God, Money, and Politics: English Attitudes to Blindness and Touch, from the Enlightenment to Integration.
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Author:||Wittenstein, Stuart H.|
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness Publisher: American Foundation for the Blind Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 American Foundation for the Blind ISSN: 0145-482X|
|Issue:||Date: April, 2010 Source Volume: 104 Source Issue: 4|
|Topic:||NamedWork: God, Money, and Politics: English Attitudes to Blindness and Touch, from the Enlightenment to Integration (Nonfiction work)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Hayhoe, Simon|
God, Money, and Politics: English Attitudes to Blindness and Touch,
from the Enlightenment to Integration. Simon Hayhoe. Charlotte, NC:
Information Age Publishing, 2008, 123 pp., $39.99.
God, Money, and Politics is a scholarly work that provides a major contribution to the understanding of how society's perception of blindness has changed in the last few hundred years and emphasizes the cultural, religious, and economic factors that influenced these changes. Although the book's references to law and history are specific to England, parallels throughout Western culture are also made.
This highly original work traces the history of the English people's perception of blindness from the time when John Locke was writing during the Enlightenment; through the period that saw the development of vocational education in schools for the blind; and to the latter half of the 20th century, when laws were drafted in England that sanctioned the integration of students who are blind into general education settings. Along the way, the reader is given a clear picture of the changing perceptions of blindness, touch, and what Cutsforth referred to as the "tactile aesthetics" of people who are blind (1951, p. 166). In addition, the book discusses the way in which blindness is used as a metaphor in philosophy and art, how visual perception is used as a metaphor in religion, and the economic rationale that is used for the type of educational programs emphasized in English schools for the blind.
These historical insights are particularly relevant in an era in which organized blind people in the United States have made great strides forward in terms of obtaining equal opportunities in all aspects of society. The following excerpt from the web site of the National Federation of the Blind echoes the book's point of view that society's attitude toward blindness is an obstacle to the equality of blind people: "The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information that exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance" (National Federation of the Blind, 2010). Another example of the book's relevance to U.S. consumer groups is the parallel between the book's discussion about attitudes toward blind people and a statement from the web site of the American Council of the Blind that the organization's purpose is to conduct "a public education program to promote greater understanding of blindness and the capabilities of blind people" (American Council of the Blind, 2010).
Hayhoe's writings help readers put society's perceptions and misperceptions about blindness and blind individuals into context. This context can assist the reader in examining why such perceptions and misperceptions originated and to better assess whether the perceptions are biased or not.
Many blind persons believe that the biggest obstacle to their success is not their vision loss but society's low expectations of them. Hayhoe's work provides insight into how these low expectations came to be accepted by society as a whole and offers the opportunity to better assess how these ideas affect behavior.
In the 1989 special issue on literacy of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Schroeder observed,
One might hope that each reader of Hayhoe's book would examine their own perceptions about blindness and blind persons in order to compare and contrast these with those produced by the societal influences described in England. Perhaps an inner journey is possible wherein each reader assesses his or her own attitudes to determine if unintended biases are affecting his or her expectations of blind persons. What a difficult but valuable journey that could be!
American Council of the Blind. (2010). Organizational profile. Retrieved from http:// www.acb.org/profile.html
Cutsforth, T. D. (1951). The blind in school and society. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
National Federation of the Blind. (2010). What is the National Federation of the
Blind? Retrieved from http://www.nfb.org/ images/nfb/documents/word/What is NFB_ Brochure_Update07.doc
Schroeder, F. (1989). Literacy: The key to opportunity. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 83, 290-293.
Stuart H. Wittenstein, Ed.D., superintendent, California School for the Blind, 500 Walnut Avenue Fremont, CA 94536; e-mail:
What bars us [blind persons] from first-class status is not inferiority inherent in blindness, but rather the tacit acceptance of a diminished role with minimal expectations and minimal opportunity for full participation. It is the negative conditioning of society which leads us to believe that blindness constitutes inferiority.... (p. 293)
|Gale Copyright:||Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.|