Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ideas Have Consequences

While I was teaching a lesson last spring about how the eugenics movement led to the Nazi Holocaust, Kathy McDonald, an ed tech who worked in my classroom, called my attention to an obituary in the Conway Daily Sun for the late Walter Henry Berry, Jr. He and his wife had spent their childhood in the Laconia State School, which at the time had been run by the New Hampshire State Eugenics Movement.The obit showed a picture of white-haired, white-bearded Walter with his little dog, Goldie. Many local residents indicated on the Sun’s Facebook page that they remembered seeing them walking together on Route 16. Some of my students did too, and it made the lesson more real. Last month, they Googled the “New Hampshire Eugenics Movement” and learned that hundreds of NH citizens were forcibly sterilized at the Laconia State School. Walter’s obit didn’t say he or his wife were, but neither did it indicate they had any surviving children. My students learned also that Maine forcibly sterilized hundreds at Pineland Hospital in Gray.According to Wikipedia:

At its peak of popularity eugenics was supported by prominent people, including Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes, H. G. Wells, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Emile Zola, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, John Harvey Kellogg, Linus Pauling and Sidney Webb. Its most infamous proponent and practitioner was, however, Adolf Hitler who praised and incorporated eugenic ideas in Mein Kampf and emulated Eugenic legislation for the sterilization of ‘defectives’ that had been pioneered in the United States.

In class, we studied ideas popular in America during the early 20th century and how they affected American beliefs about the beginnings of the universe, human life, and whether human life had meaning. I called student attention to correlations between Darwinism, eugenics, left-wing political movements and atheism. Most of those Wikipedia listed above were left-of-center, including Tennessee biology teacher John Scopes’ attorney, Clarence Darrow - an atheist who defended communists and anarchists. He was also one of the earliest members of the ACLU. Last month, National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg posted some excerpts from the textbook Scopes used when he taught evolution in Tennessee. According to Goldberg, the passages had been cited by prosecutor William Jennings Bryan during the famous “Monkey Trial.”

The first passage was a boilerplate summary of Darwin’s theory describing how humans evolved from lower life forms. Teaching the other passages, however, would get John Scopes or any other teacher today in big trouble. Not because they’d violate any laws against teaching evolution, but because they’re blatantly racist - declaring the so-called Caucasian Race to be the epitome of evolutionary progress. See for yourself:

The Races of Man. – At the present time there exist upon the earth five races or varieties of man, each very different from the other in instincts, social customs, and, to an extent, in structure. These are the Ethiopian or negro type, originating in Africa; the Malay or brown race, from the islands of the Pacific; the American Indian; the Mongolian or yellow race, including the natives of China, Japan, and the Eskimos; and finally, the highest race type of all, the Caucasians, represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.

After a boilerplate paragraph on natural selection, the text went into a frightening new area: “Artificial Selection.”

Darwin reasoned that if nature seized upon favorable variants, then man by selecting the variants he wanted could form new varieties of plants or animals much more quickly than nature.

Then came: “Improvement of Man.”

If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might be improved by applying to them the laws of selection.

The text then describes generations of Jukes and Kallikaks - two families cited as “parasites” because of “feeble-mindedness and immorality” which the text considers genetic. That led to this scary passage:

Parasitism and its Cost to Society. – Hundreds of families such as those described above exist to-day, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.

And finally, came this chilling passage called “The Remedy”:

If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.
Walter Henry Berry, Jr. and his wife were victims of the above “remedy” of “separating the sexes in asylums or other places” at the hands of the New Hampshire Eugenics Movement. The Third Reich believed it was better to “kill them off to prevent them from spreading.” At the close of World War II the world saw in the Holocaust the logical, horrible extension of the “science” of eugenics. “Prominent” people stopped advocating it, but, one - Margaret Sanger - went on to found Planned Parenthood, which performs millions of abortions with billions of US taxpayer dollars. That organization today is strongly supported by prominent left-of-center Americans too numerous to mention.

Ideas like eugenics have histories - and, they have consequences for the lives of ordinary people.


Anonymous said...

Its remarkable how you tie all this into one neat little bundle and use it as an excuse to preach your hatred, which is pretty obvious based on your attitude toward evolution and Darwin and the political left. Your religious and political beliefs do not belong in the classroom any more than what Mr Scopes was trying to teach in his time. There is much evidence that Darwin repudiated his thoughts on what became eugenics and never fully espoused its use. The History of the Catholic Church and Christianity in general is a long story of instances where people were put to death or exiled for not being enlightened, and that was the policy of the Church. Darwin apparently only wrote about these things. Your God and his followers have a history too Tom.

DAWN said...

"Your God and his followers have a history too Tom."

Why are you blaming God? Christianity is built on love not hate. Jesus himself said "by their fruits you shall know them." Fruit is evident of the tree to which it belongs.

The fruit he was referring to is "love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, patience, self-control,faith and meekness."

So any not practicing these things are NOT followers of God even tho they may "profess" to be. So please don't blame God for what his enemies are responsible for.

Remember the ones who do the most damage are the ones who snuck right into the camp.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Hmm. Anonymous is touchy. That the Eugenics Movement was a fruit of the Progressive Movement is not coincidence.

Historical facts are troublesome for leftists who would rather gloss over them. The toll of human lives taken by secular leftists in the 20th century far exceeds whatever was done in the name of Christianity during the previous nineteen centuries.

Facts are very stubborn things.

Mackenzie Andersen said...

Today the movement is manifest in attempts to have the government intervene in "end of life decisions"- Not just once but over and over and over again- as anyone might know who has an elderly parent and is repeatedly asked to submit and resubmit forms regarding the patients wish for life support systems. Why do I suspect that if the patient says he does not want to have his life supported that the requests to submit the form will cease and desist?

The current solution for social security involves rising the retirement age to 69. I wonder when "end of life counseling” kicks in? It can't be too much later than retirement age. It is currently mandatory to pay into social security and buy health care insurance but once the citizen is old enough to benefit from such programs, he is seen as costing society money and is time to administer end of life counseling.

When did it become the government’s business to try to assert a materialistic philosophy on the people- to interfere with our end of life experiences? Chances are excellent that those doing the “counseling” have never been close to the end of life and have no real knowledge of its meaning- but they have granted themselves the right to meddle in personal matters using the same logic as eugenics- people that are not productive members of society need to be eliminated- As with slave owners the value of human life is measured by narrowly defined concepts of “productivity”. And the decisions of who should live and/or reproduce belong to a governmental power elite.

Anonymous said...

Facts are stubborn as indeed both you and I are. We all have our versions of the truth.
This is the good stuff and I love a good fuss. I may be touchy but I got your attention. :)

Be well and a sincere Happy New Year from the loyal opposition.

Mackenzie Andersen said...

What "facts" in the article do you dispute which justifies your subjective view that the article expresses hatred? In my view the article serves to warns us of historical consequences of the liberal-progressive movement and uses facts in the form of direct quotes to substantiate criticism of that movement. This is a movement based on a particular political philosophy and the education would be even better if the under pinning of that political philosophy were examined along side the political philosophy expressed in the Federalist Papers.

I do not see any justification for your depiction that the article expresses hatred other than an arguable belief that any criticism of whatever can be conflated with hatred. You have intentionally selected language terms that connote emotion rather than reason. The article presents a reasoned argument- this may also evoke feelings of hatred toward those that function by the logistics of eugenics- but by choosing to define the article as mere "hatred", you are also choosing to deny the reasoned and fact based substance of the article and suggesting that these historical facts do not belong in the educational system of the United States of America- a history forgotten is one that we cannot learn from.

DAWN said...

"We all have our versions of the truth."

What in the world is this supposed to mean? Truth is truth. There's no versions of it. You don't put a spin on truth and then make it your version of the truth. You are most certainly welcome to your opinion and they're as numerous as the stars but truth is not opinion.

1+1=2. You can put your spin on it and call it something else if you like but in the end you're only deceiving yourself.

"You have intentionally selected language terms that connote emotion rather than reason."

exactly. And we should all know that emotions can't always be trusted.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh Dawn, If you don't understand that we all have our own version of the truth, you apparently do not pay much attention to the Political world. The real truth eventually sorts it self out but it is often something nobody even considered. There are very few absolutes in this world.
As for emotions, I am very passionate about what I believe. If this is wrong then this whole discussion is meaningless. I am sorry I cannot march in lock step with your beliefs. Life is not that simple.

DAWN said...

Life is a lot simpler than we make it. We make it difficult.

Of course I pay attention to the political world. They're all a bunch of liars. Seems as tho that is a prerequisite for office these days. Nothing to do with truth at all. So don't use the political world as your barometer.

And you're right the truth always prevails. But that's because it's the truth. It will always stand. But for every truth there are many, many counterfeits.

That's why those working in the treasury department study the real thing so when the counterfeit comes up they can instantly spot it. If you don't know the truth how will you be able to spot the lie?

As far as being passionate goes, there's nothing wrong with that as long as you don't use your emotions and passions to make decisions without taking into consideration the truth. Our passions and emotions have a way of leading us away from the truth because we want what we want. Emotions will ebb and flow but the truth will always stand.

Beverly Klitsch said...

Dear Mr. McLaughlin:

Thank you for your column appearing the other day in the Conway Sun. I almost never agree with anything you write, but this column is a great reminder of past (hopefully, past) actions. I find it interesting how the “science” moved from the U.S. to Germany. I think it also speaks to how the human mind is quite malleable, for better and for worse. I also remember Annie and Walter walking along Rt. 16, later just Walter and his dog but, of course, had no idea of their past.

Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

The irony here Tom is that the "politicians" you admire and quote would sooner see you and the rest of us wiped off the face of the earth tomorrow. Democrat or Republican--doesn't matter. As long as they keep you engaged and distracted with silly so-called "political" blogging they win. As long as they keep people like you arguing endlessly, which only works to divide, they win. Your defense of the right wing is as sickening as the other side's defense of the liberal agenda. There is a lot more going on here than right vs. left. That is only a distraction for the sheeple to engage in. Let's evolve and transcend these silly he said she said arguments that satisfy your ego and work toward true understanding of what is going on right now all around us. As far as I am concerned if you support either political party you are sanctioning mass murder in the guise of a war on terrorism. If you truly believe we have cause to be killing people rather than helping unite the world than keep shouting from the pulpit of hate, bigotry, and shortsightedness.

Anonymous said...

Ayup, another Massachusetts guy in exile who actually believes he is from Maine. Let me guess----you misspent your youth drinking too much and smoking some reefer. Due to a lack of conviction and the overwhelming burden of true freedom you found it much easier to hide behind the guise of a right wing extremist. To make an Easy Rider analogy-- you went from being a Peter Fonda type character to becoming one of the rednecks who shoots and kills the personified vision of freedom embodied by Fonda and Hopper.........Boring.