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April 4, 1914


Author Affiliations

Surgeon, U. S. Public Health Service ELLIS ISLAND, N. Y.

JAMA. 1914;LXII(14):1068-1071. doi:10.1001/jama.1914.02560390008003

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The examination of an illiterate person for the purpose of determining his mental capacity is often difficult. To distinguish between ignorance and feeblemindedness is by no means easy. Many of the elaborate and complicated tests for measuring the intellectual ability are clearly inapplicable and we cannot use them. All mental processes which obviously depend on education or special training for their development are at once ruled out, and by a careful analysis we find that many of the usual tests recommended require these educated and trained faculties on the part of the subject. We are here working on what, from a pedagogic point of view, is virgin soil, which, no matter how rich or how poor it may be, has never had the benefit of any cultivation.

There are two general methods of examining uneducated mental defectives: 1. Ascertaining the amount of acquired knowledge which their minds contain. 2. Attempting

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