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Idiots in America 

Idiots in America
Chapter:
Idiots in America
Author(s):

James W. Trent

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199396184.003.0001
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date: 07 June 2020

The chapter first considers the place of idiots in colonial America and in the early republic of the United States. During the period most Americans saw idiots as an expected part of their community, regarding them with pity, humour, but usually kindness. In the 1840s, Americans began to open residential schools for educating idiots. Through articles in popular journals and through local demonstrations of their pupils’ learning, leaders of these schools gained widespread social and legislative support for their schools. The support for their work, however, proved to be a mixed blessing. Economic downturns meant that their graduates could not find gainful employment, while local officials pressured them to take more pupils into their facilities. By the 1860s, their schools were becoming institutions/asylums in which the goal of education for community living would give way to permanent institutional incarceration.

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