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Newspaper Page Text
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GIVE SUBNORMAL CHILDREN MANUAL TRAINING INSTEAD OF
BOOK KNOWLEDGE THEY CANNOT GRASP
BY JANE WHITAKER
Her story was unraveled in the Juvenile Court.
She was less than sixteen, pretty, sweet, refined; and yet the charge
against her was the appalling one of selling herself for gain and giving the
money to her father, who knew how she earned it
There was also a man who loved her and who honestly wanted to mar
ry her; but she was too young to marry, and so the relations between that
girl a mere child and the man who loved her were also illicit relations.
And the court began its probe into the cause of such a condition. The
cause was not hard to find. The girl had no ability to judge between right
and wrong. She was subnormal. .
Two years ago she had been sent away from school because she could
not be taught from books. Her mother was an epileptic; one of her brothers
is also subnormal, though the other brother is exceedingly bright.
The father has been sent to the Bridewell and the girl is in the care of
a Juvenile Court probation officer, but the pity of the story is that we have
no method of dealing with subnormal girls and boys and men and women.
The word "subnormal" has come into disrepute because of its too fre
quent usage by high-brow charity workers and reformers when the condi
tion is not a subnormal one, but
merely lack of education, lack of op
But there are many really sub
normal boys and girls; you see any
number of subnormal girls in the
Morals Court day after day; girls who
have the,brains of children; who
have no ability to judge between
right and wrong; who smile in a siUy
fashion over the mode of life they
You find subnormal boys every day
in the prisoner's dock. Boys whose
brains are the brains of children.
'Boys who do not realize they have
committed crimes and who, if they
did realize, would probably still be un
able to control themselves.
It is a lack of proper balance and
sometimes it is due primarily to the
poverty that gave a father and
mother no chance to sharpen their
own intellects; that forced a woman
to go hungry while her child was still
unborn; tha forced her to live the life
of an animal rather than that of a
human being at a time when she
should have had every care.
Sometimes it is caused by the mat
ing of a man and woman already
subnormal, whose children are con
Eeqijently of the same mould.
But whatever the cause, we have
made no provision for the condition.
There are no institutions where these
boys and girls may b trained.
They cannot master book learning,
so the years they are kept in school
are wasted. Turned out of school,
they have no ability po compete with
normal boys and girls in the struggle
They have no control of their pas
sions and no one, to teach them a
semblance of control. Their hours
are necessarily idle hours since they
are not fitted for any special work,
and if they work they find no inter
est in it because they are untrained
They help fill the penitentiaries,
because, though we have assumed no
responsibility toward them, though
we have done nothing to better their
condition, we punish them just the
same as. though they were normal
and responsible for what they do.
They fill the houses of ill-fame, be
cause the under-developed intellect
means the over-developed physical
nature and they are easy prey for the
procurers; still more easy prey be
cause there is nothing honest by
which they may earn their living.