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Sam Sixty Essay, Research Paper

Sam Sixty and Friends

In framing the argument for hereditary degeneration, the author of The Family of Sam Sixty presents a number of reasons pointing to the downfall of the Sixty family. She points out a number of traits portraying evidence of degeneracy in their gene pool along several generations. As well, the author employs a number of methodical charts to complement her findings. However, when examined in close detail, one can see that much of her research is not scientifically based at all and there are many holes in her arguments. She has simply fitted what evidence she has gathered to suit her needs while downplaying any countering facts.

To begin with, the author uses a myriad of numbers and statistics to confuse the audience into believing that her arguments are based on fact. This is most evident in her records of the several generations of the Sixty family. The chart shows 474 individuals, on 261 of whom some data have been secured. Of the 261, sixty are know to have had court records, and fifty-six are known to have been in public institutions (188) This statement, along with the following incident rates confuses the audience into believing that there actually is quite a number of delinquent members among the family. However, if one looks at the numbers from a different perspective, we can see that this is not entirely so. It is likely that before any of the fifty-six members that were placed in public institutions, many were probably brought before a court to determine that in fact there was a necessity for institutionalization. Therefore, many of those fifty-six people confined to such institutions most likely overlap with the sixty people that have had court records. As well, simply having a court record means that you participated in a court trial. The author does not mention the outcome of each of those situations. Very likely, several members of the Sixty family may have been brought before a court of law, yet had no conclusive evidence against them. In their subsequent release, records of their court appearance will continue to stay on file though they may have been proven innocent.

Next, the author has arranged the article to make it seem as scientific-looking as possible. She has charted all of the known degenerates of the Sixty family according to their various traits, whether it be that they are criminalistic, alcoholic, wanderer/vagrant, tubercular, insane, and/or sexually immoral. Each branch is meticulously categorized, cross-referenced to sex and marriage lines, and so forth. In essence, this would lead the audience to believe that the author has a somewhat distinguished scientific background and that the evidence presented here is further reinforced as factual. Despite these convoluted charts; however, much of the evidence collected was based on unconfirmed reports of gossip. The author mentions, These findings are very incomplete Interviews with respectable people, who knew the Sixties more or less vaguely, often disclosed the presence of traits in a given branch, which the investigator was not able to connect with any particular individual. (188, 189) In addition, one learns in the introduction that the author s only experience prior to conducting research on the Sixty family consisted of but simply one summer school session of field work at the Eugenics Record Office.

It is quite interesting to note that while seeming to make a convincing argument for the degeneracy of the Sixty family, the author at one point contradicts herself. In one instance, she states that, The charts and descriptions give a fairly definite picture of the Sixties (190). Throughout the entire article, the author then goes on to give descriptions to members of the family such as unquestionably feebleminded (191), the findings suffice to show that we have in this family a group of notorious law-breakers. (189), All that is best and noblest was represented to them solely in their mother, a weak-minded slovenly, immoral woman. (194), and so on. The author also makes reference to the subsequent generations as brood (195) and offspring (207). These flagrant descriptions further illustrate how she paints a picture of the Sixty family as less than human and that in her opinion, this is a definite portrayal. Nonetheless, the author protects herself against a libel suit by making the following disclaimer,

some of the individuals on whom we have data will not be found charted or described facts which make the group too easily identified have been omitted some among the family and its connections, who are respectable citizens. They would be humiliated by the public exhibition of the shortcomings of their relatives. We wish to avoid every semblance of offense to such persons. (190)

It is interesting to note that the Sixty family is set up in such a way for the audience to believe that in almost every account, each relative is criminal in one form or another, be it a thief, a prostitute, an alcoholic, incestuous, feeble-minded, etc. and yet the author clearly states that she has in fact omitted crucial evidence contradictory to her findings. Furthermore to this testimony, she presents several of her case studies as leading in favor of her argument of degeneration when in fact they are nothing more than hearsay. An example of this is the youngest son of Abner and Rose, said to be a thief, though he has never been in court on this charge since their income from legitimate channels is practically nothing, the neighbors seem loath to report the boy s thefts. (193) One must wonder where the author has gathered information on this account and whether or not she simply created herself since there are no written records and even neighbors have not confirmed these reports through their rumors.

As always, it is best to examine such articles with a critical eye. The author has clearly made every effort to point out that the Sixty family is a perfect example of hereditary degeneration. Yet when one examples what has been presented as scientific research and conclusive evidence , it is apparent that the study was expressed with quite some bias and has no relation whatsoever with actual systematic and objective methods. If anything, this article is nothing more than hype intended gain support for the eugenics movement and whatever their aims may be.


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