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[Xmca-l] Re: Does anyone remember Genie?
It's a very puzzling article, for a couple of reasons. First of all, there
isn't much explanation of WHY Genie was so fascinating to linguists.
Secondly, there isn't any explanation of WHY she suddenly became
uninteresting to linguists. Finally, there is no discussion of the ethics
of the research that was done on Genie after her discovery, which is really
the explanation of why Los Angeles County is so reluctant to allow any
researchers to pursue her today.
As I understand it, Genie was fascinating to linguists because she seemed
to offer a natural experimental test of Lenneberg's "critical period"
hypothesis, which would be utterly unethical under any other conditions.
This hypothesis was extremely important in America, which had gone lock
stock and barrell for the innateness theory of language--the reason why
people could not learn second languages adequately was that there was a
"critical period" for acquisition which functioned rather like the critical
period of child sexuality to which it mysteriously coincided. If something
happened to mar development during this period you were marked for life.
As I understand it, Genie suddenly become uninteresting to linguists
because it became pretty clear that Genie's agrammaticism had organic
origins and was not simply due to the deprivation of input. The article
alludes to this in mentioning the "bunny walk" and also the two rows of
teeth, but it apparently went much further than that, and it probably
explains why Genie was treated different from her brother. If Genie was
brain damaged, then she could not be a natural experiment to prove or
disprove Lenneberg's hypothesis, because there was an obvious organic
explanation for her lack of language.
Finally, as I understand it, the ethics of Genie's post-discovery treatment
was highly dubious. If you or I discovered a child like Genie our first
response would probably be to figure out some way of trying to get her into
a classroom to see if she could lead a normal life at school with children
her own age. That wasn't done, because linguists wanted to continue the
experiment--first of all to subject her to a battery of highly invasive
tests and secondly to see how she responded to various kinds of input under
controlled conditions. Mainstreaming Genie would destroy her value as a
research subject, leaving us nothing but her value as a human being.
On Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 4:18 AM, Robert Lake <email@example.com>
> Thank-you for bringing this to our attention once again Annalisa,
> A few years ago, I showed a documentary about her life to an undergraduate
> education class on *Language and Cognition*. I started with the clip
> and ended up showing the whole thing. The students were just as
> horrified by some of the researchers as they were by the parents.
> *Robert Lake*
> On Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 2:23 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > Hello,
> > I saw this in the Guardian, thought it might be of interest:
> > "Language and thought are distinct from each other. For many of us, our
> > thoughts are verbally encoded. For Genie, her thoughts were virtually
> > verbally encoded, but there are many ways to think," said Curtiss, one of
> > the few surviving members of the research team. "She was smart. She could
> > hold a set of pictures so they told a story. She could create all sorts
> > complex structures from sticks. She had other signs of intelligence. The
> > lights were on."
> > Lots to think about from these circumstances, many angles.
> > Kind regards,
> > Annalisa
> Robert Lake Ed.D.
> Associate Professor
> Social Foundations of Education
> Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
> Georgia Southern University
> P. O. Box 8144, Statesboro, GA 30460
> Secretary/Treasurer-AERA- Paulo Freire Special Interest Group
> Webpage: https://georgiasouthern.academia.edu/RobertLake*Democracy must be
> born anew in every generation, and education is its midwife.* John
> and Education*,1916, p. 139