To the Editor:
A local school board member posted a comment similar to this one. Where is eugenics when we need it?
It might have been intended as a joke. But it is far from funny.
Many of us had no idea what eugenics is. Do you? Mr. Letourneau apparently does. In the early 20th century farmers learned how to shape their cattle herd by manipulating their genes through selective breeding. People in government, education, science, and popular thought — white people in Vermont — decided that the people in power should apply this practice to people. We should breed better people by sterilizing certain inferior human beings to make a better human herd.
Who would be sterilized? Notice the systemic racism in this movement. White Vermonters in authority targeted Abenaki people. Middlebury College President Paul Moody declared, “The whole French Canadian population could be wiped out of Middlebury and no one would miss it.” People whose IQ was even slightly below average were among those to deserve eugenic purifying.
In Vermont, UVM professor Henry Perkins led the effort. Many leaders near and far supported the effort, including local author Dorothy Canfield Fisher, U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Graham Bell, and Winston Churchill.
The Vermont state legislature legalized eugenics in 1931 with “An act for human betterment by voluntary sterilization.” A significant number of sterilizations were NOT voluntary. The state published an official report of the “progress.” Two hundred fifty-three people were sterilized in Vermont from 1931 to 1963. Classes in eugenics were taught at UVM even into the 1970s.
The eugenics taught and practiced here caught the interest of Adolph Hitler, who sterilized more than 350,000 people. Then our practice and “research” helped Hitler rationalize the genocide of millions of Jewish people.
A joke about longing for the return of eugenics strikes terror and revulsion in people from our area including your Greater Bennington Interfaith Council. This attitude is totally inappropriate for a person in a leadership role for the education of our children, and we ask for his resignation from both of our school boards.
The Greater Bennington Interfaith Council
Marsh Hudson-Knapp, secretary
Mark Blank, conveyor