Crafts for (the) retarded?

Crafts for RetardedCrafts for Retarded: Through their hands they shall learn

Some librarian spies from the west sent along this wonderful title to ALB.  I am not quite sure of the craft on the front, but the spies sent along a page featuring  this ultra cool Indian tom-tom craft.  A quote from the cover blurb: “This book is written primarily for teachers and for parents whose youngsters have come into the world with less potential than the so-called ‘average’ child.”  Submitters say: “What better way to raise a child’s potential than by teaching him or her to stretch a goat skin to make a drum, then paint swastikas on it?”






  1. Definitely one to weed, but I would like to remind folks that the symbol didn’t originate with the Nazis, and was used by several Native American groups. 🙂

    *cue “the more you know” graphics and music* 😉

  2. In all fairness to the book, swastikas in that position are a symbol of peace. The Nazis corrupted it by rotating it and using it for another purpose.

    That said, nowadays this is an insulting book. It was progressive for its time, but now it is completely useless.

  3. Swastika *does* have its roots in (what we today refer as) Indian culture. Too bad the Nazi’s made a mess of the symbol in the interwar period. This does not, however, explain why the authro(s) of this 1960s book chose to make it an example of disabled art. I am intrigued.

  4. well it’s not being used as a Nazi symbol in this instance….but paradoxically…the idiot who drew the image…must have confused Native American with Indian..the Sanskrit svastika symbol dates from the Neolithic period and denotes good luck.

    So, in my mind it’s much more ridiculous than if it were indeed an Nazi’s emblem.

  5. The symbol that most people recognize as the swastika predates the Nazis by quite a lot.

    But there’s still a lot wrong with this book. 😛

  6. It’s probably worth mentioning that the swastika was a Buddhist and American Indian symbol long before the Nazis appropriated it.

  7. We just found this in our library last week!!!! We find it irresistibly bad

  8. Fun fact, though – the traditional Buddhist / American Indian swastika should be going counter-clockwise; the nazi symbol goes clockwise. Guess which is in the book?

  9. Running Wheel symbology in Canadian First Nations art can go clockwise or counter-clockwise (this symbol has no other use up here that I know of). It is still used here in Canada by some tribal groups and both “directions” are seen.

    Given that Canadian and U.S. First Nations groups inter-mingled a great deal before Europeans arrived on the continent (and still do to a lesser extent), I would not be surprised if both “directions” were also seen in the U.S.

  10. Best book ever.

    GeekChic is totally right. I saw an episode of History Detectives where they tracked down the origin of a Navajo blanket which featured the Running Wheel going both ways.. the direction really has no meaning to its context. Probably more that its on an Indian drum and not a Nazi uniform, you know.. because dressing up the handicapped as fascists would be the most fun past-time ever.

  11. Ignoring the swastikas completely I would think the word “retarded” alone would make it ready for the weed pile. I thought we were suppose to use “mentally disabled/handicapped” now. Or is there yet another PC term I don’t know about?

  12. I remember reading somewhere a rather funny tongue in cheek “superhero story”. This now retired superhero had a ring that apparently was given to him by an “Indian Spirit” and he kept trying to pass it on. The issue? The symbol that kept appearing in all the costumes? Something that resembled the swastika. He couldn’t find anyone willing to become a superhero if it meant wearing that on their chest. An interesting little story on a clash of symbols.

  13. I don’t see enough here to object to. The title is perhaps objectionable now, unless you think for maybe half a second and realize it is not meant to be insulting given the date of the book and in that light not insulting now.

    Is making a drum not a fun activity? I don’t see anybody objecting to showing the target audience how to make a drum. The submitters, whoever they may be, simply object to a common motif again mistaken as to its meaning.

    Is there something in the book that is actually bad?

    1. tuzda, I’m one of the co-submitters. We’re a medium-to-large academic library, and we support education programs, one at the graduate level, at three colleges/universities. Were you an education professor, what would you think if you found this on the shelf of a supposedly current academic collection? Has research and information on special needs education really not changed in the past 45 years? The word “retarded” in the title alone is enough to delegate this to the weed pile. Period. It goes deeper than political correctness; while there’s nothing wrong with the drum activity, the swastika issue aside, there is little in the book, by modern educational standards, that would be very useful to developmentally challenged students. I don’t mean any disrespect to the author by saying this, and I’m not an expert in special education, but it *is* a 45-year-old book, and I am embarrassed that it’s on the shelves.

      1. Yay, the first sensible post to focus on the real issue here. Granted it is a product of its time but that is precisely why it has no place on the shelf today. Being the godparent of a child with special needs I would be insulted if this was in a contemporary teacher education library.

  14. The swastikas as found on the can is an Indian symbol. Nazi’s modified it to make it their own. Indian swastika is not rotated like the Nazis’. Some general knowledge would help you see things.

  15. Hey, has anyone mentioned that the swastika predates Nazi Germany’s usage of the symbol? I sure hope I’m the first to notice that!
    ** doesn’t bother reading any other comments **

  16. We had this book in the library when I did my textiles diploma. The first time we found it on the shelf we got a good laugh out of it, the title being obviously incredibly dated (not to mention the odd syntax). But despite the cover image of the “poke finger in ball of clay craft” the activities inside are what you’d find in any old book of fun crafts for kids of all ages.

  17. This could be a very useful book for a parent or teacher of the disabled. What’s the problem? You don’t like the outdated terminology?

  18. Tudza

    If the title doesn’t seem objectionable to you, you should be the one to explain that to a parent of a child with an intellectual disability.

    Go ahead

  19. Tudza

    If you seriously think the title is not objectionable, I’d love to be there when you try to explain that to a parent of a child with an intellectual disability.

  20. I’m always amazed on this blog that no matter how obviously outdated and useless a book may be for library patrons, some commenter will argue for its retention.

    The less-than-PC terminology and the awkward choice of artistic motif aside, a book on crafts this old is often useless if only because the materials called for are no longer readily available. Nail keg, anyone?

  21. Wow, how awful, get rid of it. It doesn’t matter if the crafts in it are still fun activities for kids. There are a million more recent books that have the same type of activities but without the objectionable art and language, and hopefully with better grammar in the title (“crafts for retarded WHAT?”)

  22. You morons, it is of Indian (as in India) origin, and dates fr0m Neolithic times. Your need to find “awful” books has led to some pretty embarrassing entries, like this one. Try again.

  23. This is clearly an outdated book. Considering that WWII was fresh in the memories of most people in the 60s, the authors at least should have explained why they would use a symbol so close to swastika.

    The use of the word “retarded”, however, is only un-PC in our present. Even in the 70s, it was a perfectly acceptable term that literally means “slowed”. It has since been stigmatized, and would now be ridiculous to use in a book title, but in its time, it was no worse than the so-called PC words we use now.

  24. Jim, read the other comments, people have ALREADY stated that MULTIPLE times. The book is awful because of the TITLE and also because many of the materials NO LONGER EXIST. Geez. Some people need to learn to pull their heads out of their tuckus and learn to read.

  25. I’ve just met this blog so walking in I had no idea what was going on….I just got excited by the title “Crafts for the Retarded” and thought….hmmm….something fun to make?

    Thanks for the giggle!

  26. The title is retarded: it needs an object (“Crafts for Retarded Children” for example) or it needs to turn the adjective into a noun (“Crafts for the Retarded” for example). As it is, the syntax is incredibly awkward…

  27. I have seen an older edition of a Kipling book that had that symbol embossed on its cover.

  28. I concur with so many who have posted here that this symbol was used by the Navaho long before it was corrupted. I’ve seen it on baby spoons. We could debate for days whether a symbol carries some poison of it’s own or whether it’s context is the more significant consideration. I don’t know. I personally love Navaho art, and yet this symbol has certainly been colored by it’s unfortunate past.

  29. what could possibly be objectionable about the term ‘retarded’ being used to denote someone w/cognitive impairment? retarded just means DELAYED, held back…it’s only because people started using ‘retard’ as an insult that it became a bad word.

    the same will happen to ‘developementally disabled’ when folks start calling them ‘deevies’ or whatever.

  30. While I am challenged by the possibility of this book being on the shelves today for all the reasons mentioned, I would like to point out this phrase:

    whose youngsters have come into the world with less potential than the so-called ‘average’ child.”

    The quotes around the word “average” are actually very progressive for the time of the book’s writing.

    As an alternative to the then-current rubber room approach to education of folks with differing intellectual capacity, this book may have been the work of someone who could actually see real opportunity where others would see none.

  31. (It is in the Nazi direction, not the Indian one, but still a legitimate Native American symbol.)

    Well, they are trying…. Remember, this is all before “PC.”

  32. Is it just me, or does anyone else not see the problem with this title?

    Clearly the “swastika” is the (non-nazi) Indian symbol of peace. And don’t mentally retarded people also deserve a craft book? There are literally dozens – if not hundreds – out there for normal people.

    Lighten up!

      1. I hope I don’t sound too churlish when I suggest that the materials can be substituted with modern equivalents, and no one will know. They’re retarded, remember?

      2. Teddy, I know that, but that’s if you own the book. A library needs as much shelf room as possible. Therefore from a library it needs to be weeded. But if they have a Friends Of The Library who’ll sell it, then someone else can make use of it.

  33. The definite article isn’t missing from the title– that used to be an acceptable way of referring to the mentally challenged. Slowly, we’ve tried, in our language, to separate the individual from the disorder, impairment, etc. I remember seeing an old film of B.F. Skinner talking about behaviorism and referring to “retardeds” throughout. As in, “This is an effective treatment for retardeds.”

    Anyway, this book is in my university’s library– I might have to go check it out. I wonder if it’s merely offensive because of the use of out-dated language or if it’s just generally offensive.

  34. I see that there is a lot of confusion about the title (sorry for posting again so soon). This used to be an accepted collective noun. “Retarded” is the object… this if the book were for deer: “Crafts for Deer” wouldn’t be confusing. We just don’t use the word like that any more.

  35. Wow. Some of the comments here are worthy of your average YouTube entry!

    P.S. I heard somewhere that the swastika was used by buddhists or North American natives before the Nazis. Could just have been a rumour though.

  36. Swastikas not originating with the Nazis? Holy crap! No offense, but I’m pretty sure that everyone who’s read a book knows that. The symbol was used by native Americans, early Christians, Buddhists, blah blah blah. Doesn’t mean it’s any less funny that a book about teaching “retards” is making them make Nazi drums. Buddhist drums would be much less funny. I know academics have a hard time not being pedants, but come on, lighten up – look at the crowd here. Just laugh and take a break from making everything into a teaching moment. We already know it.

  37. Why in not one vocalising how stereotypical that it is and Indian TomTom. TomTom really? TomTom is a GPS Unit not a drum.

  38. Oh, Justin: The upper class in England (eg. Mosley, even Harry‘s done it, oh, whoops, Afrika Korps, not the same eh?) often (oh, sorry, allegedly) dress up as Nazis, hell, one of them actually was one, you can always ask them how much fun it is, if you really must know …

  39. I spent a memorable evening in a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant in Wan Chai, Hong Kong, which had an interior of smoked bronze mirror tiles and a black swastika frieze. I was the only gweilo in the place, and the shaven headed monks and nuns kept giggling at me, and poking a head out of the kitchen servery to watch me use chopsticks. Disconcerting.

  40. Well yes it is funny to our eyes. But I think it is a comedy of miscommunication through time. As has already been mentioned, the blurb suggests an attitude that is respectful and progressive for the time. Also the photo depicts a quite modern approach to learning through the pure tactility of materials (rather than imposing a viewer-pleasing design). Showcased on the cover, however, it conveys the unfortunate impression that the publishers had the attitude: “Blobs with holes.. about the best you can expect”. (An attitude we in turn are ready to attribute to those times).

  41. When looking at disability history the nazi symbol is definitely a poor choice. It is not well publicized, but the nazi’s originated and practiced their holocaust techniques on people with disabilities before world war II started. These children that the book is aimed at would have been experimented upon and exterminated.

    A question I have is why do children with disabilities need their own craft book. Can’t they and their parents use any standard craft book?

  42. I would agree on the tom tom part if I didn’t know better. That symbol means protection and I used ot see it all the time when I lived in a reservation in Arizona. its not a swastika.

  43. lstar wrote: “Can’t they and their parents use any standard craft book?”

    When I was a kid, my school had EMR and TMR classes (Educable and Trainable Mentally Retarded, respectively) who would join the ‘normal’ classes once a week. All of these kids were lumped together and babysat by the teachers, all given the same unchallenging activities and talked to in what was little better than baby-talk.

    When I got older and learned the difference between some of these disabilities (for example, that cerebral palsy, unless very severe, doesn’t affect intelligence), I wondered how much harm had been done to some of these kids just by underestimating them — not only the kids with normal intelligence who were treated like idiots, but also the kids with developmental disabilities who were treated like babies.

    That’s probably the biggest difference in four and a half decades — these days there’s more of a push to focus on what people *can* do, rather than assuming and treating them like they’ll never amount to anything.

  44. There was a bit on PBS’s “History Detectives” recently about a Navajo rug that had what appeared to be swastikas woven into it; turns out the design is one of the most sacred symbols in the Navajo culture, symbolizing the four winds. It’s disappeared from Navajo artwork since World War II, for obvious reasons. Too bad that certain racists from Europe had to ruin the significance of this design for so many people.

  45. Perhaps the swastika is an easy symbol for retarded people to draw. This would explain why Hitler chose it to begin with, right?



  46. Wow – wrong on so many levels. LOL. Glad I found this blog through the dashboard. Bookmarked and I will be back 🙂

  47. Starting to think that librarians have no sense of humor.

    Now I’m waiting for someone to reply telling me that the previous phrase should have been “senses of humor”

  48. I think it’s a shame that libraries have space issues to consider and need to weed out books.

    While there’s a lot about this book which means it probably wouldn’t make it into print today I think that it’s incredibly important to know and understand what happened in the past. If I were an education professor I suspect I’d be delighted to find a book such as this in a library because it would be a great way of discussing developments in education and changes in educational theory. Education of any sort is not just about the most current philosophy: you need to understand where you’ve been first!

  49. Can’t you post more of the craft pages so I can learn some of those new crafts? This is just for me.

  50. this reminds me of a child rearing book I saw from the 1950s where the parent is advised to place a small saucepan under the childs bare bottom to catch their bowel movements and thus begin potty training at three months old. unbelievable. Now you know what’s wrong with your parents.

  51. This is awesomely bad! I hereby nominate it for John Green’s “in my pants” fame. He has found that if you add “in my pants” to the end of ANY title, it becomes funny, but with this title ….instant classic! I mean, you’d have to be retarded not to see that……(*obvious sarcasm alert*)

  52. The current PC term is “differently abled”, however I don’t introduce my brother to others as my “differently abled brother, G.” I just introduce him as he is: my brother G.

    Growing up in the ’70s, we took offense to the term “retard, retarded” because G WAS NOT. He has a neurological disorder since birth: Autism. People with Down’s Syndrome have a chromosomal defect. CP is severe birth tauma. All different. Yeah, delayed, but don’t use the term “them…retards”, and talk about these PEOPLE as if they’re mere trash. These are sons and daughters, sisters and brothers – cherished by family and friends. For the ones who toss the word “retard” around carelessly: there but for the Grace of God go you and yours.

    Thank You to Brenda and others who have shared insight to the struggle of our differently abled friends and those who agree outdated literature should be weeded.

  53. The comments were more entertaining than the post.

    Aside: Notice how progressively PC language also becomes more polysyllabic and less descriptive? From retard to mentally disabled to developmentally disabled to differently abled, we have gone from a term everyone understands to one only those already in the know understand. I once heard an interview on Fresh Air where the guest kept referring to himself as a cripple. When asked why, he replied quite simply, “Because I’m crippled. I can’t walk.”

  54. What’s the post of this post? Were you trying to mock people with special needs while having a laugh at the same time? I just don’t get why you would even want to write about this.

  55. I like how 8 million people over and over had to say that the swastikas were Native American in origin… just in case I couldn’t catch onto the first dozen or so comments.

  56. Never mind the swastikas, terminology, or even accuracy. Most books that old need to be weeded based on their condition. A book such as this has great value to an archive to demonstrate how things change over the years; however, libraries are not archives.

  57. I don’t know what to say, having read all these replies. Most come off as either “enlightened” library PC police, or unenlightened “let me make a retard joke for y’all!” comedians. That’s pretty funny: have a laugh at the retards’ expense!

    And as for the symbol… Who made every librarian an art history major or anthropologist? If anyone has a problem with the generic symbol, DIRECT THEM TO A BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OK? I thought librarians were all about that, or at least they did in my librarying days.

    That said, I would think that the depth of a collection in this particular area would speak directly to keeping or weeding. If it is the only title you have, then it is time to expand and update.

    And, as someone with a mildly retarded brother, the title doesn’t offend me at all, so save the PC policing (arrogant) and the jokes (insensitive). I’d sure as hell rather have this book in a collection than no book at all.

  58. While the title looks like the beginning for LOLspeak (without splng erraurs) the the bit about “Through Their Hands They Shall Learn” goes well with the swastika’d -out drum. Migawd!

  59. Yes, swastikas have multiple origins and meanings all over the world; they’re a very basic design idea, straight lines are easy to carve or draw, and the angles imply energy or motion, whether it’s winds, sunbeams, or running legs.

    That said, though, it’s remarkably insensitive to use them in modern “western” cultures, and I’m glad to know major publishers wouldn’t print a picture like this now.

  60. I don’t know whether this is the story John Gorman was remembering, but in John Varley’s SUPERHEROES (Ace Books, 1995), Dwight R. Decker’s “Origin Story,” an ancient German prospector is trying to find a new bearer for a mystic ring that grants its wearer the power to do good as Captain Swastika, complete with an automatically generated outfit you can’t modify….

  61. Not sure what pisses me off more–the PC idiots who are “offended” by this book & the word “retarded”, or that people automatically associate swasticas with Hitler. Native Americans had the swastika symbol LONG BEFORE HITLER EVER EXISTED. I have no problem with the swastika, the word “retarded”, or this book. It’s not slamming retarded people—and the fact that we can’t even SAY the word “retarded” without the effing PC police jump down your throat is RIDICULOUS. EVERYONE is SO offended by EVERYTHING–GET OVER IT, PEOPLE. Hell, I would be willing to bet money that the comments on here by all the “enlightened” people who are so “offended” by the book & the term “retarded” are from people who don’t even KNOW anyone who is.

    I grew up with a mentally retarded friend/neighbor—he had Down’s Syndrome–and even his family referred to him as being retarded. Like, even AFTER everyone else was going to great lengths to be politically correct, his family wasn’t going around saying, “He’s mentally challenged/differently abled” etc. or whatever other B.S. PC-correct term we’re supposed to be using TODAY. They just used the word “retarded” and it wasn’t any BFD to any of us.You know what? I bet that in another year, even the PC terms everyone is so careful to use TODAY are probably going to piss people off next year, so we’ll have to invent even MORE B.S. PC terms. “Retarded” isn’t meant to make fun of anyone—it’s just a descriptive word that’s in the Merriam-Webster dictionary that is exactly what it says it is—NO insult intended–and everyone needs to just get over themselves. You can’t even say “short”, “fat”, “bald”, etc.—now it’s gotta’ be “vertically challenged” or “follicularly challenged”, etc. Our society REALLY has to tone down the ridiculous false “offense” that they take of everything, especially when it’s something that doesn’t even APPLY to them.

    Merriam-Webster definition of retarded: slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress

    It’s ACCURATE. What’s wrong with it? It’s descriptive—and that’s about all. NOT insulting. People–grow a thicker skin and stop pretending that everyone is out to “offend” you.

    All crap aside, this looks like a really nice book as far as arts & crafts things go. It DOESN’T belong in the weed pile. If anything, I want this book just to piss off the politically correct.

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