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38 183 65
53 127 34
971 211 133
117 1, 375
12 374 16 31 72
60 122 146
11 75 271
a One of these represonts the Chicago system of deaf-mate schools, which includes five small schools. bOne of these in a deaf ante. This includes the Denf.Mato College, an organization within the Colombia Inntention.
EDUCATION OF THE BLIND.
This country has now entered upon the second half of its first century of organized effort for the education of the blind. During the first balf century there was a wonderful change, not only in popular sentiment, but in the methods of instruction employed. The time was when the blind were not considered susceptible of education; now, educators work on the principle that "they can be taught everything but to see.” Formerly those who were unbefriended found a melancholy home in the alms. house; now, they practice useful trades, delight all hearers with their exquisite music, and furnish gospel light to eager congregations. “Out of 1,200 persons who have gone out from the institutions for the blind in New York State only 21 were afterwards found in the almshouse." Truly the education of the blind is a question of political economy, and not one of mero charity.”
A COMPLEX PROBLEM.
The progress of the last fifty years derives additional interest and significance from the nature of the problem which confronted educators at the beginning of the century, as expressed by the superintendent of the New York Institute for the Blind:
An institution for the blind is necessarily more complex in its organization than any other establishment. Each of its three departments of instruction, literary, musical, and industrial, is a school in itself. Owing to the inability of blind pupils to help themselves, the working force required for the school, household, and general administration is much greater than is necessary for other defective classes. The gathering up of facts by the sense of touch while groping after knowledge in the darkness, is not only slow, but peculiarly destructive to the objects of study and the means by which instruction is given. Taking all things into account the work to be done for and upon the blind is far greater in variety and amount, as well as more difficult, than that required in the care and education of any other class of persons.
From the census of 1880 we learn that the number of blind persons in the United States was not quite 50,000. Of these, less than 10,000 were under 20 years of age. Of course a large majority of the adult blind received an education before losing their sight. But as less than 2,500 have been in attendance at the schools for the blind, there must be several thousand for whom, in some States, at least, inadequate provision is made; or else, as in too dany instances, these unfortunates are retained at home for various reasons. These are, chiedy, (1) a state of poverty which precludes suitable clothing and the cost of getting them to and from the institution; (2) a fear of intrusting these pets of the housebold to the care and sympathy of strangers; and (3) a bias--which is happily disappearing-against the idea of sending them to what they regard as an "asylum” or “ hospital.”
To provide for the blind youth of suitable age, there are 32 institutions in the United States, and every State contributes to their support. Some of these are finely endowed, fully equipped, and amply provided with instructors. Others are doing excellent work with insufficient means and appliances, their lack being largely supplied by enthusiasm and ingenuity. In all there is manifested a singleness of aim, it progress of ideas, and a similarity of methods, which at once bespeak the intelligence of the educators and the influence of the biennial conferences.
In the literary department the problem is to cultivate memory, touch, and hearing. The ingenuity, the patience, and the persistence necessary to fully solve this problem may be dimly conceived by the general public, but never clearly understood.
The aim is to impart a good Englisb education. That success follows in many instances may be gathered from the remarkable recitations and essays of the graduating classes.
The means employed are live teachers, peculiar books, and a good supply of models and apparatus. A number of schools are sadly deficient in a generous provision of objects of touch. The pressing need of these is evident from the fact that “tho greatest mysteries are frequently wrapped up in the objects which are most familiar to other people.” Hence there should be “in a well-equipped school for the blind a collection of natural objects, models, and apparatus, including stuffed birds, animals, and fishes; shells, botanical models, specimens of woods, plants, fossils, minerals in crystalline form, seeds, reptiles, crustaceans, sponges, corals, and star fishes; maps in relief; and models of machinery, works of art, celebrated buildings, and other works of interest."
There are three printing-houses in the United States which publish books for the blind. These books are more costly than ordinary works, and to help meet the expense of printing, eto., Congress appropriated $250,000 in 1879, the interest of which, $10,000, is distributed pro rata to supply books and apparatus for the blind.
But the most perfect appliances are of small avail without that wonderful embodiment of tact, intelligence, and culture—the gifted teacher. And the marked progress and success of our more advanced institutions for the blind are mainly due to this fact, that they have not been wanting in ablo instructors. He who set free the imprisoned spirit of Laura Bridgman, who said to her darkened mind, " let there be light," and light was, evidently had divine credentials for the work he wrought, and did not stand in need of a human commission. Others still remain whose minds and hearts have received divine impulses, and a generation of the cultivated blind “rise up and call them blessed."
Several schools have debating societies, which prove a great stimulus to literary ability, while at the same time perfecting the students in oratory and elocation.
The faculty of hearing seems to be intensified by the loss of the faculty of sight. One is not surprised, therefore, to learn that among the blind are many gifted musicians, or to discover that the department of music is sedulously cultivated in all the schools. Ono institution reports the possession of 26 pianos, with other stringed, reed, and wind instruments. Every school has, entirely or in part, its harmony class, its choir, its orchestra, its band, and its corps of piano tuners. The practical outcome is threefold: (1) It is a great source of pure and elevating enjoyment, not only to those who perform, but to others who hear. One young lady expressed herself as glad that she was born blind, for only thus could she have received “such a musical education." (2) Its cultivation serves to arouse sluggish faculties. For what a pupil can do well in one direction, is a perpetual reminder that a similar effort will accomplish much in another direction. Says an educator of the blind, “We have seen pupils who seemed naturally dull and lethargic, with little taste for books, gain greatly in intellectual development apparently through the study of music alone.” (3) This knowledge prepares the blind to earn a competent living as skilled organists, successful music teachers, and first-class tuners of pianos. In Boston the contract for tuning and keeping in good working order 132 pianos in the public schools has been awarded for the eighth time to the Massachusetts Institution for the Blind.
Whatever may have been opinions and theories formerly, “po school is now considered complete without an industrial department.” From the nature of the case, however, the scope is somewhat limited. To boys the following occupations are taught: the making of brooms, brushes, baskets, mattresses; also apholstering, cane
seating of chairs, and weaving of rag-carpets. The girls are taught housekeeping, sewing and knitting (by hand and by machine), crochetting, beadwork, and caneseating. Says a leading educator, “The main design of our industrial department is not to make money, but to train hand and brain in some kind of handicraft which will render our pupils useful to themselves and to others. If the blind man does not in after life follow the particular trade learned here, he will have acquired industrious habits, a disposition to do something useful, which will at least keep him from vicious ways, and preserve him in a healthy frame of mind.”
Closely hinging upon the topic of manual labor is that of physical training. Its necessity lies in the pertinent fact that " as a class the blind are frail and delicate." To obviate this physical condition as well as to establish self-reliance, courage, and discipline, some of the schools have introduced the gymnasium, military-drill, and calisthenics. I quote from the report of a well-known institution:
We have a large and well furnished gymnasium for the malo pupils, which is much used. A military drill is conducted very skillfully by the prefect, besides his other valuable services. The company consists of 46 pupils, armed with wooden muskets and bayonets. The special advantage of these drills is the promotion of discipline and good order; of manly and graceful positions; and of facility and ease in walking and marching—a training for blind persons which has been much overlooked.
On the female side the calisthenio classes are the special exercises for eight months of the term.
The training of blind pupils from the age of five to nine years by kindergarten methods, though comparatively a new feature, is already a pronounced success. It has only been adopted in three or four schools, but will undoubtedly become general from the following considerations: (1) A large percentage of the blind can have their vision partially or wholly restored by surgical and hygienic treatment in early life, the necessity of which would be seen and recommended by the observing teacher. Investigators find that about 40 per cent. represent the result of simple ignorance and neglect. (2) The sense of touch is then delicate and susceptible of acute development. (3) This form of training is the most normal and scientific preparation for the more advanced studies, as well as for manual employments. (4) This period is the most suitable time for cultivating moral and religious sentiments. In some cases the surroundings of young (blind) children are not only ignorant but vicious; and they imbibe habits which it requires years to subdue.
The immediate results of kindergarten training are apparent in an exhibit sent to Madison, Wis., during the meeting of the National Educational Association in the summer of 1884. A special correspondent of the Boston Herald said:
Strange as it may seem, the finest work in clay modeling is that of scholars in the kindergarten department of the Massachusetts Institution for the Blind in South Boston. The objects represented in plastic material are almost perfection, and, in seeing the whole exhibit of this institution, the visitor can no longer doubt the value of the instruction of the blind in kindergarten methods. Some unique geometric work is done by the use of pins stuck in cushions.
MORAL AND SOCIAL TRAINING.
A noble character and fine social qualities are always and everywhere attractive They are especially valuable to the blind, because of their disadvantage in the struggle for subsistence, and their peculiar dependence upon others for sympathy and help.
Honesty, correct habits, amiability and worth, polished manners, and chaste lan. guage” are not only irresistible social attractions, but they also wonderfully augment happiness and greatly promote success in life. There is abundant evidence that the educators of the blind are sigually qualified to lead their pupils into paths of "truth