[I should note that I'm in the crankiest mood ever
, so I'm trying not to actually talk to people until that goes away, since everything is growly and stupid.]
Anyway, on more pleasant: I'm still working my way through Woeful Afflictions
. I had put off picking it back up after the first chapter because it was so dense. This chapter is an improvement generally in language and tone, but I came away from it wanting to scream.
First Knee-jerk Reaction:
Samuel Gridley Howe is generally seen as this great Friend To Blind People. He ran the first residential school for the blind in North America, and developed a lot of ideas on how to "train" blind people in manual labour. I think the Wikipedia Entry on Howe's work
with Blind people probably gives a good idea on how people viewed - and still view - him.
Which is why reading his constant comments about how blind people are blind because their parents or grandparents were bad or sexually perverted, that blind people should never be allowed to breed because of what it would do to generations yet unborn, and that blind people were generally all-around inferior to everyone else is a tad upsetting. He also asserted that all truly right-thinking people would want to be deaf over being blind, because blind people were incapable of learning the nuances of language, and blindness should really be limited to working class people.Awesome
Now, in less knee-jerk and more thinky:
What's really interesting about this chapter is that Klages covers how Howe went from "Blind people: just as awesome and capable as everyone else" to "Blind people are pathetic and suffer mightily and must not ever breed or masturbate". At the founding of the Institution, Howe argued that blind people were "fully human" and quite capable of taking care of themselves and doing everything that sighted people could do. However, the Institution itself needed charitable donations. According to Klages, this contradiction caused problems in the "marking" of blind people, and, as time went on, Howe's Annual Reports presented blind people as more and more pathetic, needing donations to survive.
This is partly due to the increased industrialisation. While Howe was setting up workshops so blind adults could potentially earn a living, the same jobs were being done by machines at a faster pace and without need for food, rest, etc. So, while Howe went through and tried to present purchasing goods made by blind people as not
charity, it was becoming more apparent that it was because things were being made better and faster elsewhere. Howe felt that people were less likely to purchase goods rather than just give to charity, while he wanted to create a situation where blind people were actually self-sufficient.
Klages also talks about Howe's growing ideas that blind people needed a "natural family". I had known, but forgotten, that he eventually moved his school from dormitory-style living to cottages where there were a few children and a matron. Each of these cottages, like the dormitories, were single-sex. His theory was that having a matron would prevent the children from committing "unnatural sexual acts", and segregating them would prevent the children from falling in love and marrying.
I was also really interested in reading about how Howe wrote about class. In the first years of the Institution, he had developed three "tracks" that blind people could be put on. The first was training for intellectual type work, like being lawyers or ministers. The second was being trained entirely in musical stuff, and the third was all manual stuff all the time. Later he gave up on all of that and decided everyone was getting all of the forms of education because it would allow the upper class students the chance to truly understand manual labour, and the lower classes to have a refinement to their activities. And then he gave that all up because blind - defective. *sigh*
This chapter does talk a bit about people as posters, but doesn't get nearly as "academic wank" as the last chapter did.
I have no deep & meaningful conclusions, because tired.