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ERIC Number: ED276187
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1986-Apr-18
Reference Count: 0
From Moral Imbecility to Maladaptive Behavior: The Social Construction of Educable Mental Retardation.
Gelb, Steven A.
The paper presents the thesis that mild mental subnormality developed as a "scientific," hence natural, explanation for the socially unacceptable behavior of economically marginal persons. The history of such labels as "moron,""imbecile," and "moral imbecile" is traced to the late 19th century emphasis on biology and genetics in human affairs. This focus led to the belief that criminal behavior was caused by mental deficiency and thus provided justification for massive institutionalization of people who did not meet societal expectations. The development of intelligence tests led to what was considered a scientific method of identifying the feebleminded. The need for manpower in World War II resulted in the discovery that many "feebleminded" persons could perform at higher levels than had previously been thought and some special educators credited special education with the new competence of the feebleminded. After the war new classification systems evolved based on social competence. Definitions of mental retardation by the American Association on Mental Deficiency included the construct of "adaptive behavior" which was difficult to measure reliably. Despite current confusion regarding definition, the mildly retarded of today are still drawn from economically marginal backgrounds. Thus mild mental subnormality continues to be as much a political as a scientific issue. A six-page reference list concludes the document. (DB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (67th, San Francisco, CA, April 18, 1986).