Based on a true story, Degeneration tracks one of the most influential American eugenic projects of the early 20th-century. It is 1911, and the famous scientist Henry Herbert Goddard is running the Vineland Training School, a boarding school in New Jersey for students deemed "feeble-minded" by authorities. Goddard is determined to prove that these criminals and outcasts are created by nature, not nurture -- that our personalities and strengths are just a result of breeding -- and he decides to find and trace the history of one particularly misbegotten New Jersey family: the Kallikaks. He sends sheltered, aspiring young scientist Elizabeth Kite into their poverty-stricken small town in rural New Jersey to prove that the Kallikak family's troubles can be traced back to one ancestor, one "rotten egg." But when Elizabeth gets to know the Kallikak family, she begins to comprehend the complexity of human nature, and the capacity of every person (including herself) to grow and change. For the first time in her life, she makes real friends, falls in love, and questions the difference between truth and science. Upon leaving, she's shocked to find that Goddard has skewed her research and is releasing what will eventually become one of the most prejudiced, dangerous, and influential scientific studies in American history.
Writer: Annie Baker