From Why Eyeglasses Are Harmful For Children And Young People, © 1969 Joseph J. Kennebeck, O.D.


My own theory and method has to be reasonable, judging from patient reaction and by the reaction of a few eyemen who tried to imitate what they thought I was doing for eyes. Some patients passed on the words of advice they received from me to some of their family, friends, and acquaintances, who, without even consulting me, took off their own glasses, quit wearing them, and got along well without glasses thereafter. I got this information by the "grapevine."

I was happy for those who did that, even though I did not receive direct credit or remuneration. Some eyemen, when asked what they thought of me and my work, answered that they could do the same as I do for them, if that is what they wanted. This also came to me from the "grapevine." But as far as I was able to trace it, none of them did it, and none of them could do it without the theory behind my method, which they did not have.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I wouldn't be a bit surprised, if after reading what I have to say here that schools of eyework, and eyemen in practice, will change from what they have been doing to what I have been doing. Some will be honest enough to give me credit, while a few others will run with it, call it their own, and use it in their teaching or practice, as if they knew it all the time. They will do this to save face, and not be proven wrong for what they have been doing all these years. However, not one could prove that they did what I have been doing before reading what I have to say. Their records would prove otherwise, but I doubt if they would produce their records. Their records would show that they fitted glasses to practically every child and young person who consulted them.

Some eyemen claimed they could remove glasses, in time of war. They did not claim it before or after the war. It did, not take a war for me to declare that glasses can and should be kept away from new cases of children and young people, and removed from those already wearing them.

This book will not be complete without criticizing drops in the eyes, or dilation of the pupils, for an eye examination. This is done only by some, not all, ophthalmologists, and never by optometrists. There is not one good reason why it should be done. They say they do it to relax the accommodation of the eyes. If it did that, nearsighted eyes could be improved or cured, which they are not, and by the same token farsighted eyes would become more farsighted, which they do. It paralyzes the human eyeballs, and they cannot stand to be paralyzed by drops. It leaves the ciliary muscles of the eyes sluggish for sometime thereafter.

Then they would say they did it to examine the interior of the eyes. Any one skilled in eyework can examine the interior of most eyes without dilating the pupils. Only a few, compared to the many, where an internal eye condition might be suspected, are in need of an internal eye examination.

Since dilation of the pupils does no good, it can do harm. It could be the cause of glaucoma. I have said for forty years that one who dilates pupils for an eye examination shows a lack of skill in examining eyes without dilation. Since then, I have found that many national and international authorities on eyes say the same. No one has to take my word alone against dilation of the pupils for an eye examination. In fact, a better examination of the eyes can be made without dilation of the pupils than with dilation.

Too many eyemen dilate pupils to impress the patient with the fact that he is making a more thorough examination than others who do not dilate. There have been cases of children and young people who turned blue and acted like wild animals after dilation of the pupils. I, for one, would not allow any eyeman to use powder drugs or drops in my eyes for an eye examination for any reason at all.

Without a doubt, there are going to be more severe cases of eye trouble and blindness in the future, from what is being done to the eyes of the present generation, than the world has ever had before. Conditions that cause this are detachment of the retina, myopic or nearsighted cataracts, conical corneas and glaucoma; these come mostly to eyes with glasses, especially of the nearsighted variety. Farsightedness is bad enough, but nearsightedness leads to progression, deterioration, and degeneration of the eyeballs, in the middle age or past, if glasses are worn throughout life.

Once I attended a meeting of our local association of optometrists. Sitting by myself in the back row, because other optometrists ignored me on account of my opposition to glasses, I noticed a certain optometrist sitting in the front row, wearing thick lenses of about minus twenty diopters. I thought to myself, "How long will it be - if he lives - before he will lose his sight?" He was middle-aged then.

Not too long thereafter a mother brought her young son, about age twelve, to me for an eye examination. They were of the same name as the optometrist mentioned above. I asked them if they were related to that optometrist, and if so, why had they come to me? The mother answered that he was their uncle, and that he was blind. When eyemen themselves go blind in middle-age from wearing such glasses, what chance has a patient?

I know of other cases of eyemen themselves going blind at middle-age, or past. One in particular was an internationally known eye specialist, connected with a well-known international eye clinic. A columnist once wrote about him, "The great eye doctor who exacted an enormous fee for the removal of cataracts from the eyes of the King of Siam is now himself going blind." Not too long after that, the columnist wrote, "The famous eye doctor has gone blind." Not long after that, the great eye doctor died.

About another ophthalmologist I knew personally. He had an international reputation. He wore nearsighted glasses into his older age. I think I am the only one, outside of his family, who knew that something happened to his eyes.

I used to see him coming to church, leaving his chauffeur-driven car, entering the church and back to his car, alone.

Later he had to be escorted from his car to the back seat of the church, and then back to his car after services. I could tell by the way he had to be helped that he was blind. He was in good health otherwise. I could also tell by the way he acknowledged greetings from people that he could not see them.

Not long after that, he was confined to a hospital, until he died. I heard by the grapevine that he was blind. Neither he or his family let it be known that the great ophthalmologist lost his sight. The last time I saw him he was still wearing the nearsighted glasses he could not see with. Faithful to wearing glasses to the end. Little did he think that the wearing of nearsighted glasses after the age of forty could lead to blindness.

Regardless of what else might have helped cause the blindness, his nearsighted glasses could not have helped matters in his case, at his age.

If anyone is going to go blind, he will go blind quicker with glasses than without glasses. Glasses do not prevent blindness. Again I say let anyone who thinks otherwise prove otherwise. For each one who might have gone blind without glasses ever being worn, there are many who went blind from wearing glasses throughout life. Glasses hold out false hopes for the afflicted.

I realize I am trying to do what seems to be the impossible - trying to turn the masses against glasses. News pictures and TV show glasses being worn by people all over the world, even in the farthest outposts. It makes it look like the masses of glass wearers are right, and that I am wrong. It was not always this way; it has become this way only in the last few years.

In the business and social world too many resort to glasses, not so much for eye trouble, but to be a big shot or to imitate the big shot; to make an impression, to dignify their person, to cover up faults and facial defects, to get sympathy, and particularly for men and boys - the unwritten law, "Thou shalt not strike one who wears glasses."

Why women let themselves get into glasses I'll never know. Dorothy Parker said fifty years ago that "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses." I would add my own - "Where glasses begin, glamor ends." And for all I would say, "Where glasses begin, good eyes end."

It is hard enough to expose the wearing of glasses by the few who let themselves get into real refractive eye trouble, pains, strains, and headaches, from having misused and abused their eyes in the first place. It is even harder to expose the many who really do not need glasses and should not wear them, for the reasons just mentioned. They all will fight to the last ditch to justify their wearing of glasses. Those who need glasses the least will swear they need them the most. It is next to impossible to expose the masses for wearing glasses that many secretly know they do not need.

Here is an example of how and when glasses took over almost a whole continent. A native of Africa wrote an article for an eye journal. Glasses were hardly ever seen or heard of before this. (The native was a student of higher learning, in Africa.)

One year a white foreign teacher appeared, wearing the large black plastic framed glasses. All students were very impressed saying and thinking that the teacher must be brilliant to have studied so hard, using his eyes so much that he had to wear glasses. That year the native student journeyed to New York to study. There he saw so many wearing glasses that he put them on himself.

After several years the student returned to his native Africa, to find that most students, and many others - men, women and children - had turned to glasses, as if overnight a whole continent had become eyeglass conscious. It was the desire to wear glasses, not the need.

One might say, "So what? Let those who want to wear glasses wear them, if it gives them a lift of some kind or satisfies their ego." Well, there are two ways to look at it - two sides to the story. Do they want to save their eyes, have the best eyes, or do they just want to wear glasses? If they want the first, they cannot wear glasses. If they want the second they cannot have the first. One has to make a choice before it is too late. No one can have both. But none are advised or warned as to what glasses will do to their eyes. On the contrary, they are told that glasses will save their eyes, and they believe it without question. However, they are more concerned about the frames of the glasses on their face and what they think the frames do for them, than they are about the lenses that are fitted, or misfitted, for wear.

Millions already wear glasses, and millions will put on their first ones every year, making multi - millions wearing glasses, and then all of them have to have the lenses changed every one or two years, as their eyes grow worse. That is good business for the eyemen and the optical industry, but not good for human eyes.

There is a difference between the old tradition of eyework and glasses, and what I do and would like to have done for eyes in all new cases. Under the old tradition a new case is examined, and invariably the advice is, "You need glasses," as if glasses are the answer and will solve any and all eye problems. In all old cases, where glasses have already been worn, the advice is, "You need a change of glasses." That goes on and on ever year or two, through life. During all this time the farsighted variety of eye trouble grows progressively weaker and weaker. The circular ciliary muscles become less and less active - a dead eye, like a dead tooth - when they should be as active as the hair spring of a watch or clock, to focus the eyes from far to near and near to far, like they could have been if the first glasses had never been put on.

The nearsighted variety of eyes grow over-developed, stronger and stronger, too strong (only farsighted eyes are weak) and progressively worse with glasses. The circular ciliary muscles become more and more over-contracted, causing too much convexity of the refractive media of the eyes, like a watch or clock which is wound too tight and will not run. (A farsighted eye is like a watch or clock which is run down and needs winding.) The circular ciliary muscles are stuck in their over-contraction in nearsighted eyes.

It stands to reason that it is easier to develop a farsighted eye to overcome its own weakness - like winding a watch or clock - than it is to undevelop or relax a nearsighted eye - like trying to unwind a watch or clock that was stuck. But glasses do not develop weak farsighted eyes, and they do not undevelop nearsighted eyes. They do just the opposite, and that is why I say that glasses should not be worn.

Under my theory and method for eyes, new cases are examined objectively and subjectively. Regardless of the findings, they are told that they caused their own eye troubles and cannot have glasses. They are given a lecture of one to two hours, disciplining them in the use of their eyes. In other cases, where glasses have already been worn, my advice is, "You must give up glasses." I have not used the terms, "You need glasses" or "You need a change of lenses" in cases of children and young people for over forty years. All cases that followed my advice of discipline in the use of their eyes in any and all close work were improved or cured. The few who did not choose to follow my advice and demanded glasses, or got them elsewhere, all grew progressively worse. Some of them returned to me later, anxious and willing to follow my advice. It would have been better if they had done it in the first place.

I realize that some nearsighted cases of teenagers on up, already deep into glasses, will not do what I call for, which is giving up their glasses all the time, and that I cannot give them enough quick improvement to do their job. But they can give up their glasses at least part-time, when they are not working, or driving, etc. This alone would make their glasses last longer, without changing for stronger lenses. But too few of them will even do that much for themselves. They leave their glasses on when they could be off. It is too bad for them. They will have to pay the penalty for wearing their glasses all of the time, no matter what job or work they might do. However, some such severe cases did do as I suggested and were helped.

Those who choose to wear glasses should know and remember that others have to look at them with their glasses on. Others would sooner see their eyes, not the reflections of the glasses that are worn. There is hardly one eyeglass-wearer who is not secretly proud of his glasses. They insist on being accepted and respected with their glasses on. They would have it - "Love me, love my glasses" - no matter for what reason they wear them. Eyeglass-wearers feel that they are superior to those who do not and will not wear them. They are convinced that they can do anything with their glasses on that anyone else can do, and do it better. The cannot understand why they are not accepted for certain skills or occupations because of their wearing glasses. On the other hand, there are some skills and occupations where it is demanded that glasses be worn. Glasses do not necessarily make for efficiency, yet it is believed that they do - too much so. The time comes when efficiency is lost with glasses.

There is another reason, especially with young people, and particularly young men, why they should not have worn glasses at an early age. It is when they are of military age, or want to be a commercial flyer. Many an otherwise fine specimen of young manhood has to go into the lower ranks of the military because he could not pass the eye test for the higher branches as an officer. An army is only as good as the eyes of its servicemen. So many young men have gotten into the habit of wearing glasses at an early age that the military has to take them; they have no choice.

In World War I there were few rejects for poor eyes, and few men wore glasses. In World War II there were many rejects for military service and many wore glasses on account of their bad eyes. Today there are even more rejects for the same reason, all because they used their eyes wrong and turned to glasses at an early age. A large percentage of service men today wear glasses, and most of them are nearsighted. It is assumed that they have to wear glasses, to protect themselves and their buddies. But what about losing, breaking, bending, or smearing their glasses in the heat of battle, endangering themselves and their buddies, possibly losing the fight or skirmish, or more? It would be much better if we would start today by preventing, or curing the refractive eye troubles of our children, so that we might have the best eyes for our future military servicemen, instead of having so many poor eyes and rejects. Many young men who crave to be commercial flyers will be thwarted because they used their eyes wrong at a young age, and turned to glasses. The same applies to some other occupations, for the same reason.

The writer takes credit for getting young men into West Point and Annapolis with corrective measures after their failure in passing their eye test, and also for making it possible for many young men to make commissions in the high branches of the Army, Navy, and Air Corps in World War II. He also has helped commercial flyers, then and since, all without glasses.

Oh, the gestures that are made with glasses! Oh, how eyeglass wearers project their wearing of glasses! They would not want to be caught dead without them. I thought I had seen everything until I saw glasses on the dead, lying in their caskets. How many times have we seen would-be important men put their glasses on and off, holding them up in their hands to show that they have them, to make a point or an impression? It seems that all professional, political, scientific, and religious people think that they must wear glasses to look the part, and a lot of ordinary people wear glasses, to look smart. They all know this, but they think the world does not know it.

We also have some actors (few, if any, actresses wear glasses), who wear glasses on the stage, in pictures, and on T.V. I have seen members of panel programs put their glasses on over their blindfolds. Glasses detract from the actor, but they expect that to be overlooked. Comedians joke and make fun of others who wear false teeth, the baldheaded, and those with other physical defects, but he is sure that he himself will be accepted with glasses. I say that there are no eyes so bad and no show so long, that it cannot be done without glasses; there are plenty who can do it. The "Harold Lloyd" type of comedy with glasses is bad enough. Glasses also detract from jazz musicians. It seems that we do not want to see glasses on our actors or in the entertainment field. The fact that some wear them while acting, and that a large percentage of the professional, political, scientific, and religious people wear them, makes it hard to prove that glasses are unscientific and wrong.

Some actors and athletes turn to contact lenses to perform. While they might get by without glasses on their face, they cannot get away from the harm done by contact lenses. Contact lenses are as bad or worse than glasses. Wild claims are made for contact lenses. Eyemen who would never before admit to the faults of glasses do admit these faults after they get into contact lens work, mostly because of the greater remuneration. They claim that contact lenses will stop the progression of myopia. Just how they do that they do not say. As with myopic glasses, if nearsightedness does not call for stronger contact lenses within a year or so, the contact lenses were too strong the time before. They could cause deterioration or ulceration of the cornea. They take more care than they are worth. Many quit wearing them soon after they get them. Actors and athletes are acclaimed for being able to do their stuff with contact lenses, as if the contact lenses make them normal-eyed. It is strange that some eyemen who fit contact lenses do not wear them themselves.

Like glasses, contact lenses fitted for one distance, usually twenty feet, are wrong at every other distance. Eyemen who make big of astigmatism with precision fitted glasses, make little of astigmatism, not bothering to correct it with contact lenses, prescribing only spherical power contact lenses in most cases. Before this they would have found fault with me for ignoring or making little of astigmatism, with my theory and method. Contact lenses are a poor makeshift way of trying to get away from wearing glasses. Contact lens fitters try to give the impression that contact lenses are an ideal improvement over glasses, which they are not. Glasses are bad enough for human eyes; contact lenses are worse.

In writing what I have to say as to the cause of refractive and muscular eye troubles, pains, strains and headaches of children and young people, and why glasses are not scientific for them, I have probably left out some things I could have written, and written some things I could have left out. However, I think I have written enough for the open-minded to turn them against glasses. God help the closed-minded who are in favor of glasses. I wish them luck; they will need it. But I defy anyone to prove that glasses are scientific and right, thereby proving me wrong. No one has ever had to prove that, and no one ever can. The more one tries to prove it, the more he will find out he cannot, thereby proving me right.

The law of optics is, as said before: that glasses do not save eyes; that eyes never get better with glasses; that eyes do not even stay the same with glasses; that all eyes grow worse with glasses; and that all eyes would be better off in the long run if they had not put on their first glasses.

No child or young person can defy the law of optics, wear glasses, and get away with it. It is they who will have to pay the penalty of what the glasses will do to their eyes, and for the misunderstanding of their elders. Children may not know any better, but if I have not written enough for their elders to understand, know better, and do something about it, then there is no hope for the future eye welfare of our present and future generations of children and young people.

I feel that I have only scratched the surface against glasses. I have put it mildly. If I really wanted to call a spade a spade, the words I would use would not be fit to print or to say against them.

I have only scratched the surface giving the possibilities without glasses. They are unlimited, as compared to the possibilities with glasses. The results claimed for glasses are not worth the harm the glasses do to the eyes. Anyone who cannot see this does not want to see it. They want to believe only in glasses. Too bad for the victims who they say have to wear them.

If all eyemen would do as I have done, they no doubt would accomplish even more than I have accomplished alone. Many minds can accomplish more than one mind alone. As of now the many minds have concentrated on how to better fit glasses for the masses of children and young people.

If I have written enough for the elders to take hold, to keep away from glasses in the first place, to deliberately remove those glasses already worn, discipline them in the use of their eyes in all close work, and watch and wait for their eyes to improve over a period of time, then the present and future generations will have a better eye future than ever before. This is asking very little to accomplish so much. No one will be hurt. All will improve toward normal vision, many fast, some slow, over a period of time.

Life is too short for the masses to let their eyes go the way of glasses, the way they are going. We can do better than that. We can no longer deal in the easy way of glasses. We must deal in our future eye welfare.

Radical and revolutionary changes will have to be made by all concerned. We may not like it at first. Nevertheless, that is what is called for. But when we see how much good can be done for the eyes of children and young people, without glasses being fitted for wear, we will glory in it and forget the easy way of glasses. In fact, we will refuse to prescribe or fit glasses for wear for any child or young person, regardless of the refractive or muscular eye trouble, pains, strains, or headaches. We should not allow any one of them to demand and get glasses. Instead of allowing them to tell the eyeman what they want, the eyemen should tell them what they will have to do, and why.

If all eyemen would do what I have been doing for forty years, no child or young person would be able to get a pair of glasses for wear. Instead of making see or relieving them with glasses for wear, we will prevent, improve, or cure them, by directing them how to use their eyes right, and how not to use them wrong.

If eyemen are going to worry about what will become of them and their practice of fitting and selling glasses to the masses of children and young people, rather than how much more good they can do for eyes, then eyemen are not honest, truthful, and sincere in their eyework. My turning against glasses for children and young people, some forty years ago, did not ruin my practice. In fact, it increased my practice so much that I could tell the greatest success story of any practitioner in this healing art, not only in what I was able to do for eyes, but in volume of patients per day.

Starting from scratch, with my theory and method, I stepped up my one-half-hour corrective measure office treatments to my high mark of 221 in one day, handling thirty patients at one time. I had to increase my office space five times. Since that time I have improved my method, changing from office corrective measures to home corrective measures, which I wished I had done long before. I no longer needed the biggest office in town, and it was better for my patients, who got more out of my corrective measures with less cost and inconvenience. However, that is another story, and possibly too few would care to believe it. But it is true, and I have the records to prove it.

If eyemen would use their heads and do some thinking, from the clue I have given herein they could come up with what I have discovered. It would turn them against glasses for the masses of children and young people as it did me, and the prescribing and fitting of glasses for them would be a thing of the past, and gone forever.