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The Origin And Nature Of Our Institutional Models
Analogies based on examples from the animal, vegetable, and mineral world are sometimes offered to explain a point about retardation. Often, such an analogy is ill-chosen at best; at worst, it reveals that the person using the analogy perceives the retarded as subhuman. Some examples of ill-chosen word pictures used during the indictment period follow. Kerlin (1884, p. 249) said of a mental retardate: "With his great luminous, soft, jet eyes, he reminds one of a seal." Fernald (1915, p. 291) observed: "We now have state commissions for controlling the gypsy moth and the boll weevil, the foot-and-mouth disease, and for protecting the shell-fish and wild game, but we have no commission which even attempts to modify or control the vast social, moral and economic forces represented by the feeble-minded persons at large in the community."' Davenport (quoted by Fernald, 1915, p. 290) moved from "unfit animal strains" to "weak strains" to the "feeble-minded" in the pace of two sentences.
Simultaneous reference to animal breeding and to reproduction of retardates abounded. Brewer (1895, p. 467) referred to retardates as " . . . this breed of men" being a "... poor breed of stock." Barr (1902, p. 163) had this to say: "We are very careful as to the breeding, inbreeding, or non-breeding of our flocks and herds and beasts of burden; but we allow epileptics and irresponsible imbeciles to taint sure stock or to reproduce their kind unmolested without intervention." The important role of a national association of cattlemen in the study of prevention of retardation is noteworthy and will be touched upon again later in this essay. Wines (1889, p. 321; also quoted by Bicknell, 1896) said about retarded workers: "Many of them are capable of being made useful to a large extent even though they may be unable to talk. I have seen idiots who were useful on a farm, for instance, who could not speak a word. Is not a mule valuable on a farm? Yet he cannot talk." One might have considered such an analogy merely unfortunate, had he not abrogated the human capacity for suffering from a retardate in a second comparison to animals (p. 323). In describing a retarded man chained by the neck to a dog's running-wire in the yard, he denied that she was suffering because "she was a mere animal, well cared-for as an animal." Nosworthy (1907) probably expressed latent sentiments most honestly when, in all seriousness, she raised the question whether the feeble-minded constitute a separate species, and then designed a study to investigate this matter.
Humans can be dehumanized even below the animal and vegetative level, as when they are called "waste products" (Barr, 1902, p. 165; Anderson, 1918, p. 537) or "by-products" (MacMurchy, as quoted in Murdoch, 1909, p. 66; Southard, 1915, p. 316). Southard continued to ask: "... it becomes a question with us, what to do with these waste materials."
Concern With Prevention. It should be obvious from reading the indictment that retardation was considered to be hereditary. Some quoted statements follow: "We have only begun to understand the importance of feeble-mindedness as a factor in the causation of pauperism, crime and other social problems. Hereditary pauperism, or pauperism of two or more generations of the same family, generally means hereditary feeble-mindedness. In Massachusetts there are families who have been paupers for many generations. Some of the members were born or even conceived in the poorhouse" (Fernald, 1915, p. 91). "No feeble-minded mother will ever have a child absolutely normal in every respect" (Johnson, 1908, p. 333). "Feeble-mindedness is hereditary and transmitted as surely as any other character" (Goddard, 1912, p. 117). "... In two-thirds of the cases feeble-mindedness is caused by feeble-mindedness ..." (Goddard, 1915, p. 308). "It is possible that a real eugenic survey of a given locality might show that 90% of the feeble-mindedness in that locality was contributed by 5% of the families in that community" (Fernald, 1915, p. 294). "Degeneracy, once permitted to invade a lineage, can never be wholly eradicated; lessened materially, and even reduced to a minimum it may be, but sooner or later, in one generation or another, a defective is bound to appear." "... There are at least 328,000 mental and moral defectives at large, perpetrating, unrestrained, the defilement of the race." "... Imbecility will breed imbecility and where there is a trace of feeble-mindedness in a family it is sure, sooner or later, to reappear, the defective 'germ plasma' producing an abnormal" (Barr, 1915, pp. 361-363). "We must come to recognize feeble-mindedness, idiocy, imbecility, and insanity as largely communicable conditions or diseases, just as the ordinary physician recognizes smallpox, diptheria, etc., as communicable" (Sprattling, 1901, p. 409). When Goddard (1912, pp. 283-284) was asked whether feeble-mindedness could not be the result of poverty and malnutrition, he said: "There is not the slightest evidence that malnutrition, or any environmental condition can produce feeble-mindedness" (Goddard, 1912, pp. 283-284).