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Cripple School: 1908

"Mentally Retarded children in E.S.F.S. for Crippled Children." New York circa 1908. "Feeble-minded in cripple school" is the non-PC caption written on this classroom scene showing the East Side Free School for Crippled Children, 155-157 Henry Street. George Grantham Bain Collection glass negative. View full size.

"Mentally Retarded children in E.S.F.S. for Crippled Children." New York circa 1908. "Feeble-minded in cripple school" is the non-PC caption written on this classroom scene showing the East Side Free School for Crippled Children, 155-157 Henry Street. George Grantham Bain Collection glass negative. View full size.


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46-star flag

It seems to be the 46-star flag which debuted July 4, 1908 (after 12 years with 45.) Rows of stars from the top are 8,7,8,8,7,8.


As the parent of a special needs child I can say I certainly have seen a lot of money wasted in implementing NCLB. It does have some unrealistic expectations. But to suggest that all theses kids cannot work at grade level is absolutely inaccurate. Special ed is also there to help genuinely intelligent children who learn differently. There are alternate assessments available for children with lower IQs, it is often the parents that resist this lowering of standards. Had to give my 2 cents. The photgraph with its caption is evocative of a more narrow, "black & white" attitude.

No Child Left Behind

I think several posters need to re-read the statement by the Special Education educator. I agree with this poster; NCLB is ludicrous with regards to the demands it makes upon Special Education students and educators. NCLB stipulates that Special Ed students are to be tested and schools will fail if those students do not test at grade level. For the vast majority of these students testing at grade level is simply impossible - if they could do grade level work, they would not be in Special Ed. Everyone has a certain potential that can be reached; for some that potential is being able to dress yourself, tie your shoes, button a button. It is no less a victory, no less a goal, no less a fulfillment than discovering a new prime number. NCLB is simply a systematic way to undermine free, public education is this country. All students lose when standardized testing is the only goal.

interesting comment

With an attitude such as yours,perhaps your district should save dollars by firing you.Your the mentality that give good teachers a bad rap!

[You again. God help us if you're a teacher. - Dave]

hmmm i wonder?

i find your comments quite shocking. how could someone involved with special needs education ever make a comment that money and resources are wasted trying to educate kids. Perhaps your management could start saving tax dollars by illimenating your pay check and hiring somone more interested in teaching special needs kids. I wish i knew where you worked. you sound like one of the bad ones who give good teachers a bad name!!!

["Illeminating"? You're proving his or her point. - Dave]

American Pie Chart

It was only of slight comfort in the 60's to learn (from the dictionary) that when someone name-called you a "moron" that it was the least-worst class of feeble mindedness after thinking that it might have been the worst.

Feeble-Minded Pie

Let's not forget the handy NY Times graphic from this post.

Great Seats

Adjustable backs, adjustable seats (see the one in front of the teacher with flaps dropped down). Meant to accommodate as many situations as possible. Wish I'd had something like that so my legs wouldn't just stick straight out in front. I believe today we would call them ergonomically designed.

Feeble mindedness

How fitting is it that the ad at the top of the page is for Sylvan Learning Center? Maybe they could help...

Photo Op

They were obviously told to sit quietly and fold their hands. All but one followed that direction completely -- a better average than my supposedly normal students in my classroom in high school today. And those horrid chairs--if they weren't "crippled" when they started, they would be by the end of the day.

"Cripple School"

I've been in special needs education for over 20 years now. You wouldn't believe the money and resources wasted on trying to educate developmentally disabled kids to the ridiculous, unrealistic standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act and similar nonsense. The terminology applied to these kids may seem a bit retrograde but the attitude behind it was grounded in common sense.

Gibson Girl

Thanks, Dave, I wasn't familiar with that term (need to get out more!). Now that I think about it, it's the look Jane Seymour had in that nice film, "Somewhere In Time". Great look!

Differently Abled

These kids evidently had eyes in the back of their heads.

What was that?

I can't help thinking about what the acoustics must have been like in that room: big space, high ceilings, hard surfaces. In the 50s, our school desks were variations on that design; the belly (for lack of a better term) was metal, but the two top surfaces were wood, and had the inkwell hole - and in my earliest years, with inkwell.


Having owned an antique business for over 30 years, I can attest to the rarity of those chairs. I believe they may have been custom made for the "afflictions" present in the students so that straps could be used to hold them upright or in the chair if they were prone to wander. Absolutely beautiful and I would give a fortune (if I had one) to own one. As far as the math problem goes, back then an 8th grade education was more than equivalent to a high school diploma these days. Don't get me started...

Seating Arrangement

Note the chairs and desks appear to be fixed firmly in place.
I love those chairs with their iron scrollwork. Never seen any like them before.


That math problem is pretty complex, for the feeble-minded.

The desks...

... and chairs are real pieces of art.

Back to the Future

The chairs and desks have a very retro futuristic look. I particularly like the shadow of one of those nice armrests on the floor. It gives a bit of a Art Nouveau pattern.

Real furniture

Look at how ornate those desks and chairs are. Nothing like the particle board trash that passes for furniture today.

Bolt them down!

Judging by the math problem, they can't be too feeble minded. The first thing that jumps out at me is the desks and chairs bolted to the floor. There are no inkwells on the desks either. How many stars are on the flag?


I'll bet there are plenty of folks out there who would struggle with those math examples that are on the blackboard without their calculator in hand -- who defined "feeble minded" back then? Was it assumed that if you were "crippled" (notice the wheelchair and what appear to be special chairs) you were also "feeble-minded"?

Cool Desks!

I love that turn-of-the-century hair-up style the schoolteacher is sporting. Great photo.

[It's the Gibson Girl look. - Dave]

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