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ERIC Number: ED553836
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 215
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3031-1263-8
Inherently Undesirable: American Identity and the Role of Negative Eugenics in the Education of Visually Impaired and Blind Students in Ohio, 1870-1930
Free, Jennifer L.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Toledo
To date, studies of eugenics artificially confine their focus to the movement's application to race, socio-economic status, and the forced sterilization of the so-called feebleminded. However, the segregationist aspect of the eugenics design in the United States brought with it damaging policies toward individuals with physical and mental disabilities. The impact of the broad scale subscription to eugenic rhetoric and practice as applied to marginalized social groups was evident in all facets of society. It was, however, particularly revealing when one undertakes an analysis of the movement's application to the evolution of the special education system in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Separation of disabled students, whether in the form of outright exclusion in the residential state schools, or segregation in isolated sight-saving classrooms in the common schools, was one of the strongest illustrations of negative eugenics. It implicated a classification and sorting system that utilized economic productivity as an assertedly objective measure of value and desirability. This scheme allowed for differentiation between the deserving and the undeserving in the extension of the full rights and benefits of U.S. citizenship during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. The end of a desirable citizenry was achieved through the outright exclusion of students with disabilities, and later through segregated classrooms in the common schools following states' enactment of compulsory attendance statutes. Like other states, Ohio did not eliminate its exclusionary practices with its shift to segregated sight-saving classes. It shifted the form to intra-district segregation. Special education institutionalized the idea of the "undesirable" student. Segregated classrooms provided a vehicle to continue the tracking system that predetermined which students were likely to mature into valuable contributors to the expanding industrial state, and therefore desirable and deserving of the full rights and benefits of U.S. citizenship. By utilizing back-door arrangements to segregate undesirable students, administrators and teachers aimed to preserve traditional notions of order and efficiency in the common schools. The establishment and evolution of segregated sight-saving classes ensured that students who were believed to be incapable of becoming productive, and therefore valuable and desirable citizens due to their status as visually impaired or blind would remain on a separate track. By establishing special education classes, school districts appeared to embrace the progressive measure of deinstitutionalization, and at the same time ensured the continued viability of the status of undesirability, and allowed teachers to promote the progressive ideals of order and efficiency. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Ohio