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The Origin And Nature Of Our Institutional Models
Our historical review approaches another critical point. We must now consider that the professionals in the field were thoroughly convinced that the survival of society required that the largest number of retardates be institutionalized as fast as possible. "Assuredly, if we are to rise to the responsibility of the times, to grapple with this enemy one hundred thousand strong, which enters all homes alike and threatens the very life-blood of the nation, we must enlarge our borders and extend our operations. We need space, and yet more space, and who than we better fitted to claim it?" (Barr, 1897, pp. 12-13). Here, however, the professionals encountered limitations in funding of institutions, and the public and legislatures were not channeling additional funds as fast as the professionals thought they should. "The public, while liberal in all its charities, demands that the funds so appropriated should be wisely and economically expended, and that the cost should be kept as low as possible, consistent with the best methods of carrying on the work" (Wilmarth, 1902, p. 152). "Our taxpayers are already groaning under the burden of caring for the actual imbecile and the epileptic" (Fernald, 1908, p. 116).
First, there was an attempt to convince the public that financial support of institutions would save money in the long run: "This special care is now recognized as not only charitable, but economical and conservative. Each hundred dollars invested now saves a thousand in the next generation" (Fernald, 1893, p. 221).
"As a simple business proposition no state can make a better investment, or one actually paying larger dividends, than to insure that the feeble-minded women of child-bearing age are prevented from bringing defective paupers into the world to go on reproducing themselves in geometrical ratio. The direct money saving from this result alone in a few generations would represent a sum equal to the cost of maintenance of the entire feeble-minded population of the state. The much quoted history of the Jukes family showed that in seventy-five years the community paid over one and one-quarter millions of dollars for caring for the paupers and prosecuting the criminals who were the direct descendants of two feeble-minded sisters" (Fernald, 1904, pp. 384-385).
"If my estimate is within bounds, the entire money cost of removing this dreadful stain from out nation would be, after an expenditure by each state of an average amount of less than half a million for lands and building, a maintenance fund of about ten cents per annum for each of the inhabitants of the United States.
"How foolish is the action of the public in saving such a small amount at the spigot and wasting so profusely at the bung! Ought not this question be made a burning one? Ought not every one convinced of these facts to cry aloud, and spare not, until the legislature of every state shall have the facts burned into their hearts and consciences, as they are now into ours?
"Unfortunately, it is the superintendent of state institutions who are usually compelled to propose the extension of their work. And then they are accused of extravagance, of a desire to glorify themselves the expense of the taxpayer. The truth is that they are the ones who feel most keenly the needs that they assert; and, if they do not speak, all will be silent" (Johnson, 1896, p. 218). "The cost of legation will be large, but not so large as the present cost of caring for these same persons, to say nothing of their progeny in future generations" (Fernald, 1915, p. 295).
But some years earlier, in one of the first public statements of indicment -sic-, Walk (1890, p. 441) had predicted correctly: "If you are going to shut up all the idiotic and feeble-minded where they can do no harm, you must do it in a cheap way." "If it cannot be done at a cheap rate, you can never get money to do it."
The professionals were caught between their convictions about the absolute necessity to segregate the largest numbers of retardates, and the limitations of legislative appropriations. In desperation, they developed three interrelated plans: (1) by reducing per capita costs, more retardates could be admitted on a given budget; (2) by increasing the population of institutions, per capita costs would come down; (3) by having higher functioning residents work the land and take care of lower functioning residents, costs could be reduced. If these proposals were implemented, perhaps costs could be so reduced that eventually all retardates might be enfolded in the institution. This thinking intensified the trend toward economy discussed earlier as a concomitant of the pity period.
"It is true that the cost of these schools has been great in the past, and when we consider the number to be provided for-at least ten times as many as are now in the institutions -- the total cost would appear prohibitory of this plan. But just as soon as it is demonstrated that a large proportion is self-supporting; that the improvables can be cared for, with decency and humanity, at a very moderate ratio of expense, by utilizing the labor of the trained higher grades; that only the younger ones, who belong to the educable grade, and a few of the lowest grade violent and dangerous idiots, require a high per capita cost-it seems probable that the means to gather in and care for the whole class will be forthcoming. When that period arrives, the number of idiots and imbeciles in the nation will cease to increase, and, if other classes of degenerates can also be brought under control, the number my -sic- diminish very rapidly" (Johnson, 1898, p. 471).