News From 1908

The Vinton Eagle
July 10, 1908

SAVE THE SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND

Mrs. Alice W. Beatty, of Fruitland, Muscatine county, a lady who is very much interested in ameliorating the condition of our unfortunates, has taken up the subject of providing an industrial home for the adult blind, and has written a strong letter to the Muscatine News-Tribune strongly urging that such a home be established by the state.

We are not going to take issue with her regarding the project, as we think such an institution should be established, and it is a matter of record that the Eagle apposed the abandonment of the industrial home at Knoxville, but the board of control thought otherwise and the legislature followed its recommendation and abandoned the institution. Mrs. Beatty proposes that the industrial home shall be established in connection with the school for the blind at Vinton, and it is to that that the Eagle objects. Some people in the state believe that the institution in Vinton is an asylum for the blind, and there are a great many people who now believe that the institution is a home for the adult blind. Notwithstanding the amount of printed matter the institution sends out instruction the people as to the purposes of this institution there is still a great deal of ignorance as to its purpose. It is a public school sustained by the tax payers of the state as are all other public schools of the state. The school year begins the first day of September and the children gather here at that time. The school year closes the first day of June and the children then all go home. The only difference between it and a seeing school is that state boards the pupils. So far as transportation and clothing are concerned the parents of the children pay that. If the parents are too poor to stand that expense it then becomes the duty of the county in which child resides to see that clothing and transportation are furnished. No child is shut out, no matter how poor its parents may be. It is also the duty of the several county superintendents to ascertain how many blind, or partially blind children there are in their county and report it to the proper authorities, that steps may be taken to see that that the child is sent to school.

If Mrs. Beatty will stop to think a minute, we believe she will see how utterly incompatible it would be to add the adult blind to this school and make them a part of the institution, mingling with the school children. Most of the adult blind, whom it would be necessary to support at a state institution, are unfortunates and nonsupporting. Their intercourse with the school children would be hardly less than criminal.

The one thought of those in charge of the education of the blind is to bring to such unfortunate the thought that it is not helpless; that its future rests largely with itself. These children come when they are young and stay until they are developed into young men and young women. They are given as good an education as can be obtained in any of the public schools of the state. Their minds are thoroughly developed and if they are not self supporting, they are in a condition to maintain themselves when thrown in contact with other people. Mrs. Beatty will see how utterly impossible it would be to properly develop this mind if the child was thrown in daily intercourse with the adult blind. It is hardly necessary to go into particulars here as any reasonable person will readily see the reason.

This is no new matter. It has been before the public before. The old board of trustees, as well as Mr. McCune, the late superintendent, have fought it off. When this matter was brought into public print through the publication of the article of Mrs. Beatty, we asked the current superintendent, Mr. J. E. Vance, to give us his views on the subject, and he has very kindly done so, which we append to this editorial. We hope Mrs. Beatty will read it and become convinced that the industrial home for hte blind should be a separate institution and placed at some other point than Vinton. It is also proper to state in this connection that the alumni of this school, the chief officers of which are located at Des Moines, hold that the school for the blind and the industrial home for the blind should not be one and the same institution.

Superintendent Vance’s article, which very clearly states his views on the subject, is as follows:

Iowa College for the Blind, Vinton, Iowa, July 3, 1908. Bernard Murphy, Vinton, Iowa, Dear Sir:— My attention has recently been called to newspaper comment on the proposition to establish a home for the blind and a gymnasium at the Iowa College for the Blind.

To the person who has had no experience in school work, either with the sighted or with the blind, the plan might at first thought seem to be commendable and from a financial point of view it perhaps would be cheaper to maintain a home for the adult blind in connection with this institution than it would to maintain a separate home in some other part of the state. I think we will have to admit it would be much cheaper. But there is a far greater question for our consideration in this connection than that of the financial phase. The Iowa College for the Blind was established primarily as a school for the instruction of the blind and with no other purpose in view. The only difference worth mentioning between the Iowa College for the Blind as a school and the public schools of any given town or city in the state of Iowa, is that the blind pupils live at the institution while they are pursuing the course of study, which covers about the same scope as do the courses of study in the average public schools of the state, including the average high school. It is evident that this is the only sane method of educating the blind in the state of Iowa.

The state has provided means for educating her blind boys and girls by providing substantial and comfortable buildings, ample school equipment in the matter of text books, apparatus, musical instruments, etc. in addition to all of this means have been provided to secure the services of a capable corps of instructors both in literary work and in music. All of the above advantages are absolutely free to any boy or girl in the state of Iowa with defective sight and of school age. The main endeavor of the institution is to educate the blind boys and girls in the same way as nearly as possible as seeing boys and girls educated in the public schools. The some school atmosphere should prevail and the question of discipline should enter into the management of the institution.

With the above conditions laid before you I think it is not necessary for me to say that the idea of combining a home for the adult blind with this institution, where blind boys and girls of school age, are assembled, is not at all commendable to say the least and I might add that it would, in my judgement, be very detrimental to the best interests of the institution as a school.

The need of a gymnasium at this institution is too apparent to need attention in this connection. The recommendation for the establishing of a gymnasium at this institution has been made for some twenty-five years. The need of such an addition to the institution has been recognized all of these years. So I have only words of commendation for the proposition to establish a gymnasium. I am not at all opposed to the establishing of an industrial home for the blind in the state of Iowa. In fact, Iowa should take care of her adult blind in an economical way, and I assure you I shall stand ready at all times to co-operate with others in the establishing of a home. Let us have an industrial home for the blind in Iowa. Let it be established in that part of the state best suited to all concerned, but let us not make the mistake of combining it with the Iowa College for the Blind.

Yours very respectfully

J. E. VANCE

superintendent