Student ‘Screening’ – Its Nazi Roots

The screening of children for “mental illness” is not without precedent. It parallels the process used in Nazi Germany to weed out the “inferior elements of society.”

1920: German psychiatrist Alfred Hoche published the book The Sanctioning of the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living, in which he recommended that a commission order the identification and euthanasia of “dead-weight characters.” Less than 20 years later, Leonardo Conti, head of the Reich’s Interior Ministry’s Health Services Office, ordered a register to be compiled and submitted to the government on all those who suffered from a variety of mental disorders.

1922: The U.K. National Committee on Mental Hygiene (now National Mental Health Association) called for the establishment of “child guidance” clinics:

“Psychiatrists … must be permitted to enter the schools.”

1926: American eugenicists Paul Popenoe and Roswell Hill Johnson recommended “mass screening” in schools: “In another and quite different way, compulsory education is of service to eugenics (“race betterment” through elimination of the weak). The educational system should be a sieve, through which all children of the country are passed … which will enable the teacher to determine just how far it is possible to educate each child so that he may lead a life of the greatest possible usefulness to the state … It is very desirable that no child escape inspection.” [Emphasis added.]

1930: Ernst Rüdin, founder of “psychiatric genetics” and an architect of the Holocaust, addressed the International Congress on Mental Hygiene in Washington, D.C., where he called for a united eugenic approach to weed out those known to bear “hereditary taint.” Heading the list of “defects” that U.S. eugenicists would later define was “attention deficit disorder” (ADD) and “hyperactivity.”

1930s: As a result of the psychological eugenics movement, U.S. schools screened children regularly, and those classified as feeble-minded were sent to institutions. “Idiot, imbecile and moron were all medical terms. They were used to define various levels of retardation or disability.”

1940: At the first conference of the German Society for Child Psychiatry and Therapeutic Education, attended by the elite of Nazi psychiatry, Paul Schroder, professor of psychiatry, stated: “Child psychiatry has to … help to integrate (hereditarily) damaged or inadequate children for their own and the public’s good … under constant expert selection of the valuable and educable ones with just as strict and resolute a sacrifice of those deemed predominately worthless and uneducable.”

1940: John Rawlings Rees, British psychiatrist and co-founder of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), described the goals of psychiatrists: “We must aim to make [psychiatry] permeate every educational activity in our national life … [W]e have made a useful attack upon a number of professions. The two easiest of them naturally are the teaching profession and the Church; the two most difficult are law and medicine.” He added, “If we are to infiltrate the professional and social activities of other people, I think we must imitate the Totalitarians and organize some kind of fifth column activity!” [Fifth columnists: Persons living in a country who secretly aid its enemies by sabotage or espionage.]

1945: G. Brock Chisholm, psychiatrist and cofounder of WFMH, further set the trend for world psychiatry when he stated, “We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents, our Sunday and day school teachers … and others with a vested interest in controlling us. … If the race is to be freed from its crippling burden of good and evil it must be psychiatrists who take the original responsibility.”

1948: A report of the WFMH stated, “…[T]he family is now one of the major obstacles to improved mental health, and hence should be weakened, if possible, so as to free individuals and especially children from the coercion of family life.”

1950: A U.S. White House Conference on Education report stated, “The school … has an opportunity and a responsibility to detect the physical and mental disabilities which have escaped parental or pre-school observations. Not only does the child need to be treated, but those around him also need help.”

1968: A new category of “Behavior Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence” was added to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The sudden outcropping of childhood disorders appeared only a few years after psychiatry had obtained federal funding for treating “handicapped” children and provided school psychologists and psychiatrists the means with which to “screen” for DSM disorders.

1970s: Professor Manfred Müller-Küppers, a member of the German Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, claimed that there should be “no referral to reform school, no provisions for school attendance without child psychiatric examinations.”

1980: In the “Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence” section of the DSM, 32 new mental disorders were added. Another dramatic increase in childhood “mental disorders” appeared in the 1987 revision.

1994: The DSM contained more than 40 childhood mental disorders with which mental health practitioners could screen students.

2003: Influenced by psychiatrists and psychologists, the U.S. New Freedom Commission on Mental Health recommended, “… the early detection of mental health problems in children and adults – through routine and comprehensive testing and screening.”

In 1934, Nazi psychiatrist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer stated: “It is necessary that new laws about life are enacted in our legislature, in our social order, and above all in the action and thinking of everyone!”

In 2002, a Ridgewood, New Jersey high school gave a 156-question survey called “Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors” to students. Many parents objected to the questions concerning students’ relationships with parents, drug and alcohol use, and criminal behavior. They sued, alleging constitutional and federal legislative violations. However, reminiscent of Verschuer’s sentiments, a federal district court in New Jersey ruled in June 2004, “The societal interest in disclosure outweighs any invasion of the students’ privacy.”


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