Moron No Worse Than the Average Man

face of a prisoner

In a scholarly journal in 1917, “Florence Mateer, Ph.D., Psychologist, Massachusetts School for Feeble-Minded” was listed as the author of an article entitled “The Moron as a War Problem.” This article considered the “question of the moron, his detection and military utilization.” Dr. Mateer argued that, in important respects, “the moron” is no worse than the average man:

Morally he is apt to be a problem. He tends to be sexually promiscuous. But when we consider the enormous problem which prostitution and venereal disease raise the minute an army gathers, we doubt whether the moron is any worse in this respect than the average man, except that the moron gets caught. The same is true in regard to crime. … It is not a bad thing to know a soldier’s short-comings, and one surely cannot discard the moron from our armies because of probable social or moral defects in which he is no worse than other recruits.^

The other recruits for soldiers were drawn from a broad cross-section of men, but not women. As Dr. Mateer’s analysis shows, the military utilization of men can easily objectify and devalue men.

Historically, men have been utilized as soldiers and in the most dangerous jobs. Military service has been offered to men as an alternative to imprisonment, which is highly disproportionately male-biased. Amid intense public discussion of gender equality, lack of public concern about the relative high life risks to which public action disposes men indicates serious problems in public deliberation.

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