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Digest of Public Opinion on Jewish Matters

[The purpose of the Digest is informative. Preference is given to papers not generally accessible to our readers. Quotation does not indicate approval.-Editor.]

The fallacies of racial inferiority theories, which have played a part in motivating the movement in favor of “Nordics” and against other immigrants, are brought out in the “Current History” magazine of February, by Prof. Franz Boas, noted anthropologist of Columbia University. Tracing the intermixtures of the various races in Europe and Asia through intermarriage, and analyzing the effects of heredity, environment and selection on the constitution of populations. Prof. Boas attacks the contentions of Prof. C. C. Brigham, who, by means of intelligence tests, arrived at the conclusion that Italian immigrants who came here twenty years ago were much superior to the immigrants who came here recently. Prof. Boas writes, in part:

“He (Prof. Brigham) concluded from his observation that the hereditary quality of the immigrant has been constantly going down during the last twenty years. The most superficial investigation of these individuals shows the baselessness of such an assertion. Many Italian families that have lived here for twenty years are thoroughly assimilated, certainly the younger individuals are assimilated in language and to a great extent also in habits. Recent immigrants, on the other hand, find themselves in a strange environment to which they are not accustomed, and, therefore, tests that are essentially based on the experiences of American city life must be strange to them. There is little doubt that the observations made by Dr. Brigham simply express the gradual process of assimilation of immigrants and have nothing whatever to do with what might be called hereditary intelligence.

“I believe all our best psychologists recognize clearly that there is no proof that the intelligence tests give us an actual insight into the biologically determined functioning of the mind. They indicate the ability of the individual to perform certain actions which are ordinarily recognized as making for success in our city life. How far the reaction of the individual may be modified by individual experience and how far it may be determined by his organic structure cannot be determined by tests of this type. There is no doubt that both elements enter into the result, and in extreme cases, among decidedly abnormal individuals, the organic basis is readily recognized, but among normal individuals a separation of the social and of the organic element cannot be made by the results of mental testing.

“The lack of clarity in regard to this whole ? is based essentially upon the failure to distinguish between genealogical or family lines and racial groups. Although in the former we do find material differences between various strains, anatomically as well as functionally, it is impossible to generalize and to claim the same kind of differences between nationalities; for in every single case the national groups contain a great many similar or even identical strains.

“On this ground we may dismiss as entirely unfounded the arguments based upon an assumption of inferior ability of various European and Asiatic groups. There is no reason to suppose that from the present migration from all parts of Europe and from many parts of Asia there will result an inferior mixed population. All historical, biological and sociological considerations point to the conclusion that we have at present merely a repetition on a large scale of the phenomena of mixture from which have sprung the present European nations.”

The N. Y. “Times” of yesterday, discussing the opinion of Prof Brigham, Prof. Boas and Prof. Neifeld, who wrote on the subject in the “American Journal of Sociology,” observes:

“Prof. Franz Boas takes exception to Brigham’s conclusion that Italian immigrants in the last twenty years have shown a steady decline in native intelligence. Mr. Neifeld questions Brigham’s broader conclusion that the inferior standing of the newer immigration as revealed in the army intelligence tests is probably due to a shift in the character of immigration from predominantly Nordic to predominantly Alpine and Mediterranean.

“What Boas and Neifeld both reject is the broad racial generalization for Nordics, Alpines and Mediterraneans in their native habitat. It is their contention that the swift are not always to any particular race.”

Richard Starr Untermeyer, Yale University sophomore, son of Louis Untermeyer, noted poer and critic, and Mrs. Jean Starr Untermeyer took his life by hanging yesterday in his rooms in Welch Hall.

He left no explanation. It is believed that he was despondent over a letter of rebuke from his mother, who criticized him for overdrawing his bank account.

Marshal Pilsudski, Premier of Poland, has established a sub-ministry for minorities, an Associated Press despatch from Warsaw states. It will concentrate on settlement of all minority problems.

Colonel Slanek was appointed head of the ministry.

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