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Old 01-06-2012, 02:57
freemanjud freemanjud is offline
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Location: Boston, Massachusetts
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Let's Improve the Health of the Population! (due Mon Jan 9)

The Vermont Sterilization Law (1931)

"Virginia Governor Apologizes for Forced Sterilizations," UP (May 3, 2002)

Scott Christianson, "Bad Seed or Bad Science? The Story of the Notorious Jukes Family," New York Times (February 8, 2003)

Scott Allen, "New Book Delves into Fernand's Cruel Past," The Boston Globe (May 1, 2004)

Welling Savo, "The Master Race," Boston Magazine (December 2002)

Michael J. Sandel, “The Case Against Perfection: What’s Wrong with Designer Children, Bionic Athletes, and Genetic Engineering,” The Atlantic (April 2004)

People in Vermont in the 1910s through the 1930s were becoming increasingly concerned about the nature of their population. A growing preoccupation with the number of mentally disabled people in the state led to the passing of a sterilization law, supported by eugenicists.
Virginia did the same. So did many other states in the good ol’ US of A.

With the above readings, you will learn more about the history of eugenics in four states: Vermont, Virginia, New York, and our very own Massachusetts. Now that you've read these pieces and considered what they tell you, what do you think? While on the one hand, sterilization seems a gross violation of a basic human right, a growing population of mentally disabled people is an issue for any society to contend with, no?

Let’s take the case of Vermont. Think practically here: 1931 was in the depths of the Depression. It was expensive to house and care for these people. And projections suggested that there would be more and more of them. The Vermont state budget would have difficulty coping with such costs.

So the balancing scales are in your hands: how do you decide? Is sterilization a good idea in this case? Were Vermont and Virginia correct to pass such a law? You can see the problem as illustrated by the Jukes’ family in New York (at least as seen in their lifetimes). What do you make of what Massachusetts did? Get real here: if the population of people with these “special issues” continues to grow, can we as a society continue to sustain and support it? Can you make a case for sterilization with an eye to improving the population or do you feel otherwise?
Ms. Freeman
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Old 01-08-2012, 22:08
Shelly3101 Shelly3101 is offline
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Basic human rights should not be ignored.

Reading these articles, I can see how these issues of sterilization and genetic engineering are so controversial. I think that sterilization may be a good choice in some cases, but it should definitely not be forced upon a person, especially if there is nothing wrong with him or her (which was the case in many instances of forced sterilization). Genetic engineering, I believe, is a good thing, but is used incorrectly in society. It can help in preventing diseases, mutations, or anything that might make someone’s life more difficult. However, when it is used to improve or even enhance physical appearances or things that don’t really matter to a person’s health state, that’s crossing the line.

Looking at Vermont’s Sterilization Law and the apology from the Governor of Virginia, I think it was completely wrong for the government to get involved and encourage such discrimination of people. As Warner said, “As I have previously noted, the eugenics movement was a shameful effort in which state government never should have been involved." In a few other articles, the laws and their effects were compared to Hitler and his actions during the Holocaust. Okay, it might save the states some money in the long run, but sterilizing people by force takes away the right to control one’s own life. To put something like this into law, to make it legal, gives people reason to justify it.

But the states’ methods for choosing people for sterilization are also unbelievable and faulty. As in the case of Fred Boyce of Massachusetts, many people were incorrectly labeled “feebleminded”, “idiot”, “moron”, or “imbecile”, and put in state schools because of their “condition”. This might have also led them to be forcefully sterilized. This one mistake changes the rest of their lives. Boyce, who is now in his sixties, and has cancer, “can't afford to leave his job running a carnival concession booth, even though he is suffering from advanced colon cancer.” As we learned in class, the tests that were used to judge a person’s mental capabilities were flawed and severely unfair.

Being a senior who applied to most of the colleges and universities mention in the readings, I am mad that they would even support this unfair treatment. “Harvard academics and scholars weren't the only local backers of such measures. Former Boston University president Daniel Marsh, for whom the BU chapel is now named, called eugenics "a subject of vast importance," according to records on file at Yale. Professors at both Smith College and the Massachusetts Agricultural College, now UMass Amherst, were enthusiastic supporters of Leon Whitney's work in Shutesbury, volunteering their students as fieldworkers.” And to think MIT gave money to the Fernald Science Club to compensate for the hardships their members were put through.

I personally do not support sterilization. But if a person poses a true risk of transmitting a life threatening disease or genetic mutation to their children, I would suggest it. However, ultimately, it should be the person’s own decision to be sterilized, no one should have the right to make that decision for anyone else.

I support genetic engineering if it means the difference between an unhealthy child and a healthy one. But when it is used to choose the interests of the child, characteristics of the child, or the gender of the child, it’s sure to cause a problem. Sandel’s article says, “The moral quandary arises when people use such therapy not to cure a disease but to reach beyond health, to enhance their physical or cognitive capacities, to lift themselves above the norm.” Allowing people to choose the characteristics of their child may cause a skewed population, most notably an unequal male to female ratio (which will spark much more problems just on its own).
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Old 01-08-2012, 22:09
lotusflower lotusflower is offline
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What kind of world was that....?

After reading these stories, I was wondering as why such weird laws were made about “feeblemindedness” just because people didn’t pass a measly IQ test. It’s strange that people would get sent to “mental hospitals” and possibly get tainted for the rest of their lives. I think that people shouldn’t get forcefully sterilized, although the issue of a large amount of “disabled” people should be handled in a much different way. Disabled people should not be locked up like animals, and it’s simply not humane.
Really, isolation and treating people inhumanely is not an option whatsoever. I think that the matter should’ve been treated differently. Of course, in this day and age we have technology and we have a different mindset to face issues like these. Obviously, back in that time, they didn’t have these resources, but things should’ve been handled very differently. Locking people up are not an answer. Its weird how even in our own state, Massachusetts, the Fernand Hospital was in existence. It’s unbelievable. I think that these types should have been dealt with more care and caution rather than taking hasty decisions which could ruin lives forever. Haste is waste, after all. Sterilization doesn’t cut the problem; it can increase risk of violence, and protests for killing human rights. It can lead to a bigger crisis. By forcing sterilization, disease won’t die down. Diseases are diseases. They won’t be cut down just like that. There should’ve been a better plan for treating this issue.
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Old 01-09-2012, 00:34
footballstud94 footballstud94 is offline
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Unjust Sterilization

Sterilizations seem like such a quick solution to a bigger problem. I definitely do not agree with forcing people to be sterilized especially if they are perfectly healthy. It should definitely be left up to people to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be. I do think that there are some cases where people should strongly consider being sterilized such as if they carry the trait for terminal illnesses, or mutations because they should consider how difficult life for their child will be. But then again, if people want to have children, they should be able to. So the question of whether or not sterilization is a good or bad idea should only be determined by the individual.

In the cases of Vermont and Virginia, I disagree with their decision to pass such laws. They became involved in people’s personal lives. The method that the states used to choose people who should be sterilized was completely unjust and unreliable. The fact that people were sterilized because they were considered “feebleminded” is ridiculous. And on top of that , many people were labeled feebleminded because the test was unfair. People were easily labeled an “idiot”, “moron”, or “imbecile”. Even the Jukeses for example were labeled incorrectly.

Sterilization should not be forced upon anyone. By doing that the government took away the rights of its people. It also discriminated against many innocent people and did not give them equal opportunities. However people who have the chance of spreading deathly diseases should strongly consider it.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:07
Manifestations Manifestations is offline
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Forced sterilization is a violation of a human's basic right to life. The right to life should, reasonably and idealistically, be an inalienable right. Realistically speaking, though, there can be a case made for eugenics. During the Great Depression, costs were high and funds were low. There was no way to provide even the most meager care for those of poor health, mentally or physically, let alone good care, for them to be well taken care of.
There was no good solution, either sterilize and force population control, or let people suffer even more. It should, and could, have been more humane and there should have been a more definitive process. Many suffered because there was only one method of decision, which wasn't fair, or representative of experiences outside of the "norm" of westernized civilization. It didn't allow for those who had never been exposed to certain parts of life.
While I agree with much of what footballstud94 said, one of the many reasons the government took control of sterilization and population control is because of the idea that many couldn't control their own reproductive decisions due to a lack of mental faculties. They also thought that allowing those who were physically sick to choose to reproduce was dangerous for the rest of society, and that their priorities were to protect the healthy portion of society, and to do what was best for them.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:14
satcher12 satcher12 is offline
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Engineering a population to produce superior humans is an interesting concept, but people went about it the wrong way. As we’ve seen with the Jukes family, most of 20th century eugenics was founded on ambiguous data. But the idea of genetic engineering does have some potential.

First off, I agree with footballstud94. The whole idea of sterilizing people has got to go. I don’t think sterilization should be recommended under any circumstances. A baby only inherits half of its parents’ alleles, and even those alleles are not exact copies of their parents’. There’s this whole mix-mash of genes that happens in between (you can ask an AP Bio student about it) that has specifically evolved to allow for more genetic variance in the offspring. So even if your father had some horrible disease, and you also have that horrible disease, there’s no absolute guarantee that your child will have that disease. And along the way, there may be some combination of genes that will give you some great quality—like make you six foot seven! Okay, that sounded stupid, but you get the point.

To put it more simply . . .
One, as always, needs to look at the big picture. We know that genetic variance in a population is generally good, because who knows what the future might hold? Maybe a thousand years from now it will be really useful to have a third eye and if we’re like, oh, whoops, we deleted that mutation from the gene pool a long time ago, then we may have a problem. And of a course, many intelligent, educated people can’t think four moves ahead in a chess game, so how are we going to predict the state of the world a thousand years from now? The answer is, we can’t. My advice is to let research into genetics develop and see where it goes. I think that the introduction of muscle growth enhancers, etc. into the hands of average people should one day be allowed. As the article, “The Case Against Perfection: What’s Wrong with Designer Children, Bionic Athletes, and Genetic Engineering,” states, our definition of success already relies so much on natural talent, so there doesn’t seem to make much sense in not allowing average people to genetically enhance their abilities.

My guess is, seeing how society is becoming more and more individualized, and science more advanced, eugenics will make a strong comeback within the next 50 years. But, it's just a guess.

Last edited by satcher12; 01-09-2012 at 02:23.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:40
Khummel Khummel is offline
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How Feeble-Minded Can You Be???

Before reading these articles and learning about sterilization in class, I had no idea that it was this common and so widespread throughout the country. I am both appalled and amazed at the fact that it managed to exist for such a long time. I don't understand how people thought that it was lawful to sterilize innocent people, simply because they failed a test that measured one's intelligence. I am definitely opposed to this whole subject, because people who were diagnosed as being "feebleminded" were all grouped into one big category. They were assumed to be useless, and a threat to society.

The idea of genetic engineering is not what bothered me about this topic; it was the fact that people were not allowed the freedom to make their own choices. It's one thing to give a person the choice to sterilize themselves based on their family history, but it's completely different when they're being forced to do so. I agree with footballstud94, because if there was a history of a certain disease in a person's family, I think that it would be beneficial to take that into consideration when they're having kids. However, I think that they should make their own decisions about the circumstance. The government has no right to decide whether or not a person is capable of producing "normal" children. This is also something that bothered me about the sterilization law, that the government assumed mental illnesses to be a burden to society.

First of all, I don't understand why the government chose to focus on minimizing the population of mentally ill children, rather than working on ways to help improve their condition. In today's society, we have come so far that with the help of different medications, schooling, and therapy, many people who suffer from such diseases have the ability to live just like a perfectly healthy human being, with very little restrictions. As lotusflower mentioned, they obviously didn't have the same resources that we do today. However, it was not right for them to just assume that "feebleminded" people were worthless to society.

Fred Boyce is just one example of the many normal children who were locked away in schools and mental facilities specifically geared toward feeble-minded people. While he was locked away after being accused of having mild mental retardation, he was fed bowls of radioactive oatmeal, and was subjected to several torturous experiments. Not only has this caused him severe emotional pain, but it has also caused him severe physical pain, because he is forced to stay at his job despite the fact that he is currently battling cancer. If scientists had spent more time studying the correlation between genetics, family history, and mental illness, they would have been able to come up with a solution that both allowed for the existence of mentally ill people in the world, as well as provided them with equal opportunities as healthy people.
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Old 01-09-2012, 02:45
x0stuckonlovex x0stuckonlovex is offline
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What were they thinking?

I think that sterilization is cruel to people because who is the one person to say that someone wrong with them? I think that it is all perspective. To one person someone could be feeble minded, but when compared to another they are a genius. What does a single test do? What if someone is just having a bad day, and they are tired and can’t think really fast?

I disagree with SHELLY3101, I think no matter the concern for society, it is wrong to sterilize people. People for thousands of years have learned to adapt to challenges that they faced with. Why couldn’t society adapt to more people who have mental problems? I don’t think that there is a way to decide whether you sterilize or not because unless wished by the person who is being sterilized it is just wrong. Unless wished, it is wrong to sterilize someone, no matter what the situation is. You shouldn’t be able to take away someone right to reproduce.

Vermont and Virginia were not right to pass those laws because they most likely stopped many people who wanted children from having them. Also most of the people they sterilized were just like anyone else, no matter what test deemed them as feeble-minded.

I think that Massachusetts reacted in fear and under pressure. States around them were influencing them to do what they were in fear that people from other states would enter, who were unsterilized. I feel that if they were to think about what they were doing then they may have been able to see that it was a crazy and stupid idea. Especially when it came to radiation in food. Did they not realize how harmful that is to humans? Even a little radiation built up over time will harm the body.

Yes, society will be able to support it. We change all the time to support the new isseus that we are faced with. We are made to do so. People for thousands have years have learned to change with the times. If they didn’t then where would we be? I don’t think that I can make a case of why sterilization will improve society because as LOTUSFLOWER said it is not an option ever. People should never have to give up their right to have children just because someone says so. It is their choice whether they want to be sterilized, and it should never be forced upon them.
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Old 01-09-2012, 03:07
Ace12 Ace12 is offline
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Unfair Sterilization

In my opinion, forced sterilization is wrong for any reason. I can understand that during the Depression it was very expensive to take care of people with mental disabilities, which was something the state couldn’t really afford. But that doesn’t make it okay to lock people up or force them to be sterilized. I can also see the point of view that if people with disabilities have children, then there will be more people in the population that have disabilities and that isn’t good because it lowers the overall health of the population. I think it’s okay to make sterilization an option for people and let them know that it is available, but the government shouldn’t be able to force someone to become sterilized by seeing how well they perform on a test. If someone wants to have children, they should be able to. I also agree with Khummel that “I am definitely opposed to this whole subject, because people who were diagnosed as being "feebleminded" were all grouped into one big category. They were assumed to be useless, and a threat to society.” There are very different types and levels of mental disabilities, they can’t all be treated as the same thing.

In addition, the tests they used were unfair. As we saw in class, almost all of us would have been labeled as feebleminded, and most of us wouldn’t have even been allowed to take the test a second time because we did so poorly. But somehow we’re still able to do well in school and in life without being put into mental institutions. This shows that one test doesn’t accurately tell you someone’s intelligence. The unfairness of these tests is another reason why it shouldn’t be allowed for a law to force people to be sterilized. While they may argue that it is a way to improve the population, it is not a fair way of determining who is actually “hurting” the population. And not everyone with mental disabilities is a problem for society. As satcher12 pointed out, someone’s child may not even have the disease or disability their parent does because biologically we are designed to be different.

I also think the Jukes’ family case wasn’t considered correctly, but rather used to prove the point they wanted it to prove. A large number of the people Dugdale studied in this case weren’t even related by blood, and so can’t be used to accurately tell the hereditary effects on the family. In this case, it’s more a representation of the environment they were brought up in than how their genetics effected them.

I was surprised to hear about the Fernald State School in Massachusetts for children who were considered feebleminded. I never knew that there were large schools like that set up here in such an unjust way. Most of the kids who were sent there were from poor families and so did badly on the test because they didn’t have education opportunities. Most didn’t have actual mental disabilities, but were of normal intelligence. I was upset to hear Boyce’s story of being sent there at age eight when his foster mother died because it was an easier way for the state to deal with him. He scored just below the requirement on the IQ test they gave him, so they labeled him as feebleminded and locked him away. It is also clearly wrong that they did tests on these children by feeding them radioactive meals and such to study them, which is another violation of their rights. By doing these types of experiments, they took normal children and gave them lasting emotional, mental and physical problems they would never have had without the “help” of these schools.
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Old 01-09-2012, 03:13
Shelly3101 Shelly3101 is offline
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WHOOPS, might have worded that wrong.

To what x0stuckonlovex said:

I do agree that it is wrong to sterilize a person against their will; it should only be done if the person agrees to it. I would hope that if someone had some sort of severe life threatening medical condition that had a strong chance of being passed down to their children, that the person would not want their children to have the life they had and would choose, on their own, to be sterilized. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, it would have to be that person's own decision.

I agree that society is adapting and changing. That's why we now see people and governments apologizing for forced sterilization in the mid 1900s. However, I don't think we (as a society) are fully adapted to accepting disabled people, whether mentally or physically disabled. Disabled people are still treated differently and discriminated against in their day-to-day lives, which added to their disability, make their lives even harder.

I'm not thinking about concern for society, but concern for the people.
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Old 01-09-2012, 03:21
MalcolmX MalcolmX is offline
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Genetically modified posterchild, anyone?

The logic behind eugenics and sterilization is fundamentally a sound ideology. As Ms. Freeman pointed out, an increasing amount of mentally challenged people is detrimental to society as a whole because, for one thing, their treatment and aid is extremely expensive. If we have a strategy that we could implement to prevent such a spreading issue, we should use it for the sake of saving money. After all, morals and manners aside, no one wants to be surrounded by psychopaths. But when you zoom in to each individual case and consider that you are robbing each of these unintentionally impeded people of their basic human rights, your conscience overpowers your logic. Whether a person is as mentally or physically sound as the next one should not in any way alter the rights with which they were bestowed at the moment of their birth. If you can't legally sterilize a perfectly sane person with genetically inheritable diabetes, then you can't sterilize a person with a low level of intelligence, or even one suffering from psychopathy. That's the first argument.

The second argument is this: if you could sterilize or alter people with inept mentalities, why shouldn't you go ahead and do the same to people with other burdensome health impediments? Where does one draw the line? What if, eventually, we start to view brown eyes as a menace to society and start sterilizing people so that only blue green and hazel eyes remain in existence? The point is, humanity has a hard time drawing and respecting boundaries. As "The Case Against Perfection" so wonderfully stated, "the genomic revolution has induced a kind of moral vertigo." We get so caught up in the glory of our technological and scientific advancements that we let them catalyze significant changes in our lifestyles and mindsets. The human mind is easily manipulated enough for us to gradually adopt an acceptance of genetically modified foods, and eventually people, just for the sake of betterment. We do want everything to be bigger and better.*

Personally, I'm highly opposed to the genetic modification of anything. I believe that nature in itself has an inevitable cycle of events that occur in convenient succession to keep the omnipresent equilibrium of life in order. By tampering with such natural occurrences so drastically, we are ultimately hurting society in the long-run. Survival is different from indulgence. And more often than not, we are too late in recognizing the difference and treating it.*

So in my opinion, sterilization, or any other action taken to prevent the spreading of mental or physical diseases, should not be practiced under almost any circumstances (unless we have a zombie apocalypse, then we better get some genetic modification going ASAP). By prohibiting such actions, we would be protecting the innate rights of all human beings, and preventing the indulgence of our race which could potentially lead us to Holocaust-like circumstances.*
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Old 01-09-2012, 03:22
jordanrose107 jordanrose107 is offline
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Designer Handbags, Designer Babies

Ethical questions are always the hardest to answer. We want to share our opinions, but we also don't really want to be judged for them. Well, here are mine:

I absolutely understand Virginia's logic that people who were mentally disabled or likely to produce people who would be mentally disabled cost the taxpayers huge amounts of money. These are people that are going to need moderate to intense care (medial, psychological, and otherwise) for their entire lives. I understand that during the Great Depression, this would seem like an absolute waste of money; when there are right minded, hard working people who already aren't getting what they need, why should we be diverting our resources to people who aren't contributing anything to society? I understand how forced sterilization seemed like a good idea at the time (it was basically nipping the problem in the bud, no pun intended). However, I can't say that I agree with it. There just does not seem to have been enough scientific, genealogical evidence at the time to prove that these people would have produce "feebleminded" children. I suppose that maybe, had a person's (or couple's) complete family history(-ies) been at hand, and there was overwhelming evidence that their offspring would be leeches on society, the concept of sterilization could have been strongly suggested to them, or something. The prospect of forcing people to give up any future chance of producing children seems a tad...I don't know...totalitarian?

Now onto this idea of picking and choosing the traits for one's unborn child and using gene therapy to modify oneself after they've been born. Again, I understand the concerns with this. My gut reaction to hearing this was something along the lines of "oh my God, that is so cool! I wish that was around when I was still gestating, oh man, how awesome would that have been?", but now I'm seeing the downsides to this. Michael Sandel's point that using technology to "enhance" what we already have would probably create two classes of people: genetically modified "superpeople", ie, the ones with access to modification technology, and the normal people who do not have that and are therefore stuck with whatever inferior traits they were born with. And that just spells disaster.

I predict that gene therapy and genetic modifications, if they become mainstream, will probably end being like a futuristic version of today's plastic surgery - something controversial that people can do that to makes themselves look better (their definition of "better") that a lot of other people do not agree with. If you ask me, I agree with Shelly3101: it's fine if it means the difference between a healthy and a sickly child (because, really, if you had the opportunity to make sure your child wouldn't live their life as a fragile mess, wouldn't you take it?), but don't get crazy with it. Some things should just be left to chance.
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Old 01-09-2012, 03:35
icetea icetea is offline
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I like satcher12’s comparison of genetic engineering to a chess game in which even the most intelligent person can completely predict. I don’t think anyone should have the power to choose what another person should be like because those that do the choosing are not god-like, all-knowing, or perfect themselves. People try to classify characteristics as being good or bad when they are simply different just like how the peppers we looked at were different. For example, imagine someone had genes encoding for eight fingers on each hand and the parents decided to modify that gene because they viewed it as a flaw. Yet, what if he loves music and if he had kept his eight fingers he would have been the best pianist in the world? Then changing his genome becomes a mistake. These things cannot be predicted and that is the beauty of life, the unpredictability. Also, those who seem to be deficient in one aspect are sometimes extraordinary in other ways. Geniuses and artists are often classified as being weird. I’ve heard the story of one brilliant surgeon who was amazing in the operating room but lacked basic common sense.

From a biological point of view, the human genome is astronomical in size and within the human species itself, there is very little variation. Moreover, it is very possible that even if one of the parents has a deadly disease, the child may not. It is almost never a 100% chance. Therefore, I believe it is wrong to sterilize people against their will. It is possible for parents that seem to be very unintelligent to give birth to a brilliant child because the parents might have brilliant recessive genes.

The tests that the leaders of the eugenics movement were using were unfair and biased as well. Factors like poverty and environment were not taken into consideration. A broad term like “criminality” is not a single gene that can be selected for. Criminality isn’t simply a collection of genes either because behavioral characteristics are highly dependent on the environment an individual grew up in. Also, in the case of what Massachusetts was doing, using hearsay, what neighbors said about people was extremely unreliable.

I do understand why eugenics was so popular especially in the face of depression. The people living in those states felt that it wasn’t fair for them to have to support those with mental disabilities. It is a difficult dilemma with no clear-cut answer. I do wish that people can be more accepting of those who are more unfortunate than themselves. Borrowing a line from Spider Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” If you are lucky enough in the genetic lottery to be born with genes that make you a person with abilities, you should use them to help the public instead of trying to get rid of everyone who you deem to be inferior. Genetics are dangerous because they threaten to take away values like hard work and determination, aspects that make us human and not programmed robots.
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Old 01-09-2012, 03:42
johnnyangel11 johnnyangel11 is offline
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Is this really what we resorted to?

Forced stetrilization is a wrong that should have never been implemented in society, but we must face the fact that it was, for there is no taking it back. Instead of running from the truth, we have to accept the mistakes that have been made, and learn from them.

The government should have never gotten involved with such a preposterous practice. To be completely honest, I believe the eugenics movement was complete and utter stupidity. Though people may have had good intentions, their actions did not quite match them. These practices were rather in humane, and I believe they are in the correct standing to be compared to the Holocaust. Just as Hitler was looking for a “master race”, we were doing just the same.

Many of these people that have been forcibly sterilized were unjustly so. The idea of state schools for people with learning impairments makes complete sense, though it was not done the correct way. People were labled things unfairly, and sent away for it. As Shelly3101 points out, the tests that landed people in such positions were unfair. Personally, it seems as though that eventually, our entire population would be completely depleted if we continued these practices.

I feel as though people failed to realize that there's more to life than intelligence, and no one should be treated any differently than anyone else unless imperitive. I also think that forced sterilization should be a crime, because people should have the right to procreate, no matter what society labels them. If that wasn't the case, would we not also demand sterilization of those people who are physically unable to take care of a child for various reasons?

I don't believe a lack of mental facilities should have made the governement feel as though it had to take control of the eugenics movement. Instead, I feel as if people should have been able to function in society to the best of their ability, and if there came a time they were unable to do so, then hospitals, rather the government should have helped them to find the necessary care.

All in all, forced sterilization should have never happened. And these bogus tests that decided whether or not a person was incompetant or not should have certainly been rethought before being implemented.
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Old 01-09-2012, 04:04
NotanAthlete NotanAthlete is offline
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I apologize for this post

DISCLAIMER:I will be upfront and say that I am kind of mad at myself for feeling the way I do about this matter but plain and simple this is it.

I think that honestly there is no flaw in the logic here. It sounds elitist to me and I think there is some horribleness to it but there are no holes I can really find in the logic. As a society and as a species it is kind of intuitive to think like Charles Darwin. Why wouldn't you want to take the imperfections out of your society? It's not killing anyone, its not physically harming anyone (ignoring the most probable lack of pain relief medication.) I understand that it is hard for people to say, " I will give up my right to have children for the better of society." However I think it is the best thing for the overall good of the species and if the country is taking that responsibility of deciding who is allowed to have kids then studies should be conducted to decide what the average intelligence is. This should not be done through SAT or fast paced testing necessarily and I am not saying I know what the best way to do this but if the government took control of it then it should be studied before that decision is made. I think that the decisions made in the past have been poor because there was very little solid statistics and reasoning backing up what they did. However I thought it was entertaining how crazy the whole Virginia law was written. I might be wrong here but if we can agree that humans have upgraded as a species why are we still writing archaically in the law books?
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Old 01-09-2012, 04:24
countrystrong countrystrong is offline
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 26
just because you're stupid, doesn't mean you're stupid

There have definitely been crazy and ridiculous things done in this world in order to “better” society and the human race. The sad part is that they will never cease to be done because everyone is always looking for the newest thing and trying to make something that was perfectly fine even better. Eugenics and sterilization of people is kind of the production and life of the automobile. This metaphor may be a little far fetched but I think it is a tad appropriate. When the first car was made, everyone was astonished and very impressed. Then they realized that maybe having a roof to a car would be beneficial because of the changes in weather. Long story short the car we know today wasn’t always like this, it was progressively made to be how it is right now and they are still enhancing it. People and eugenics are the same way. We, as people, started out a lot differently then how we are now. As time has gone on we have become more intelligent, which had translated into a bunch of different things like creating civilization and such. But yet we are still finding ways to improve ourselves and how we function.

Eugenics were used to try and make the human race better, same with sterilization. They thought that by getting rid of those who were inferior who would in turn create a better society, filled with brilliant people who were thriving. I personally think the whole thing was wrong because they clearly had no idea what they were doing. Yes, they thought they were doing the right thing so they could argue that it was for the better of the human race. But if we think about this realistically, in the early 1900s they really knew nothing about the brain and how it functions, so there data and ways of testing obviously were not the best. In their time period, being mentally ill or having some sort of disability was out of the ordinary and made you automatically inferior. Of course, for people who were raised in a time period of battles and wars, they thought the only logical thing to do was to use some sort of force. Like the Vermont Sterilization Law said, they would find some way to make it legal to sterilize you, you could “volunteer” or it could be deemed fit. So pretty much you had no choice in the matter.

Sterilization was definitely not the way to go but that was the only way they thought they could seriously make an impact on society and stop all of the relations and inheritance or bad genes. “I feel as though people failed to realize that there's more to life than intelligence, and no one should be treated any differently than anyone else unless imperitive.” johnnyangel11 said it perfectly as did icetea, “These things cannot be predicted and that is the beauty of life, the unpredictability. Also, those who seem to be deficient in one aspect are sometimes extraordinary in other ways. Geniuses and artists are often classified as being weird. I’ve heard the story of one brilliant surgeon who was amazing in the operating room but lacked basic common sense.” You really cant control how someone will end up turning out because eugenics is not 100% accurate or definite. No matter what there is some risk and chance being taken.

I think that is one of the major reasons why they even started doing sterilization in the first place, they were most likely scared of what would happen or could happen. In a young society that is trying to prosper and grow, one thing out of the ordinary can upset the balance and order they were trying to achieve. Having to take care of many mentally ill people made them even more scared because they might become a failing society in debt. The thing that still doesn’t make sense to me is that they are the ones who deemed everyone and their brother (literally) mentally ill and then realized it would cost a lot and started to sterilize everyone….didn’t they realize that maybe they were doing something wrong or were not going about it the right way?

Society will never be perfect but we can just look at our ancestors and what they did and try to improve. They were completely wrong in doing what they did, especially tricking people or not telling them what they were actually doing. But hey, Virginia apologized so it makes it okay right? All we can do is take it one step, or apology, at a time. “As May points out, parents give their children two kinds of love: accepting love and transforming love. Accepting love affirms the being of the child, whereas transforming love seeks the well-being of the child.” There is nothing wrong with a little push in the right direction from time to time but we have to make sure we are keeping ourselves in check and not going over the line. We need to focus for the future in trying to make less biased tests so maybe a lot of people wouldn’t fail them. Genetics should not be messed with, you never know how someone will turn out.
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Old 01-09-2012, 04:34
x0stuckonlovex x0stuckonlovex is offline
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 30
You are completely right when you say that we haven't learned to accept the mentally disabled people. That is society's fault and we need to change that. People are discriminating against these people who could potentionally feel perfectly normal but know that they are not because they are constantly put down.
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Old 01-09-2012, 05:13
iownnoanttoday iownnoanttoday is offline
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 16
Pimp My Baby, I mean Ride

I found Scott Allen’s “New Book Delves into Fernand’s Cruel Past” was fascinating! Oops on MIT and Quaker Oats parts, but oops on the country’s part. I see how it sadly took a more extreme and in-your-face idea of super race by the Nazis for people to see the wrong in eugenics. How distorted Fred Boyce’s life became due to this IQ test! We can see it in Boyce’s job limitation. That is why I agree with NotanAthlete that there must be another or better way to conduct studies of intelligence. Those labeled “feebleminded” were only tucked away and inappropriately attended too. That is not a way people should be cared for whether “feebleminded” or not or mislabeled as “feebleminded”.

Eugenics and sterilization had good intentions in the aim for improvement. But this improvment was only concerned in intelligence, even though there are many other aspects to life. I find sterilization without consent wrong, but the true sadness for me was in the fact it took so long for the wrong to be seen. Those who worked at the Fernand School began to notice that Boyce was not “feeble” but had at least average intelligence. Yet, he was still institutionalized. Massachusetts continued to follow the eugenics principle to the 1970s, even though the movement ended. A state official wanted hospitals to sterilize unwilling women, and the hospitals said no because of legal not ethical reasons. Crazy!

I think designer babies are usually wrong. Michael J. Sandel’s article says, “First, it wrongly implies that absent a designing parent, children are free to choose their characteristics for themselves. But none of us chooses his genetic inheritance. The alternative to a cloned or genetically enhanced child is not one whose future is unbound by particular talents but one at the mercy of the genetic lottery.” I understand that no matter intentionally designing or not, a child has certain characteristics when born. But when and if cloning and genetic enhancing becomes common, people will no longer simply ask, “Is it a boy or girl?” but “What advantages did you choose?” like an accessory. The problem with designing is that the parent will give birth to their child, fully knowing that their baby is skilled in a particular action. With this info, the parent will probably push their child toward that skill, forgetting whether or not their son or daughter enjoys that activity. That is where the freedom begins to disappear. Though, I do agree with jordanrose107 and in turn Shelly3101 that genetic modification can lead to a future plastic surgery problem and on the other hand can be used beneficially for medical and health purposes.
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Old 01-09-2012, 05:49
cookiemonster cookiemonster is offline
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 29
Eisenhower, Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower. A picture just popped in your mind. Perhaps it is a tall metal structure in France at night with blurred lights, or a couple eating lunch on the grass with the structure towering in the background. Our brains keep memories and images associated with experiences and we conjure up these specific images when we hear respective words. Every person on this planet has their own set of experiences, like an individual deck of cards that is dealt out with every blink of an eye. My balloon may be red and floating alone in the sky; yours may be in the hands of a child at a fair dancing among the blinking signs. It is through these personal experiences that we develop individual ways of thinking and viewing the world. Every person has a unique method of learning and a good education embraces the diversity of styles and educates the whole person made up of a variety of experiences.

In terms of “testing” people for intelligence or trying to determine their level or ability to function in society, I think that the above points ought to be considered. We assume that everyone shares the same experiences and has similar backgrounds and so the tests that were administered were not universally known. They focused on specific things that were known only to the groups of people that were exposed to them. Not to mention the fact that on the given day of an administered exam the person may have been tired, or distracted that does not point to their stray toward idiotic tendencies.

The TED talk that we watched earlier this year addressed the danger of a telling a single story and how it would be detrimental to a society to see the people of a given race or place only by one story that is told. The same idea goes with testing for intelligence and these measures of your wit should not be geared toward one single group. This is the major flaw with this attempt to analyze everyone and we still even see it today. The SAT doesn’t even accurately measure everyone’s unique intelligence; I can’t think of a single test that does.

With sterilization I completely agree with Ace12 when they said, “I think it’s okay to make sterilization an option for people and let them know that it is available, but the government shouldn’t be able to force someone to become sterilized by seeing how well they perform on a test.” There should be no laws for sterilization (unless it is to say that there shouldn’t be forced sterilizations), there should be no forced sterilizations, and there should be no studies or sterilizations carried out without the people being aware. That is just unethical and goes against basic human rights. On the other hand, sterilizations should not be ruled out completely. It a man or woman wants to have a vasectomy or hysterectomy, respectively, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to. I mean people have these operations everyday and there is no problem because it is their own decision for whatever reason. The problem arises when the motives behind the operations has roots in an effort to “purify” society, do the operations without consent, or force the operations upon individuals.

Obviously I can see where the people that thought that this was a good idea were coming from. Economically it is harder to support medical bills, and criminal expenses of these people who are so called “unfit for society.” But to say that these characteristics have a purely biological base is incorrect as evidenced in the flaws with the Jutes genealogy tracking. There are so many other factors to consider and I don’t believe that it is correct to assume that a society will be bettered by creating perfect human beings. I agree with x0stuckonlovex when they say, “Yes, society will be able to support it. We change all the time to support the new isseus that we are faced with. We are made to do so. People for thousands have years have learned to change with the times. If they didn’t then where would we be?” Society is always adapting and we can’t just say “Oh, well you know it will be too expensive to give mentally disabled or handicapped people proper care so let’s just eliminate them from society. Okay, sounds like a plan.” That is just not okay.

Are these people crazy? I really wish they could see how ridiculous it sounds sometimes. Like at Fernands when they fed radioactive oatmeal to children to tract digestion? I actually laughed at my computer because it seems so outrageous. The lengths that people go to is both amazing and sad. It is a bit disturbing that this happened so close to home and so recently. I have lived in Waltham and had no idea that this had gone on. And I have driven out past Shutesbury and I never knew the history of eugenics that is related to the small town.

I really enjoyed reading Michael Sandel’s article and found the whole idea of altering the human race is very interesting. It goes against all that makes us human. It takes away the trials, fun, discovery, and love of life. The very idea of creating a super tall muscular athlete baby or wicked talented memory child who is a musical prodigy takes away the very essence of parenthood. But the problem is not the fact that parents are taking the child’s future into their own hands, it is the fact that they get caught up in their pride and power in these decisions. “Even if this disposition did not make parents tyrants to their children, it would disfigure the relation between parent and child, and deprive the parent of the humility and enlarged human sympathies that an openness to the unbidden can cultivate.” Parents love the child that is born to them no matter what it is like. they learn to cope with any mental or physical disabilities and embrace the challenges with love. It would not be wise to eliminate this crucial part of development.

We also need to consider with would be considered normal and abnormal since these terms are hard to define. Say for instance that there is a hormone that would make children taller and more muscular and thus more prone to be athletic. It would be available to all to eliminate any economic issues. In this case the norm would shift over time. In order to be considered athletic children would need to take this drug and then everyone would be more tall and fit. The tallish and fittish people of the past would now be considered inadequate for the profession and would have to keep up with the new trend. Over time everyone would be tall and more fit and thus we see that THIS is the norm. Now there would have to be some new desirable trait that comes around and would be adapted until THAT is the norm. I see this going in a cycle as people try to please society with their appearance and/or traits and talents.

I really feel like there are so many points to this whole issue. There are the economic parts, the health issues, the ethical problems, and the purely human instinct and psychological parts (that I personally find most interesting) that all contribute to making it so complex. I could rant so much more but for everyone's sake I will stop here.

And just a note to NotanAthlete: Don’t be sorry for your own opinions. We all have our own and be confident with yours. Just because it is different doesn’t mean that is shouldn’t be said, so thanks for stating your views.
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Old 01-09-2012, 11:07
freeelephant77 freeelephant77 is offline
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 24
Angry No. No. No.

As I read through the articles I became increasingly upset. I felt more upset and irritated as I read through different writers attempting to reason through the balances of why sterilization came into place. I strongly feel that sterilization shouldn’t have been imposed on those with mental disables or in fact anyone whom society labels as “different” because it’s completely going against basic human rights. It’s baffling to think that the states believed they had the jurisdiction to decide who should be allowed to reproduce and who shouldn’t within their commonwealth. (I’m so mad its quite ridiculous right now my shift key is officially stuck from me typing so hard).

In terms of deciding what to do in this situation I honestly believe that you honestly have to leave the decision up to the person with the mental disability. I know that they might not be all the way there….but it’s their right nonetheless. However echoing Ace12 and Cookiemonster, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a doctor explicating the risks a person may have when having a child and the option of sterialization should be left available to them once their aware of the risk. But there should be NO LEGAL INFORCEMENT in what they should do; no matter the disability they are still humans. So I don’t think Virginia, Vermont or any other state for that matter were correct in their decision to enforce sterilization laws. I don’t care what type of economic crisis our country was going through. I think the leaders of our country should never make any decisions that could compromise basic human rights….that’s completely overstepping bounds and limits. I think that if protections were depicting that there would be a higher amount of people with mental disabilities the state could of tried a lot harder to figure out alternative methods in terms of helping the mentally disability that could’ve been cost-effective. I strongly doubt that sterilization and institutionalizing were there only options.

I’d also like to add that if it seemed like there were increasing number of people with “special issues” then the gov’t should have delved deeper into the issue and really looked how logical the assessments were being assessed. I think that if testing was increasing diagnosis I think that should be a glaring sign that something wasn’t right. I honestly believe that there needed to be stronger investigation in the medical departments that were branding people as having special needs and such. In addition, I think there definitely need to be some extreme logic, practicality and objectivity involved in the testing process because it was extremely bias, and completely impractical assessor. The impracticality of the assessment ended up sending perfectly intelligent people such as Freddie Boyce to institutions. I found his story completely disheartening and surreal. The fact that Boyce’s life was basically detrimentally altered based on the subjectivity of society completely disgusts me; never is that okay.

I terms of this whole issue of people with “special issues” increasing within our population I would have to say that cookiemonster raises a very valid point when they mentioned relativity in forms of people’s perspective of normality; as cookiemonster quoted, “normal and abnormal … are hard to define.” I think that as a society we need to stop at looking at the world of so narrowly and try to look at things from a more objective and relative view. If we stop trying to define certain ideas and images for humanity then maybe we would end up with many issues that lead towards violation of rights and other horrible crisis. I terms of our population being able to sustain a population I completely agree with x0stuckinlovex0 when they said, “Yes, society will be able to support it. We change all the time to support the new issues that we are faced with.” I think that it’s inevitable for us to not to work through our various situations as a society. We’ve done it numerous times and I honestly believe this situation isn’t any different.
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