Charles Richmond Henderson.

Introduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment online

. (page 15 of 35)
Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 15 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

instrumental in securing many workers with home libraries, agents
of the penny savings bank, leaders of boys' clubs and classes,
teachers of Sunday-school classes, and other church visitors, who
acquire an influence and become wise advisers and friends of
imperilled famihes.

10. Social Service is a natural outgrowth of personal ministra-
tion. The experience of the trained and competent visitor brings
a minute and detailed knowledge of the conditions under which
the poor are obliged to live, — their income, food, housing, pro-
tracted hours of labor, scant opportunities of culture, the deaden-
ing, depressing influence of poverty and uncertainty, the passionate
envy and hatred of the rich, the ambitions of agitators, the hopes
and fears of enlightened men and women, and the virtues that
sturdily thrive in untoward surroundings.

Such specific knowledge of conditions urges one to large and
comprehensive views of social responsibility. The visitor discovers

1 68 Relief and Care of Dependents.

the need of trade union organization, of factory legislation and
inspection, of improved municipal government, health boards,
building regulations, sewage, water supply, schools, technical and
trade instruction.

Such visitors go back from their visits to become students of
social science and missionaries of practical reforms ; to combat
the stupid class prejudices of employers and the rich ; to repre-
sent the real facts of the home life of working people and the
difficulties which keep them down ; to champion all that is reason-
able and just in the demands of the intelligent leaders of wage
earners ; and, generally, to knit the bonds of fraternity, sympathy,
and justice, without which the nation will become two nations,
each arrayed in hostile camps, each threatening the other and
endangering the common peace, prosperity, and happiness.


Social Arrangements for the Education, Relief,
Care, and Custody of Defectives.



1. Education and Charity. — There is some plausible reason for
omitting the treatment of deaf mutes and the blind from a discus-
sion of charity. Many of the superintendents and teachers of
institutions for these classes object, with some natural feeling, to
being classified with almoners of public relief, and claim that their
estabhshments are schools, and belong, not to the relief system,
but to the educational department of the state. They seek to
ally and associate themselves with the national and state educa-
tional associations. They claim that the pubHc school is estabHshed
for the education of all the children of the commonwealth and
must, logically and in justice, include the blind and the deaf
mutes. This claim is essentially fair ; but there is another aspect
of the case. Even in the case of normal children, where the
parents are too poor to supply all their wants, public rehef and
private charity may be required to help keep the children in

The education of many of the blind and of deaf mutes is
accompanied by certain exceptional factors which demand excep-


lyo Relief and Care of Defectives.

tional sacrifices on the part of the tax-paying and self-supporting
citizens. Normal children live at home and are not boarded at
public expense during the school period. Many of the blind and
deaf mutes are so deficient in industrial efficiency, owing to their
infirmity, that they must be assisted in adult life and in old age.
Thus we are obhged to consider the principles of charity and
relief with special reference to their peculiar wants.

It has been common to provide by law for these defective chil-
dren whose parents are unable to support them. Provision
is made either by sending them to private schools at pubhc
expense, if necessary, or by estabhshing special state schools, or
by sending to other states and paying for the service. In some
states payment is required from those who have financial ability,
while the indigent are taught and boarded free. Cities sometimes
establish separate rooms and departments of their schools for the
blind and deaf mutes. Only in a few states is provision made for
the support of the adult blind in any separate way.

2. Schools. — The principles of organization and of administra-
tion are treated in another place. Educational methods are too
technical for our present discussion, and they belong to a special
branch of pedagogic science and art. Brief hints of the historical
origin of the movement must suffice.

3. The Deaf Mutes. — To the Abbe de I'Epee, who lived in the
eighteenth century, we owe the invention of the gesture language
for the instruction of the deaf and dumb ; to Heinicke of Germany
and Braidwood of Scotland the method of articulate speech and
reading from the movements of the hps of others. Schools for
the deaf mutes were started in this country on the Scottish plan,
about 1 812 and afterward. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a gradu-
ate of Yale College and of a theological seminary, was sent abroad
to study the best known methods, in the year 18 15, and he
became the most important founder of schools in this country.
He adopted the French sign-language method and secured for an
assistant a deaf mute of great ability, Laurent Clark. Into the
merits of the controversy between the advocates of the two

Care of the Blind and of Deaf Mutes. 171

methods we cannot here enter. Dr. S. G. Howe and Horace
Mann were influential factors in the early movement to establish
schools for the deaf mutes as well as for defectives. Schools were
established both by private enterprise and state action, and by both
in cooperation, and now they are maintained on a legal basis in all
parts of the United States. Out of the Columbia Institution at
Washington has grown the national deaf-mute college, which opens
the way to collegiate degrees. It is called Gallaudet College.

Mr. Allen, with special opportunities for knowing, affirms :
" Our educated deaf people form a quiet, well-behaved, self-
supporting part of the community. They have formed local and
national societies for mutual benefit." The system of manual and
trade instructions in their schools equips the graduates with skill
for the remunerative and productive industries of the nation.

4. The Blind. — The movement in America for the education
of the blind started later than that for the deaf mutes. There
are not so many blind as deaf, and, perhaps, 80 per cent of
the blind are adults. Success in teaching deaf mutes was an
inspiration and suggestion for schools of the blind, which were
established from the year 1830 onward, the census of that year
first reaching the extent of the need. Dr. S. G. Howe, a graduate
of Brown University, studied European methods and became the
first teacher of the New England Asylum in 1832. The earliest
organizations began with voluntary associations.

In 1899 there were forty schools in the United States, and every
state in the Union makes provision for its blind of school age
either in its own school or in that of a neighboring state.

The introduction of machinery has made individual handicraft
impracticable as a means of support. The training in kindergarten,
sloyd, manual work, and tool practice have a high educational value,
but the adult blind cannot manage complicated and dangerous
machines. Hence they must look elsewhere for life occupations.
Some find employment as musicians or tuners of pianos, but only
a fraction of all have musical ability. BHndness often comes on
late in life, when one can no longer adapt his habits to a dark

172 Relief and Care of Defectives.

world. It is thought that few of those trained in the special
schools become a public charge. In 1880, out of 48,928 blind,
the census showed only 2560 in almshouses, and probably most
of these had become blind in adult years.

5. City Schools. — One question of considerable social impor-
tance is the wisdom of attempting to provide for the instruction of
blind children as well as of deaf mutes, in connection with the
public schools, so that they can remain at home. While there are
great difficulties in the way of this plan, especially outside of cities,
it is strongly urged on several grounds. It is thought that young
children suffer from being separated very long from normal family
life and from the companionship of those who are most nearly re-
lated to them ; that they lose the training of ordinary experience
in adapting themselves to the conditions of life in a competitive
community where they must take their part and place in mature
years ; that they are more likely to marry defectives like them-
selves, if brought up with them, and so increase the difficulties of
living and the danger of propagating a tendency to defect. While
state institutions seem to be necessary, especially for children
from scattered rural populations, all competent authorities agree
that no effort should be spared to secure, in the highest possible
degree, normal domestic relations for every human being, with a
minimum of institutional life.

6. The Indigent Blind. — The care and support of the indigent
blind is a specially difficult problem of charity. Those who are
totally blind are usually at a disadvantage in competition for places
by the side of persons who have all their senses complete. For
this reason pubhc begging is more readily tolerated with such per-
sons, especially if it is masked by some pretence of selling small
articles. But mendicancy is quite as degrading to a blind person
as to any other, and should be prevented by law and police ad-
ministration ; not, however, without providing shelter and employ-
ment for all who cannot find occupation through their own effort.
Voluntary associations may greatly assist in finding suitable and
remunerative employment for those who are deprived of sight.

Care of the Blind and of Deaf Mutes. 173

7. Double and Triple Defects. — There are extraordinary cases
of persons who are both blind and deaf. The accounts of Laura
Bridgman and of Helen Keller are stories of sadness and of tri-
umph. The victories of patience, goodness, and teaching skill in
such instances recall the saying of the famous philanthropist, Dr.
S. G. Howe, that " obstacles are things to be overcome." It is a
mistake, however, to suppose that teachers even in these cases
need to have genius or even exceptional gifts and quahties. In
many less conspicuous and famous instances the ordinary teachers
of schools for defectives have achieved corresponding results. It
is chiefly a matter of special training in suitable methods.



1. Definition. — The term "feeble-minded" is used, especially
in the United States, to denote both imbeciles and idiots. " Idiocy-
is mental deficiency, or extreme stupidity, depending upon mal-
nutrition or disease of the nervous centres, occurring either before
birth or before the evolution of the mental faculties in childhood."
The word " imbecihty " is generally used to denote a less decided
degree of mental incapacity. This distinction is preserved in
legal and medical writings (Ireland).

2. Classification. — Provision for the feeble-minded, both educa-
tional and custodial, must be based on the distinctions of infirmity
and the grade of the patient. It is, perhaps, impossible to give
a classification which is satisfactory from every point of view, since
the variations are so many and complex.

Dr. F. Petersen defines the idiot proper as " an individual able
to give little or no care to his person, incapable of intelligent
communication, barely able to express his material wants, most
awkward and ungainly in his movements, if he move at all, and
presenting marked evidence in his lack of expression, apathetic
attitudes, and physical stigmata, of degeneration, of the profound
stunting of his mental and physical development. On the other
hand, the imbecile is able to care for his person and dress, attend
to his physical wants, comprehend fairly what is said to him,
carry out orders more or less intelligently, is often able to speak
well ; if not paralyzed, he has good use of his muscles ; he is not
destitute of expression, though the expression may vary from an
evil, mischievous, cunning cast of countenance, to one of rolHcking


Education and Custody of the Feeble-Minded. 175

good nature ; there are fewer stigmata of degeneration in this
class than among idiots. "

Some marks of distinction of various classes will illustrate the
variety of defects which pass under the name feeble-minded. In
our public schools there are found many grades of ability, from
the dull and slow pupils who vex the patient teacher, all the way
up to those who give promise of talent and genius. Now and
then a child misses altogether the advantage of school, and remains
a hidden mystery, secluded in the home, or goes abroad to suffer
from the persecutions, ridicule, and misunderstanding of ordinary

One variety of the feeble-minded, thus isolated from society or
kept in special institutions, is the small-headed or microcephalous,
characterized not only by deficiency in the size of the skull, but
also by its form, the narrow and receding forehead, pointed ver-
tex and flat occiput, and by imperfect development of the brain.
If the circumference of the head is less than seventeen inches, the
intellectual power must be very restricted, but the health of the
nervous centre is as important as its size. The stature is usually
much below the average.

Genetous idiocy is a term used to describe a congenital condi-
tion, complete before birth, and not due to any specific disease.
The circulation is feeble, temperature low, sensibility deficient.
There are defects and deformities in palate, jaws, teeth, tongue,
glands, ears, and skull. The brain is not fully developed, and the
heart is frequently too small and feeble in action to supply blood
to the brain. This form of idiocy is often due to hereditary
causes or to some accident or injury to the mother before the
birth of the child.

The hydrocephalic idiot suffers from a very serious nervous
disease. Before or not long after birth the brain is pressed down
and the skull urged outward by accumulation of fluid ; and some-
times attains enormous size and deformed appearance. The
patients are often victims of consumption or scrofula. In dispo-
sition they are generally gentle and docile.

176 Relief and Care of Defectives.

Those called eclampsic idiots have brains which were injured
in connection with convulsions at birth or during the teething
period. The child may remain a mute and be difficult to edu-
cate. The muscular power may be preserved and the person may
learn to work.

Epilepsy is a common cause of idiocy, and this dreadful disease
is frequently an inheritance from neurotic parents. The unfortu-
nate children of this class have an eccentric disposition and often
make droll and humorous speeches. If the convulsions are fre-
quent and severe, cure is difficult. They are often helped by
suitable vegetable diet, open air exercise, and industrial training.

Paralysis of the brain may occur before or after birth, and lead
to idiocy. It may affect one or both sides of the body. Fever
and convulsions often usher in the attacks ; the limbs become
stiff, the muscles hard, locomotion and action difficult. Mental
power may be cultivated even when walking and arm movements
are impossible. Rubbing, electricity, and surgical aid may improve
the condition of the limbs.

The term " traumatic idiocy " is used to designate the feeble-
mindedness caused by a blow on the head and the consequent
lesion of some part of the brain.

Inflammation may result in serious defect of the mental powers.
Scarlet fever, measles, and other diseases often leave behind them
inflamed mucous surfaces, with deafness.

Sclerotic idiocy is a rare form whose predisposing causes are
tuberculous diathesis and neurotic tendencies in progenitors. The
immediate occasion may be an accident to the mother, prolonged
labor, asphyxia, or injury to the head of the child. The head is
generally small and sometimes wanting in symmetry. The tissues
of the brain differ from normal in being fibrous, hard, and shrunken,
or tuberous and enlarged.

Syphilis is seldom proved to be the direct cause of idiocy, per-
haps partly because the rate of mortahty of infants affected by
this disease is very high, so that the effects are not registered in

Education and Custody of the Feeble- Minded. 177

Cretins are seldom met outside of certain well defined areas of
country, usually in the deep valleys of mountain regions ; and
cretinism is thought to be due to the action of specific microbes
or miasma. The disease is endemic and may be inherited,
although early removal to a good climate causes the tendency to

Idiocy may result from the deprivation of two or more of the
senses, as sight and hearing, on which the mind is dependent for
its awakening and for materials of memory, imagination, and judg-
ment. By providing a substitute for sight and sound in touch and
pressure many of the blind deaf mutes have become bright and
thoughtful who otherwise had sunk into the permanent darkness
of utter idiocy.

Among the idiots are found those who are called moral imbe-
ciles, children who show a proneness to evil, a callous selfishness, a
want of sympathy with other people. The mental deficiency is
often not so noticeable as this hardness and absence of all con-
sideration for the feelings and rights of others. It is probable that
many examples of Lombroso's " born criminal " really belong to
this not very large class. Even with these persons education in
social cooperation sometimes awakens and cultivates the affec-
tions in a high degree.

In general it may be said of all classes of the feeble-minded
that they attain, on the average, less than the normal stature and
weight, the entire body being seriously affected by arrest of
growth. The average mortality between the ages of five and
twenty years is at least nine times that of normal persons of that
period of life. They are peculiarly exposed to nervous and other
diseases, and require constant personal supervision of a resident

3. Causes. — The general laws of inheritance and of acquired
defects have been discussed. Only a few illustrations of a special
character need to be added here. Among the specific hereditary
antecedents of mental deficiency are counted consumption, in-
sanity, imbecility, parental intemperance, consanguinity of feeble

lyS Relief and Care of Defectives.

parents, maternal ill health, accident or shock during gestation.
Extreme youth or extreme age of parents, or disproportionate age,
and rarely consanguinity, are noted as causal factors.

Causes connected with birth are prolonged parturition, excessive
pressure, premature birth. Causes following birth are convulsions,
epilepsy, paralysis, injuries to the head, fright, fever.

Neurotic inheritance seems to be the cause of idiocy in about
forty to fifty per cent of cases ; tuberculosis and scrofula of par-
ents, fifteen to thirty per cent ; alcoholism, nine to sixteen per
cent ; hereditary syphilis, one to two per cent ; gestational causes,
eleven to thirty per cent ; parturitional causes, about eighteen per
cent ; infantile convulsions, over twenty-five per cent ; acute
febrile diseases, six per cent (Petersen).

4. The Feeble-Minded propagate Defects. — There is general
agreement among authorities that there is no trait, physical or
mental, which is so hkely to be inherited as feeble-mindedness.
While many cases arise from accident, by far the largest number
can be traced to some distant inferiority of parents. This law of
causality, which could be richly illustrated and demonstrated by
the records of institutions, must be considered in relation to the
measures of treatment.

5. Social Disadvantages of the Feeble-Minded. — The defective
child injures the family to which it belongs, if it is kept at home.
It is a source of constant humiliation, annoyance, often of physical
danger, loss of time and energy, weakness of the mother, and vi-
cious example to other children. This aspect is so important, and
the domestic and social consequences are so weighty, that some
illustrations will be taken from a report of Dr. Rogers, which
might be enriched from many other sources.

One girl when crossed in any way becomes excitable and is inclined to do
bodily harm to those about her, unless she is restrained. ... A certain boy
is not fit to be left alone, is a great care to his widowed mother, and a menace
to a younger brother. ... A sensitive boy of seventeen threatens to commit
suicide, and this worries his mother and makes her excessively nervous. . . .
Another boy is so dangerous that his mother's life is in hourly peril. ... A
farmer takes a feeble-minded boy to bring up with his own children, but the

Education and Custody of the Feeble-Minded. 179

afflicted lad smokes, chews, practises vile habits, is without shame, and will
spoil his companions if not taken away. . . . Another is affectionate and
obedient unless he is excited. His chief deficiency consists in believing what-
ever any foolish or evil-minded person may choose to tell him, wasting his
money, clothing, books, foolishly. He is all right with a master, but left to
himself he seems utterly helpless and defenceless, wandering from place to
place like a homeless dog seeking for a master. Many unprincipled people
take advantage of his simplicity to impose upon him by hiring him for a piti-
ful sum and paying him in worthless objects. ... A widow lady tries to earn
a living by keeping boarders, and then explains her failure : " The boarders
come to my place and they are here for a few days; they go again, on account
of my daughter. They are afraid of her, for she makes such queer motions."

The symptoms described reveal at once the necessity of segre-
gating such children from others, that they may not be exposed
to the cruel taunts and sneers, the thoughtless ridicule, and the
unscrupulous attacks of people in general society. The other
members of the family also require protection.

6. Education. — The entire social system of charity and correc-
tion is, essentially, part of the system of education by which society
protects itself through the positive method of adapting the young
and the abnormal to the conditions of life. The ethical principle
at the basis of elementary education is the moral obligation
of society to aid every human being to unfold all the powers of
his personality. This principle applies with special force to the
most helpless. Passing by the proposition to immure the idiot in
total neglect, or to kill him outright, an enhghtened view of social
duty and interest requires the highest possible education of the
defective. This is at best a slow, tedious, and difficult process.

The proof has already been presented in the nature and symp-
toms of the feeble-minded that the family is not a suitable organ
for this elementary education. The presence of an idiot or of an
imbecile depresses the mother and unfits her physically and
spiritually for the functions of maternity and the care of her
normal children. If the parents are themselves defective, there is
all the more reason for taking away the offspring and of separating
the parents from each other to prevent more mischief.

I 80 Relief and Care of Defectives.

The method of instruction does not differ in essential principles
from the best methods used with normal children. The process
is more slow ; the steps must be more carefully analyzed ; more
use must be made of tangible objects ; there must be more repeti-
tion of exercises. But all the principles of the best teaching, espe-
cially in kindergarten and manual training schools, are essential
in these schools. Indeed, a year or more spent in a school of
defective children would be an excellent kind of preparation for
teaching normal children.

7. Self support. — It may be asked whether defective children
can be made self supporting if they are thoroughly trained. From
experiments recently made in this country it seems highly probable
that a colony of feeble-minded persons, after the farm and build-
ings have been furnished, may, under skilful management, be
trained to produce as much in value as they consume. Mr.
A. Johnson makes a distinction, however, which should be noted.
A boy cannot do a man's work ; if he could he would be more

Online LibraryCharles Richmond HendersonIntroduction to the study of the dependent, defective, and delinquent classes, and of their social treatment → online text (page 15 of 35)