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Mental Retardation and American Society: The Era of Hope

Russell Hollander
Social Service Review
Vol. 60, No. 3 (Sep., 1986), pp. 395-420
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30011849
Page Count: 26
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Mental Retardation and American Society: The Era of Hope
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Abstract

This article explores the origins of American public policy toward the mentally retarded in mid-nineteenth-century America. Initial efforts to help mentally retarded people are placed within the context of a larger mission among philanthropists to encourage a moral transformation within American society. Such factors as fear of the mentally retarded, a religious duty to help them, an aesthetically based dislike of this group, and public apathy are identified as major forces influencing policy. The debate between advocates of short-term schooling and long-term incarceration is examined. Finally, the question of how best to make provision for adult idiots, which became a focal point for resolving the debate, is explored.

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