Education & Disability

Epileptic Pupil. epileptic pupil- West Ham 1957 MOH

“What are we going to do? Every defective man, woman and child is a burden. Every defective is an extra body for the nation to feed and clothe, but produces little or nothing in return.” (Disability in the Early 20th century 1914-1945). 

Eugenics was a popular idea among scientists, and even some healthcare professionals and common people. Eugenics is the idea that people with undesirable genes should be “phased out” and people with desirable traits should procreate. It was rooted in discrimination against many types of people, including people of color and disabled people. Rural colonies were established for people with learning disabilities. At that time they were known as “the mentally deficient”. Segregation by sex, age and ability was strict (Disability in the Early 20th century 1914-1945).  In 1913, the passing of the Mental Incapacity Act in Britain led to around 40,000 men and women being locked away, having been deemed “feeble-minded” or “morally defective” (When the disabled were segregated). The eugenics movement helped to feed into the already existing stigma surrounding epileptic, and disabled, people. In the 19th century, there were no vaccinations, and many working class families couldn’t afford specialist equipment or treatment. A law was passed that required all children to go to school. The 1918 Act raised the school leaving age from 12 to 14. It abolished all fees in state elementary schools and widened the provision of medical inspection, nursery schools, and special needs education (Education Act 1918). Which in some ways, was good because it allowed disabled children to be allowed to attend school (Disability in the Early 20th century 1914-1945). However, the schools weren’t proficient in taking care of the children and meeting their needs, so they had a hard time benefitting from the schools.