the experiment in Iowa

the experiment in Iowa
Monday March 10, 2008

dear mrs Miller
dear mrs Rogers
In the NZZ Folio, march 2008, I have read the article: “aus idioten genies machen” (to make geniuses out of idiots” ).
What the researcher Harold Skeels discovered in the 1930ties – and 70 years later, we are still looking for the genes that turn a human being into a murderer.
Here is the link to the (German) article:
Kind greetings, MW

English articles:

The Great IQ Wars: Struggles Behind the Ideas that Supported Project Head Start
“Two retarded children from the orphanage who had been placed in the adult women’s ward at the state institution at Glenwood showed astonishing gains in IQ. Skeels theorized that the gains had resulted from the love and attention showered on the children by the adult retarded women. Now he moved all the children testing as retarded to the state institution at Glenwood. All the children were 3 years of age or less and their mean IQ was 64.3, and their median IQ was 65; the range was from 35 to 89. The control group of adoptable children were studied for 18 months and remained in the orphanage; their mean age was 16.6 months and their mean IQ was 86.7 and median 90; range for all but 2 was 91-103. After 18 months the experimental group at Glenwood had gained 27.5 points, and the control group had lost 26.2 points. This, to put it mildly was astonishing. The results seemed to say that retarded adults could improve young children’s IQs, while state-run orphanages produced morons. The Iowa researchers believed that they had demonstrated precisely that.

“The psychological establishment of the 1930s ridiculed the findings from Iowa and suggested that the Iowa researchers were either improperly trained or too naive to understand the nature of IQ, but other studies also began to show that IQ scores showed a great deal of variability and that environmental influences could no longer be ignored.”

“The Practice Babies”
“In other words, researchers believed that I.Q. was fixed at birth, and didn’t change whether a child was privileged or deprived. . . In 1938, under Beth Wellman’s guidance, Harold M. Skeels set up an extraordinary I.Q. experiment. He took thirteen institutionalized babies who were considered to have low I.Q. and transferred them to the Glenwood State School for retarded adult women. Each baby was then put in the personal care of individual women living there. Under the guardianship of these supposedly deficient women — who were actually extremely nurturing — the children’s I.Q.s jumped nearly thirty points in just two years. (Some of the children apparently remained with their “mothers” through adulthood.)

“The implications of the study were huge. In academia, the Iowa studies triggered an internecine war. The founder of the Stanford-Binet I.Q. test, Lewis Terman of Stanford University, and his colleagues worked furiously to discredit the study because they wholeheartedly believed that intelligence was inherited. Even more importantly, the work at Iowa challenged the credibility of Terman’s I.Q. test. However, the entire social work and child welfare fields took the Iowa results very seriously. They began to institute changes that ultimately lead to the closure of orphanages and the birth of Head Start.

“Thirty years later, in 1966, when society’s beliefs about race, class, ethnicity and gender were beginning to change, Harold Skeels decided to track down every baby that was in the study to find out how they had progressed as adults. Babies that had remained behind in the original institution had substandard I.Q.s and many were still institutionalized as adults. However, all of those who had gone to Glenwood had become functioning adults and were leading normal lives. Skeels follow-up work immediately gained acceptance and was published with great fanfare in 1966, finally giving Iowa Station – and Beth Wellman – long deserved credibility.”

AM: Thank you for your reference. It is amazing that the conservative NZZ has published this most interesting article at all because it questions everything that is generally being shoved off to genes. Thus it is not amazing that the cynical title of this report – for which the feeble-minded words of a former, malicious detractor are being used – smudge the groundbreaking discovery of Skeels and does not draw conclusions from it. However, it is astonishing though that in Switzerland, where all is supposedly so correct, mentally handicapped fellow citizens can still be labeled as idiots and that the editorial staff tolerates it.