flagged. I was also impatient with any course work of which I could not see the relevance to my envisioned future work. For instance, I thought that Lewin's field theory of mental functions was a desperate effort to encapture the glamour of the physical sciences—in this case, theories of electro-magnetism and gravity—but could not possibly be “real” because in psychology the “fields” were merely a heuristic way to think about the mind and to generate testable hypotheses. Similarly, there was much genuflection before Rotter's mathematization of social learning through the “formula”
BP = f(E & RV), which in expanded and more pretentious form was rendered as:
(Rotter, 1954). I secretly thought that this was another phony attempt to ape the hard sciences, since the “formula” was not really a formula, and there were no knowable quantities to substitute for the unknowns. Nobody then laughed at this—but of course, people also do not laugh at today's comparable pretensions and absurdities. In contrast, the theory of D. O. Hebb of how mental phenomena were made possible by cell assemblies, neural circuits, reverberating circuits, etc., had a plausibility to it that actually stood the test of time fairly well, but that also smacked more of neurology and neurophysiology than psychology as most psychologists then thought of it. Some of this illustrated, however, that theories do not have to be valid to be useful.
My mentors also seemed to think that I was a little on the crazy side, and in a sense they were right, except it was a craziness that protected me from surrendering to the innumerable normative crazinesses of a professional or service practice nature.
At the 2004 Peabody reunion, my advisor admitted that the faculty would not have rated me as one of their more promising students. However, I stayed in the field, was indefatigable in addressing real-life challenges there, and worked full-time even after my supposed retirement, the same as my friend and mentor Gunnar Dybwad had done. Also, I formed extensive informal personal involvements with retarded people, some lasting for decades until death parted us. All this bares out the well-known pitfalls of predicting career outcomes.
Reviewers of an earlier draft of this article thought that some of this history—seemingly “old”—nevertheless contains a number of relevancies to contemporary doctoral training programs in the field. For instance, are the research claims pretentious? Have faculty members had extensive experience with retarded persons, including of a non-professional nature? Are students socialized to be fond of impaired people? Is the history of the field sufficiently appreciated and taught? Are faculty too much impressed by good grades at the expense of qualities that might make a graduate productive? Will there be deep chasms between the way retarded people live and the graduates of such programs?
Also, the founding of residential schools for the mentally retarded that started in the US in 1848 may seem a long time ago, but there is a surprisingly short chain of personal contacts between people now and then. For instance, I had several personal contacts with Edgar Doll, one of the dominating psychologists in the field in his time, and the designer of the Vineland Social Maturity Scale. He started publishing in the field around 1910, almost 100 years ago. He in turn had known people who had known the earliest pioneers in the US, such as Edouard Seguin (1812–1880). J. E. Wallace Wallin, whose textbook we used in 1957, and who I heard speak on several occasions, had graduated from Yale in 1901! So a handshake with me is only three hands away from those of Seguin and Wilbur, and four from Itard. But if you want to shake their hands indirectly through shaking mine, you had better not tarry!
Wolf Wolfensberger, PhD, Emeritus Professor and Director, Syracuse University Training Institute for Human Service Planning, Leadership and Change Agentry, 800 S. Wilbur Ave., Suite 3B1, Syracuse, NY 13204