HIST 460/560, Winter 2007
Reading and Discussion Questions, Week 4
Michael D’Antonio, The State Boys Rebellion
1. What point is D’Antonio making by beginning his story with
the claim that American eugenics “contributed directly to the eugenic
ideology behind the Nazi Holocaust” (p. 5)? Why does he also write
that the many people involved in this history “decided in the early
1900s to perform a great service to humanity” (p. 5)? How do you
reconcile these two points?
2. What differentiated “positive” from “negative” eugenics?
3. What role did mental tests and testers play in the history of eugenics?
4. Who was Carrie Buck?
5. What was the relationship between the practice of institutionalization
6. What were the chronological starting and ending points for eugenics
during the twentieth century? Did these dates surprise you?
7. How did the nature-nurture debate fit into the history of eugenics?
Who was Henry Goddard? Clemens Benda? Harold Skeels? Cyril Burt?
8. According to D’Antonio, how and why did most children end up
in “state schools” like Fernald?
9. Why do you think the author makes a point of repeating that Freddie
Boyce was mentally normal? Does it strengthen or weaken his critique
of eugenics to insist that Freddie was not, in fact, a “defective,” like
many of the other children at Fernald?
10. What was “the Science Club”?
11. D’Antonio paints a picture of boys suffering routine physical
and sexual abuse at the hands of cruel attendants and suggests that the
children placed there had very few advocates before the 1950s, even among
their own parents. How does he explain this aspect of Fernald’s
history? How do you?
12. What kind of life did the “state boys” have after they
13. In the 1960s, deinstitutionalization began to empty state hospitals
and schools like Fernald in order to integrate their residents into a
variety of ordinary communities around the country. Based on the experiences
of Freddie and his friends, how would you evaluate this dramatic policy
14. What did Fred learn about the Fernald Science Club in 1993? How
did he, the other state boys, and Sandra Marlow (the Fernald librarian)
explain what had happened to them in the early 1950s? How do you?
15. Who were Wally Cummins and RADLAW?
16. What was the result of the state boys’ lawsuit? Do you believe
that justice was done? Why or why not?
Buck v. Bell (1927)
1. What is this case about? What was the Virginia law being reviewed
by the U.S. Supreme Court? What was the constitutional question before
the Court? What was the Court’s conclusion in this case?
2. Why does Justice Holmes carefully review the procedures involved
in implementing the Virginia statute?
3. Holmes notes that “the public welfare may call upon the best
citizens for their lives.” Do you think that this indirect reference
to compulsory military service is analogous to policies of compulsory
sterilization? Why or why not? He also suggests that vaccination provides
a logical rationale for sterilization as a public health measure. What
do you think of this argument?
4. Why does Holmes dismiss as irrelevant the fact that sterilizations
were performed on the inmates of public institutions rather than on citizens
living within ordinary communities? How does this relate to the 14th
Amendment issues in the case? What do you think?
Governor John Kitzhaber,
Proclamation of Human Rights Day, and apology for Oregon's forced sterilization
of institutionalized patients, Salem, Oregon, December 2, 2002
1. Does it surprise you that the state of Oregon waited until 2002 to
apologize for its sterilization program?
2. The state body responsible for making sterilization decisions was
called the Board of Social Protection. What historical significance does
this title have?
3. Governor Kitzhaber, trained as a physician, clearly understands Oregon’s
eugenics program as a blatant violation of human rights, based on a history
of “widespread misconceptions, ignorance and bigotry.” Many
physicians in Oregon during earlier decades clearly did not share this
view. Explain what you think changed in medicine and in thinking about