Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Eugenics In America

The Fernald School of Waltham Mass, one of America's ugly forays into Eugenics. A place where the "feeble minded" were imprisoned so they wouldn't breed. From the CBS story:

"We thought for a long time that we belonged there, that we were not part of the species. We thought we were some kind of, you know, people that wasn't supposed to be born," says Boyce [a Fernald School victim].

And that was precisely the idea.

The Fernald School, and others like it, was part of a popular American movement in the early 20th century called the Eugenics movement. The idea was to separate people considered to be genetically inferior from the rest of society, to prevent them from reproducing.

On a related note, Richard Dawkins, on why eugenics is your friend:

But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as "these are not one-dimensional abilities" apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.

I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler's death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn't the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?

Hey Dick, did you ever learn that one about those who cannot remember that past…

(HT: Telic Thoughts)

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