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These institutions then had under training a total of 1,041 pupils. There were also two private institutions in Massachusetts, . . with a total of 69 inmates.": Applications for admittance were numerous and pressing. At first it was the theory that only imbeciles, the improvable idiots, should be taken into the institution, that the institution should be a school and should graduate its pupils into the world. Still, it was but a few years before most of the superintendents recognized that the pupils would always be children though adult in years; and that as children they needed guidance and protection always; that for obvious reasons girls and women of child-bearing age should not be discharged — for no girl is so exposed as the simple, weakwilled, feeble-minded girl — and finally that practically all cases would have to be retained within the protection of the institution. Physiology and pathology now teach that “mental deficiency generally, if not always, is the result of a definite cerebral abnormality or defect, or the result of actual disease or damage to some part of the central nervous system;": that feeble-mindedness is practically a permanent condition, and that it cannot be cured. From the time this fact came to be realized the institutions began to change in character There arose two distinct departments — the training school and the asylum.
The school was, is, and ought to be the fundamentally important department. Education is just as much a right of the improvable imbecile or feeble-minded child as it is of any child; and what are always acknowledged to be the benefits of an education are no less benefits to the one than to the other. It is in the school that the feeble-minded child is to be aroused, developed and trained to lead a useful and a happy life. The aim in the education of an ordinary child is to give a liberal all-round training, fitting him for anything in life he may choose to take up. With our feeble-minded child the aim of his education, which is to
' Fernald, The history of the treatment of the feeble-minded, p. 8. • 'Fernald, Feeble-minded children, p. 2.
lead a useful life within the institution, is kept ever in mind. He is happiest when occupied. Hence, his education is principally a practical education. The difference between a normal person and a feeble-minded person after training is that the latter has no initiative, no power to resist the seduction of stronger minds. He may be useful and even selfsupporting, but he can become so only under guidance and direction.
When they come to school these children have extremely weak will power. In fact the feeble-minded as a class have been divided according to the attention, thus:
“1. Absolute idiocy. Complete absence and impossibility of attention.
“ 2. Simple idiocy. Attention feeble and difficult. “ 3. Imbecility. Instability of attention.":
With all these the condition of the hand indicates that of the brain. The “idiotic hand” is proverbial. Many imbeciles see but do not perceive; hear but do not understand. They rarely make a purposive effort, but need to be directed in everything. When it is comprehended that though they love games they do not even play of their own accord, it will be understood how their teachers must begin at the very bottom rung in the ladder of education. The special senses of seeing, hearing, and feeling, actually have to be aroused and developed, first, as simple physiological functions; secondly, as intellectual faculties. Calisthenics in classes, marching to music, military drill — movements and exercises of all kinds - exert a most salutary and energizing influence, and are in great use in all the schools.
The normal child does not need to be taught each step ; his power of attention, his will, his desire, his originality enable him to fill the gaps in instruction from his own daily experiences. In fact he often learns more out of school than in. On the contrary, the feeble-minded child has to be taught each step, hence, his education is extremely slow.
Sollier: Psychologie de l'idiot et l'imbecile, Paris, 1891. Quoted from G. E. Johnson, Pedagogical seminary, 3, 246.
The simple occupations of the kindergarten fit these children of eight to twelve years of age as they do bright children of four and five. The teacher devises all manner of busy work for them, generally using coarse materials ; the stringing of spools; beads; buttons; spool-knitting; plain knitting ; braiding with broad leather strips, with shoestrings, with straw; and block building from the simple cube to the forms that are more complex.
No instruction is in more general use and is more helpful to the children than that of the kindergarten. After this all their education continues on a very elementary plane beyond which it is impossible for them to go. Many learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. The brightest read simple stories with pleasure, and go as far in arithmetic as multiplication. Division is beyond them.” Calculation in the abstract they cannot master. The greater part of their education is, therefore, of a purely practical kind. They are taught a good deal of fancy work, like knitting, crocheting, embroidery and lace-making ; but chiefly domestic work, sewing, washing and ironing, baking, farming, housepainting, shoemaking, brushmaking, etc.
Entertainments flourish at these institutions. One is got up on every possible occasion; and the “men and women children” are always present. No discrimination as to age or capacity is permitted. Happiness prevails because, in direct contrast with what happens in the world, the simple are not scoffed at and driven to a corner, but are made to feel that they are as good as any one.
The institution is a small community. It must have a given number of employees, one or more to each section or department. But the stronger grown up children do the bulk of the work : baking, laundry work, shoemaking, sewing, mending, dressmaking and tailoring. Each institution aims to have as many acres of land as it has children, and on the grounds a barn, cattle, horses and all the paraphernalia of a farm. This farm is worked by the boys, their
* See Fernald. Feeble-minded children, p. 14.
cows producing all the milk the institution can consume, and the farm hands raising all their own vegetables and fruit, selling what they cannot store. By utilizing the energies of the pupils in profitable labor the average per capita expense may be reduced to $125 or $150 a year. Supt. Doren of the Columbus institution has said that if the state will provide him 1,000 acres of good land he will care for all the custodial cases in Ohio free of expense to the state. When an old school has moved to a new site as the Massachusetts school has recently done, the labor of the boys has been utilized in clearing the land and ditching it, in building the roads, etc. Where the grounds contain suitable clay soil, as at Fort Wayne, Indiana, the boys have made the bricks with which to build new structures as needed. But in all this care is taken that there is no overwork. The work of an average laboring man more than supports himself — it is generally reckoned to support three people. If the feebleminded man does one-half or one-third of a man's work, and does it every day, his support costs only that which will pay for his superintendence and care.
The lowest cases of the unimprovable idiots, whom nearly all the institutions have been forced to admit, are termed the “custodial cases,” and are kept by themselves. They are profoundly helpless, can neither speak nor attend to their bodily wants, but must be cared for like babies which they are. However, they must be attended to — washed, fed, and kept as decent as may be. Attendants willing to do this work are not easily found. But trained feebleminded girls are delighted and flattered at the privilege of taking care of those more helpless than themselves. And it has been found that they make the best attendants for such cases.
So far, then, as methods of instruction go, American teachers have but broadened the physiological methods of the Frenchman, Seguin. The distinctive results of our schools lie in training the pupils to be helpful, especially in the way of labor for the institution which harbors them.
A distinctive result of work for the feeble-minded has been the gathering of statistics of causes. It has been known that a very large percentage of cases, variously estimated from 50 per cent to 70 per cent, are of congenital origin; that of all classes of defectives the feebleminded most surely tend to transmit their defect; hence, that the feeble-minded must be sequestrated for life. It has been shown that there is a strange but strong correlation between the forms of degeneracy, i. e., the criminal, the inebriate, the prostitute, and the feeble-minded. Of late years the energies of charitable and sociologic organizations “Have turned towards combating the causes of degeneracy, thereby protecting posterity.": The United States census for 1890 gives in round numbers 95,000 feeble-minded and this number is undoubtedly short of the actual number. Still but one-twelfth or about 8,000 of those returned in the census are cared for in special institutions. Here is a terrible problem ahead for the sociologists to work out. Those who have most thoroughly studied the feeble-minded are convinced that, as prevention is cheaper than cure, so the gathering of all this vast army into institutions and especially colonies where fifty per cent of them can be taught to be at least partly self-supporting, and where their multiplication can be cut off, is, by all odds, the most economical and the best policy for the states to pursue in the future. It should not be forgotten that for every idiot cared for we restore at least one productive person to the community; some writers say more than one. The whole matter is receiving widespread and intelligent attention. A large number of our colleges offer courses in practical sociology, and the number of students taking these courses is constantly increasing.
The work for the feeble-minded is considered by those in it as being still in a tentative stage. Nearly all the superintendents are physicians; they do not agree on the different questions involved. They meet regularly in convention, and
Powell, Care of the feeble-minded, p. 10.