Chapter 3: Work as Commissioner
00:00:00.70 - 00:06:46.44
INTERVIEWER: You mentioned Pennhurst, but of course, there were 14 institutions operating in the Commonwealth at that time. Can you speak to the scale or when you realized what the scale of this sort of mass warehousing of people was like?
ED GOLDMAN: Well, my recollection, there were 10, and there was a new one being built in Philadelphia for a few hundred people called Woodhaven. It was still under construction. I remember as advocates, we were fighting with the state when we finally saw the plans is that it was a smaller, cleaner warehouse. And we tried to get changes made and couldn't. In 1968, the Pennsylvania Junior Chamber of Commerce every year has a project, and that year, it was mental health and mental retardation. So because of my background in the field and also being someone young enough to be in the chamber, I had never been in it. I was asked to head up the committee for mental health for mental retardation for that year. And we did inspection tours of institutions around the state. And I still remember driving in a snowstorm from Philadelphia to Polk, which is a little bit south of Erie and the tour had been set up. I don't know if you've ever seen the movie Bad Day at Black Rock with Spencer Tracy, where Spencer Tracy walks into this small community and there's nothing but tension in the air. And here we are, we think we're little do-gooders. We're going-- and I had the night before was a major town meeting about the tour that was supposed to take place the next day. And I had members of the local junior chamber of commerce come up to me and say, I hope nothing bad comes of this because I've already been told in my drugstore, I'm out of business. If this turns out bad nobody, will come to my store ever again, as if they were sponsoring it. Oh, wow. And sure enough, the tour was awful. It was another Pennhurst. And that was in 1968, and one of my staff people, the guy that filled the position I used to be in doing public information and public relations, was out at the hotel across the street on City Line Avenue from Channel 10. And they were having their meeting, and a young reporter named Bill Baldini said that he had nothing to do. So he went over to the hotel and he met this guy named Jerry [? Haas ?] who worked for me. And Jerry started to tell him about Pennhurst. When Jerry got back to the office, he says you got to meet this guy. He says-- and so we did and kind of undercover as a JC got Baldini to go and see-- because he said if it's 1/10 of what you're telling me, we'll do something. And of course, he went out and was blown away. But he said when he came back to the station and told his producer that what he wanted to do, the guy looked at him like he was crazy. He said, you're going to show this stuff at dinner time on the news. No. And finally convinced-- Bill finally convinced him to at least go out there with a film crew, and that led to Suffer The Little Children. Which, by the way, Bill was at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania meeting this past week and told his story and what it meant for him as a young reporter, what it meant for the station. It was the largest outpouring on any story that that TV station had ever done before or since. And then of course, it went national. That led to the exposé at Willowbrook done by another New York reporter, who at the time was named Jerry Rivers, who was Geraldo Rivera. And that was in-- Willowbrook was in 1972, four years after the Pennhurst story. At the time, the state association for retarded children was meeting-- they had had enough. The advocates, the board. What can we do? Because even with all the outpouring of people that never knew about Pennhurst, not much changed. And they met with an attorney from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, a young guy named Tom Gilhool. And the strategy, even though it was aimed at Pennhurst initially, was to do education because the state constitution required all children to be in public school. So we started finding families in the greater Delaware Valley who would be the named plaintiffs. These were families whose children may be now adults, were never allowed in school. So the whole issue of compensatory education was an issue. These were children who had offered themselves and were turned down. This was a time when the education community misinterpreted what legal and mandatory school age was. Legal school age was 5 to 21, mandatory was 8 to 16. What that meant was, as a parent, you did not have to offer your child for public education until age 8 and could leave at age 16. Interpreted by the schools is we don't have to take their kids until he's 8 and we can kick them out at 16. That was another issue in the lawsuit. And so, the strategy was, they had better legal standing to go after Right to Education. So part of my job at the time was helping find those families that would be willing to stand up and be part of the name plaintiff class.
00:06:46.44 - 00:15:22.04
INTERVIEWER: So now I just want to clarify you're still with the ARC at this Point?
ED GOLDMAN: Yes. I'm now the deputy executive director. And so I got to meet Tom and Dennis Haggerty and all the other people at the state level, Pat Clapp, who's also one of the parents and board members from Western Pennsylvania. And so that's what started it all. And finally, for me, it's now 1971. I had been at the local ARC for six years, and I wanted to be an executive director somewhere. So that November, in 1970, I went to the National Association for Retarded Children Conference in Minneapolis to look for a job, with the approval of my boss. She thought it was also time for me to take on more responsibility. So I went out there, and lo and behold, I landed my dream job. I was offered the job as executive director of the ARC of Chicago, which then was the third largest in the United States. And I'm a city kid, so being in Chicago was wonderful. So I came back and resigned. It was at the time right after the development of the Mental Health Mental Retardation Act of 1966 when all the community mental health and mental retardation provider agencies banded together called the Consortium of Citywide Agencies. And we would meet to collectively figure out how to deal with this new bureaucracy and the rules and everything else. And I got to know the executive director of Horizon House, which was a mental health agency, Dr. Irv Rutman. And then Irv took a year sabbatical, and Irv was replaced for one year by a guy named Zal Garfield, who I met at the meetings and is kind of my father's age. Had a long white beard, very distinguished looking, and we hit it off. And then in 1970, Milton Shapp decides, again, to run for governor. He had run in 1966 and was defeated by Ray Shafer. And he decides to run again. And I'm reading the newspapers, and his campaign manager is this guy Zal Garfield, which surprised me. I'm thinking, how does Milton Shapp know this guy who's the director of a mental health agency. And then learned the Zal Garfield had been the executive vice president of Jerrold Electronics, the company that Milton Shapp founded, and put more antennas on people's roofs in the United States than probably anyone else. And Zal retired from Jerrold Electronics at 43, got his PhD, traveled the world in learning how other countries were dealing with drug addiction. And when he came back, he was probably as expert as anyone in the country and then landed this one-year gig as acting executive director during the sabbatical of the then director Irv Rutman. So I tell I got to Zal Garfield. So here I am, it's the Christmas party at the [? shelter ?] workshop, and I get a phone call. I have already resigned, already accepted the offer in Chicago, and it's Zal Garfield. He says, Ed, I want you to come over to the state office building and meet Milt Shapp. Well, Milton Shapp had actually been on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Association for Retarded Children at the time we were trying to get more influential members of the community to be on our board. I don't think he ever came to a meeting, but from time to time, some senior execs would show up at our board meetings. And at the time, I never knew he had family involvement, that he had someone in his family with mental retardation. In any case, Zal says, I want you to come over. And I used to dress kind of wildly in those days, and I'm wearing a bright red shirt and lavender pants with bell bottoms. And I said to Zal, I can't do that. I feel like I'm a Christmas tree, a neon light. He said, just come on over. And of course, the workshop was walking distance at the time at North 13th Street. So I went over and I meet the then elected governor, but not yet sworn in. And Zal Garfield says, Milt, I want you to meet Ed. And I'm thinking to myself, what is this all about. And then Garfield leaves the room, and I sat there for a couple hours talking with the soon-to-be governor Milton Shapp. And most of what we talked about had nothing to do with disability issues. We talked about politics and sports and growing up in Philly, which he did also. And then Zal Garfield walked back to the room, and he looks at Milton Shapp and he says, well, Milt, what do you think? And I'm sitting there, no clue. And Shapp says, Ed, I want you to be the Commissioner of Mental Retardation for Pennsylvania. I think my jaw dropped and hit the floor. I had already accepted-- and I said, I'm flattered, but I've already accepted a job in Chicago. He says, well, you need to call them. I want you to come to Harrisburg. And I thought to myself, I needed to go home and talk to my wife. And what part of our personal conversation was, could I do this job. Here I am, I had no formal training in any of the helping professions-- psychology, social work, education. I don't even have my master's degree, and I'm going to be supervising medical doctors and lawyers and who knows what. Could I really do this and did I want to? And what I realized is this was an opportunity to change the world, a little piece of it. I had met, finally, Wolf Wolfensberger, who was the author of Normalization in the United States. When I read the president's monograph in 1968 and a chapter was on normalization, the thing that I could never figure out was, how could this happen, and Wolfensberger explained it in his concepts of normalization and deviancy and social stigma and how to turn that around. And I just said-- and I said to the governor, I will only consider this because at the time, the state was fighting the lawsuit on Right to Education. Not only the state government, but the Department of Education wanted nothing to do with this. They had what were called intermediate units, which were programs around the state, for smaller school districts in particular, that would have segregated programs for people with special needs. And they were also the defendants. And I said to the governor, I am not interested in this job unless we settle this. He says, absolutely. That's what we're going to do. And the other thing that he did that most people when I talk about it never knew, it was the first year of revenue sharing, where the federal government would give the states unallocated money to use as they would. And Milton Shapp took 100% of the revenue sharing money to make Right to Education work. I thought he was serious.
00:15:22.04 - 00:18:26.96
INTERVIEWER: You also referenced the idea that allowing children with disabilities to enter schools, in some way, would be a diversion from the institutional system. It would be a place for people, for children to go, a type of natural support for families. So I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about, again, what it felt like to have this right to education actually signed into law, any role that you had-- or any part you had played in doing that. And then, really, what it was like to implement it, which was no small feat, I'm imagining.
ED GOLDMAN: Well, the implementation part--
INTERVIEWER: Now I'm going to ask again, when you say the implementation, just to set us up since we've had a break. The implementation of the right to education would be great.
ED GOLDMAN: Well, here I am brand new showing up in Harrisburg, and I had a few goals in mind. Of course, we signed the consent decree. I will say it's one of my prouder moments. My name is on the decree. Even though the Office of Mental Retardation in what was then the welfare department had only a small number of school age children in the institutions, but we were the advocates. And we would have nonstop meetings with educational personnel over the Department of Education. The Secretary of Education was all for it, but the bureaucracy, the director of special education, and the people who had been working there and were opposed to this wanted nothing to do with it. And we pushed and pushed. And I remember meetings where if a child wasn't toilet trained, that was their rationale not to allow them into school. And I would come back with my smarty pants comment-- well, you're teachers. Isn't this a learning thing? Someone's going to do it. You're going to do it. And we would have these nonstop fights. And once the decree was signed, we developed the concept of an individual education plan. That had really never been done before. And we created the outline of what it would be, who would be involved, what the report of the plan was for each and every individual child. That was groundbreaking, and that led to 1975 the Education of all Children Act in Congress, signed by the president. And it was only a few years later. So the momentum was building, and there were other comparable lawsuits that were following along in some of the other states.
00:18:26.96 - 00:21:01.24
INTERVIEWER: Did it surprise you how quickly this went national?
ED GOLDMAN: I guess I was.
INTERVIEWER: I Guess you were--
ED GOLDMAN: I was surprised how often that these suits would start to crop up. And I'm always reminded of a little book I read called the Hundredth Monkey Syndrome, where monkeys on one island never ate coconuts. And one day, a coconut fell from a tree and broke open. And when the monkeys started to drink and then eat and, oh, this is kind of good. And then learned that all these rocks that were coconuts, they would bang them against rocks to break them open. And before you know it, on an adjoining island that never had the experience, they started eating coconuts too. So it's one of those things where it's a moment whose time has come. And of course, advocacy grew like crazy in the '60s and '70s with parent movements all over the United States. And they were the real drivers. It didn't come from professionals. It came from parents. Now, many professionals, younger people who are growing up in this emerging system joined in, but the entrenched bureaucracies-- school districts all over-- wanted nothing to do with this. And we had to really push. And I still remember that when the consent agreement was finally signed, there were 11 of these intermediate units that had joined in the suit, sued the state, and basically said, hey, we're defendants here. We didn't ask you to settle this. And they brought their own suit to not have this happen, which was thrown out quickly thereafter. So my other goal in addition to getting this Right to Education off the ground, we had a thing called Child Find, which was to then scour the Commonwealth for children who either were not in school, denied access to school, who were beyond school age but were never allowed in. So this find system all over the Commonwealth was to bring people into the school district and then to figure out-- and some of the money came from the state-- to implement this.
More Interview Chapters
- Background and Education
- Work with ARC; Learn about Pennhurst
- YOU ARE HERE: Work as Commissioner
- Right to Education Normalization; Systemic Change
- Institutional Change
- Woodhaven Center Community Living
- Controversy at Polk Center
- Pennhurst Memorial Preservation Alliance; Reflections on Career
About Ed Goldman
Born: Philadelphia, PA
Work history: Commissioner, Mental Retardation, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Executive Director, ARC, Carlisle, PA, Deputy Executive Director, ARC
ARC, Institutions, Normalization, Pennhurst, Polk, Pennhurst Longitudinal Study (Twin Study)