By Alan Stoskepf
Source: Rethinking Schools Online
At the beginning of the century, one of the most damaging experiments in public education began. Under the banner of educational reform, the American eugenics movement captured the hearts and minds of some of the nation’s most influential educational researchers and policy makers. While the history of the eugenics movement has been virtually written out of American history textbooks, it nonetheless has had an insidious effect on the lives of students and the organization of public schools. It also has become part of an unexamined legacy that shadows today’s standards and testing movement.
What was eugenics? The English mathematician Sir Francis Galton first coined the term in 1883. He wrote, “Eugenics is the study of the agencies under social control that seek to improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally.”1 What Galton saw as a new branch of scientific inquiry became a dogmatic prescription in the ranking and ordering of human worth. His ideas found their most receptive audience at the turn of the century in the United States.