Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States / Edition 1

Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation in the United States / Edition 1

by James W. Trent, James W. Trent Jr
     
 

ISBN-10: 0520203577

ISBN-13: 9780520203570

Pub. Date: 12/19/1995

Publisher: University of California Press

Half-wits, dunces, dullards, and idiots: though often teased and tormented, the feebleminded were once a part of the community, cared for and protected by family and community members. But in the decade of the 1840s, a group of American physicians and reformers began to view mental retardation as a social problem requiring public intervention. For the next century and…  See more details below

Overview

Half-wits, dunces, dullards, and idiots: though often teased and tormented, the feebleminded were once a part of the community, cared for and protected by family and community members. But in the decade of the 1840s, a group of American physicians and reformers began to view mental retardation as a social problem requiring public intervention. For the next century and a half, social science and medical professionals constructed meanings of mental retardation, at the same time incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Americans in institutions and "special" schools. James W. Trent uses public documents, private letters, investigative reports, and rare photographs to explore our changing perceptions of "feeble minds." From local family matter to state and social problem, constructions of mental retardation represent a history of ideas, techniques, and tools. Trent contends that the economic vulnerability of mentally retarded people and their families, more than the claims made for their intellectual or social limitations, has determined their institutional treatment. He finds that the focus on technical and usually psychomedical interpretations of mental retardation has led to a general ignorance of the maldistribution of resources, status, and power so evident in the lives of the retarded. Superintendents, social welfare agents, IQ testers, and sterlizers have utilized these psychological and medical paradigms to insure their own social privilege and professional legitimacy. Rather than simply moving "from care to control," state schools have made care an effective and integral part of control. In analyzing the current policy of deinstitutionalization, Trent concludes it has been more successful in dispersing disabled citizens than in integrating them into American communities. Inventing the Feeble Mind powerfully shatters conventional understandings of mental retardation. It is essential reading for social workers, psychologists, historians, sociologists, educator

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520203570
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
12/19/1995
Series:
Medicine and Society Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
356
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction1
1Idiots in America7
2Edward Seguin and the Irony of Physiological Education40
3The Burden of the Feebleminded60
4Living and Working in the Institution, 1890-192096
5The Menace of the Feebleminded131
6Sterilization, Parole, and Routinization184
7The Remaking of Mental Retardation: Of War, Angels, Parents, and Politicians225
Epilogue: On Suffering Fools Gladly269
Notes279
References303
Index347

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