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ON THE INSTRUCTION OF DEAF MUTES.
(By E. M. Gallaudet, Ph. D., LL. D.)
In reviewing the history of deaf-mute-instruction, we discover that controversies began in a former century have become the inheritance of recent times.
Disciples of Heinicke still contend earnestly for the principles and practice of their master and the successors of De l'Epée and Sicard urge the superiority of their system with equal vigor.
There are skilled instructors who can scarcely be patient in their condemnation of the folly of attempting to impart the power of oral speech to congenital mutes, while others may be found who inveigh with ignorant bitterness against the use of pantomimic gestures or the manual alphabet.
Until the beginning of tbe last decade, this controversy was practically confined to Europe.
In this country, for a period of nearly fifty years, the so-called French system, based upon the methods of De l’Epée and Sicard, had held almost undisputed sway. The ideas of Heinicke, which had ruled in Germany for more than a century, found no acceptance in America. And while institutions for the moral, intellectual, and industrial training of deaf mutes were moltiplied, it was nowhere really attempted to teach them to use their vocal organs or to understand the oral utterances of others.
About seven years ago, the efforts of certain benevolent and public-spirited citizens of Massachusetts resulted in the establishment in that State of a school in which the process of teaching deaf mutes to speak and to read from the lips was to bave full and careful trial.
To Miss Harriet B. Rogers, who opened this school at Chelmsford, and has since perfected it at Northampton, the credit is due of having initiated and measurably completed this important undertaking.
The results attained by Miss Rogers and her efficient corps of assistants having recently passed under our observation, we venture to present in this paper some of the impressions we received and certain conclusions to which we were led.
The principal questions upon which our investigations at Northampton were intended to throw light were the following:
(1) May deaf mutes acquire such a degree of fluency and readiness in oral utterance and lip-reading as shall compensate for the time and labor necessarily involved in imparting these powers to such as are absolutely without them?
(2) Do deaf mutes, educated in and by articulation, acquire the power of using correct written language more rapidly and perfectly than those educated under tho system which makes large use of the language of signs and the manual alphabet, discarding articulation ?
(3) Is it desirable or important to attempt to teach the entire number of deaf mutes to speak and read from the lips?
(4) Is it practicable or desirable to dispepse with the language of signs and the manual alphabet in the instruction of deaf mutes ?
In the discussion of these questions it is proposed to consider semi-mutes and the seini-deaf as forming classes quite distinct from deaf mutes, properly so called.
The term semi-mute includes all such as have acquired the power of oral speech, and consequently the ability to think in language, before losing their bearing.
The semi-deaf are those who possess sufficient hearing to enable them to comprehend and imitate vocal utterances without the aid of the eye, while they are too deaf to understand ordinary oral discourse.
These classes of persons, usually regarded in civil law as deaf mutes, and hence ontitled, when of teachable age, to admission as pupils into schools for the deaf and dumb, differ 80 widely from other deaf mutes in their intellectual status and capacity for acquiring the power of using written or spoken language, as to demand an entirely distinct consideration,
In all the essential elements of deaf-mutism, considered either from a physiologic or psychologic point of view, the semi-deaf and semi-mute are not deaf mutes at all. And we incline to the opinion that if their education during their earlier years could be carried on in separate classes the interests of all concerned would be advanced. To avoid misconception, then, when we wish to include these exceptional classes we will use the words “deaf mutes of all sorts," limiting the ordinary term “ deaf mute” to those who are actually such in the strict signification of the words.
In the examinations we were enabled to make of pupils at the Northampton school, we gathered a decisively affirmative answer to the first question we have proposed. Deal-mute children of the age of 15 and under, who had been taught for six years, were able to speak with a degree of fluency and distinctness not difficult to be understood by a stranger. They could also read from the lips of a stranger with readiness, and with but few occasions for repetition. The time and labor involved in making these acquirements did not seem to have been greater than their very high value would warrant. That so much can be predicated of all deaf mates must not, however, be supposed. It is not claimed by Miss Rogers that all can be trained in articulation and Îip-reading as successfully as those we particularly examined. And our impressions, derived from somewhat extended observations of articulating-schools in Europe, that the number that may be expected to succeed in oral utterance and lip-reading is a decided minority, taking into account “ deaf mutes of all sorts," was fully confirmed at Northampton.
The utterance of many pupils was so indistinct and imperfect as to be understood only when most closely attended to, while that of others was, to a stranger's ear, hardly more than gibberish. And yet nearly or quite all of this could be comprehended by the teachers.
Passing to our second question, we are led to give a negative answer, and this rather unexpectedly, for we had been disposed to the contrary view before visiting the Northampton school.
We were permitted to examine two deaf mutes placed before us as the best illustrations that could be afforded of the success of Miss Rogers's training.
A boy of 15, born totally deaf, who had been under instruction six years, wrote as follows, in reply to written questions :
“ Will you please tell me some of the pleasant things you did during your last vaca
“I went to the sea-shore and staied there for one day—I have been in bathing. I played with my friend the games were "Hide and Seek,” Tag and croquet. Almost every day I swimmed with the boys. I helped my friend raking hay in the meadow. I visited my grandFather and Cousins. I have gathered some apples and setted the trap for wood-chuck. I have not caught it. My friend caught six wood-chucks last summer. I drove the cattle to the pasture from the barn."
“Tell me of your excursion to Mount Tom."
"I went with the children to Mount Tom and we have a pic-nic. We ate some sandwiches, pears, cakes and crackers."
“What did you see on the mountain ?”
“I went in the house on the top of the mountain and saw many different kinds of stiffed birds and live rattlesnakes, owls and young foxes."
The other deaf mute, whose proficiency in ordinary written language I was permitted to test, bad been under instruction eix years, was born totally deaf, and was a girl of eleven and a half years of age.
The principal questions and answers in our written conversation were as follows: “What did you do with yourself during your last vacation ?”
“On July 22 we went home. We are very glad because we go home. I went to Boston. My brother met me at Boston Albany depot. I was very glad to see him. My brother put me in another cars. I go alone in the cars. I went at four o'clock and I go home to East Dennis at half-past six o'clock. My Father and mother met me at the depot. I was glad to see them. They were glad that I was safe from Boston to South Dennis. Then they brought me home. I was hungry and sleepy. My mother gave me some supper. Then I go to bed. The next day my mother and I went to Grandfather's house to stay the afternoon."
“Do you think Northampton is a pretty place ?"
“Because in the summer the trees have very many leaves, many beautiful things hung in the stores and the grass is green. It look very beautiful."
"Tell me a little about your excursion up Mount Tom."
“I went with the large children when Miss Rogers went to Europe. We went in the cars to Mount Tom. We walk very long way to the house in Mt. Tom-There are two snakes in the store some boys killed. We saw an owl. It has two eye-lids. Some of the children trouble it. It is very cool in Mount Tom. Then we came home in the cars from Mt. Tom to Northampton."
Those who are fanıiliar with the written compositions of deaf mutes will observe in the specimens we have transcribed substantially the same errors as are found in the writing of pupils taught “under the system which makes large use of the language of signs and the manual alphabet, discarding articulation."
The misuse of tense and number in verbs, the omissions of articles and pronouns, the defects of punctuation, the mistakes as to the plurals of nouns, are all such as will be recognized by every teacher of the deaf and dumb; and we are of opinion that in the paragraphs we present these “deaf-mutisms” are more numerous than would appear in similar productions from pupils of equal intelligence and similar standing in our older institutions.
This conclusion must not, however, be taken as implying that, on the whole, results of the six years' instruction to the two pupils we are cousidering are to be counted as of less value than those they would have been likely to have secured in the same length of time in a tirst-class non-articulating-school, for these two deaf mutes had acquired wbat they would have entirely failed to secure under the old system, a degree of facility in oral speech and lip-reading of unquestionable value as a means of communication in society and in the general business of life. Their utterances, though peculiar, were easily understood. They read from the lips of a stranger with readiness. They conversed with pleasure at the table.
When the importance of this accomplishment is fairly weighed, we are led to pronounce the aggregate value of the six years' training in these two cases as higher than apy results that have come to our notice under the system which entirely discards articulation. This conclusion is in accordance with expectations we had been led to entertain by what appeared in an examination of European schools in 1867, and sustains the opinions recorded in a report we had the honor to make at that time.
That there may be no misapprehension as to the scope of the judgment just announced, it should be said that it applies only to such deaf mutes as the two whose attainments we have under discussion. Their success is by no means to be taken as proving what may be done with the mass of deaf mutes. That they are to be regarded as exceptional cases is sustained by an authority no less distinguished than that of Moritz Hill, of Weissenfels, Germany, now retired from his profession after a half-century of successful labor in teaching the deaf and dumb strictly on the system which makes articulation the prominent feature.
Mr. Hill, in 1867, expressed the following opinions in answer to queries presented to him by the writer of this paper :
“Out of 100 pupils, 85 are capable, when leaving the school, of conversing on commonplace-subjects with their teachers, family, and intimate friends. Sixty-two can do so easily.
“Out of 100 pupils, 11 can converse readily with strangers on ordinary subjects. Many others learn to do this after quitting school." *
Eleven per cent. only of deaf-mutes of all sorts, including, therefore, the semi-nute and the semi-deaf, are claimed by one of the greatest of living teachers of articulation as "being able to converse readily with strangers on ordinary subjects” when they leave school. Allowing that double this number “learn to do this after quitting school,” by reason of their increased intercourse with strangers, we have remaining 67 per cent., or a full two-thirds majority, of deaf mutes of all sorts, who, after all the help that can be given them in schools founded on the articulation-basis, can never hope to do more in oral speech than “ converse on commonplace-subjects with their teachers, family, and intimate friends;" and in this number we include 15 per cent. who cannot hope to do even so much as this.
Commenting on these facts in our report of 1867 we expressed ourselves as follows, and the conviction then recorded remains unchanged:
“We are inclined seriously to question the desirableness of continuing instruction in speech during a series of years when no higher result can be expected than to enable the pupil to converse on commonplace-subjects with his teachers, family, and intimate friends; for with the instructor he has always the much easier and equally precise language of signs or the manual alphabet, while the family and intimate friends can with little effort acquire facility in dactylology; and this their interest in their mute friends will naturally lead them to do."
A negative answer to our third question will follow naturally from what has already appeared in the discussion of the first two inquiries.
And at the same time we cannot too strongly urge the importance of teaching articnlation and lip-reading to all who give fair promise of attaining success therein; and, lest some deaf-mute, capable of securing this valuable acquisition, should fail of doing so through inadvertence, the capacity of all should be experimentally ascertained before he or she is pronounced hopelessly dumb.
That the semi-deaf and the semi-mute should have the benefit of thorough instruction in speech- and lip-reading does not require argument, and their advantages, other things being equal; over the congenitally and totally deaf are very great in this feature of their education.
In the Northampton school, as in many European institutions where articulation is made a prominent feature, it is attempted to dispense with the language of signs, and the use of the manual alphabet is forbidden.
We think this is a mistaken policy, persistence in which cannot fail to involve serious disadvantages.
In this opinion, so far as it relates to the sign-language, we are sustained by Mr. Hill, to whom we have already referred.
* According to statistics gathered recently in this country, the semi-mate and semi-deaf, taken together, constitute about 10 per cent. of the aggregate body of deaf mutes of all sorts.
In his well-known work, Der gegenwärtige Zustand des Taubstummen-Bildungswesens in Deutschland, Mr. Hill presents the following unequivocal declarations, in speaking of those who pretend that in the “German method " every species of pantomimic language is proscribed :
“ Such an idea must be attributed to malevolence or to unpardonable levity. This pretense is contrary to nature and repugnant to the rules of sound educational science. If this system were put into execution, the moral life, the intellectual development of the deaf and dumb would be inhumanly hampered. It would be acting contrary to nature to forbid the deaf mute a means of expression employed by even hearing and speaking persons.
.* It is nonsense to dream of depriving him of this means until he is in a position to express himself orally. Even in teaching, itself, we cannot lay aside the language of gestures, (with the exception of that which consists in artificial signs and in the manual alphabet, two elements proscribed by the German school,) the language which the deaf-mute brings with him to school, and which ought to serve as a basis for his education. To banish the language of natural signs from the school-room, and limit ourselves to articulation, is like employing a golden key which does not fit the lock of the door we would open, and refusing to use the iron one made for it. *
At the best it would be drilling the deaf mute, but not molding him intellectually or morally. Where is the teacher who can conscientiously declare that he has discharged his duty in postponing moral and religious education until he can impart it by means of articulation i
"Although the use of the language of pantomime acts, in several respects, in an unfavorable manner on the teaching of articulation, it ought to be remembered that institutions for the deaf and dumb are not created solely to impart this latter kind of instruction: their object is much more extensive, and they have to meet wants which depend on education taken in its entirety."
We would direct especial attention to the closing sentence quoted from Mr. Hill and bis clear statement of the true object of institutions for the deaf and dumb.
We learned from Miss Rogers that a means of communication between her pupils and their teachers, as well as among themselves, by writing in the air had come into use. This was regarded as more desirable than the manual alphabet, for the reason (and this was the only one given) that it could easily be resorted to as a means of communication between deaf mutes and those who had never learned the manual alphabet.
That writing in the air may often be found a convenient means of communication between deaf mutes and speaking people when no other can be resorted to, we are ready to admit; but to accept it in a school for the education of deaf inutes as a substitute for the manual alphabet seems to us hardly more reasonable than to prefer an artificial limb to a natural one, or to choose the little child's method of printing letters rather than the free and rapid swing of an accomplished penman.
By using the finger-alphabet arranged for one band, words may be intelligibly expressed with a rapidity four times as great as that of the fastest writing. Greater precision, too, will be secured in using dactylology than in air-writing, and we can see no possible impediment to progress in articulation growing out of the use of the manual alphabet that would not equally attach to writing in the air.
It is admitted by Miss Rogers, as by all disciples of Heinicke, that “natural signs" must be used to a certain extent, even in articulating-schools. It is to the " language of signs” that most teachers of articulation take exception, the use of which they prohibit in their schools.
We are disposed to believe that the usefulness and efficiency of the Northampton Institution and all similar schools would be increased by the judicions introduction of the “ language of signs ” among teachers and pupils, and we trust we commit do breach of courtesy when we ask if the judgment of those who have been familiar with this much-abused medium of communication from their infancy, who have used it for a life-time of intimate intercourse with deaf mutes, may not be as well entitled to respéct as the ipse dixit of such as have never attempted to learn the language, much less to master it.
We must not close this paper without mentioning the name of the late John Clarke, esq., of Northampton, through whose manificent benefactions, amounting to more than two hundred thousand dollars, the school of Miss Rogers has been sustained on a more liberal scale than most of the older institutions in this country. The institution very properly bears the name of its most prominent patron, and will be known as the Clarke Institution for Deaf Mutes.
In noting the results of the systems of instruction pursued in the Clarke Institution, it would be premature to undertake to speak with any fullness of the Bell method of visible speech.
This important invention is due to Prof. A. Melville Bell, formerly of Edinburgh, and has been introduced into this country by his son, A. Graham Bell, lately appointed professor of vocal physiology in the Boston University.
The process provides for a representation of sounds, not as in the usual alphabets, by arbitrary symbols, but by actual symbolic illustrations of the action of the vocal organs.
The invention has been adopted by Miss Rogers, and early results indicate a marked success as probably in store for the future.
Other schools for the deaf and dumb besides that at Northampton are making trial of the visible-speech-method, and a convention in the interest of its general introduction was held in January, 1874, at Worcester, Massachusetts.
This meeting seems to have been little more than an effort to bring the Bell method into public notice, and few results or reports of results were presented.
Teachers of deaf mutes, generally, are disposed to accept this new process of teaching articulation to the deaf as an important contribution to the existing means of educating this class of persons, and it is believed that within a very few years it will find wide acceptance and approval.
FURTHER INTERESTING FACTS.
The following interesting facts respecting the correspondence between the signlanguage of the deaf mutes and that used by the wild Indians of the plains were kindly
communicated by William Welsh, esq., of Philadelphia: · Two large tribes of Indians, the Cheyennes and the Arapahoes, formerly together, separated, one-half going to Indian Territory; the other half are roaming Indians, chiefly in the western part of Wyoming Territory. The latter have dever come in contact with civilization, not having even seen corn-planting. A delegation from this tribe recently visited Washington, Philadelphia, and New York.
When they were in Philadelphia an effort was made to ascertain the measure of correspondence between the sign-language of these Indians and the educated deaf mutes. The Indians have a sign-language by which they are enabled to communicate with each other iu all important particulars, although, from the diversity of their tongues, they are unable to understand a word of the spoken language. These Indians weré first brought in contact with the deaf mutes at ite Academy of Music, where a striking correspondence between the sign-languages was discovered, but the Indians were too diffident to speak much. A private interview was arranged between them and the principal of the Deaf and Dumb Institution, a male teacher, and five young women, who are pupils in the institution.
At the tea-table they became interested in each other by finding that they had the same signs in common for coffee, milk, sugar, and other things on the table. The Indians have no sign for tea, because it was not used by them, but pointing to the tea made a sign that it was coffee made from leaves. Two bours were afterward spent in social intercourse mutually agreeable, the deaf mutes understanding almost everything that the Indians described in sign-language, and with which the Indians were familiar. The Indians were delighted to find that educated people could speak to tbem in the sign-language, which seemed to reach their hearts more thoroughly than the spoken language. It made the Indians so happy that after retiring to their rooms they spent a long time singing, for joy, although they had not sung before, except just after they had left home. They view these girls and their teachers as their friends, and wish them to go and live with them, feeling that they have hearts in common as well as a language in common.
Mr. William Welsh, who had arranged this interview, had desired to test the similarity of the sign-language, and asked Mr. Edgerton Crouter, who was present, to note down the signs they had in common, and received a letter, from which the following is an extract, in reply: . . #
“At the recent interview between several of our papils and the delegation of Indians visiting the city under your care, it was found that they make signs identical or strikingly similar to those made by deaf mutes for the following list of words : Love.
Earth or ground.