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pense is not great enough to be an objection in the way materially aiding so small a class as the blind.
I have in my possession the alphabet, the Lord's prayer, some hymns, and a volume on grammar, printed for the use of the blind; and six sets of all that has been printed at the Boston press, with the exception of the Testament, are on the way to me. It is my wish to disperse this precious literature where it may have the fairest trial; and I shall be happy to receive any aid in the distribution which the active friends of the blind may be disposed to afford.
The common letters are used, and not any abbreviated language. I think this is wise; for thus the large class of persons who become blind after having been able to read are suited at once; and it seems desirable to make as little difference as possible in the instrument of communication used by the blind and the seeing. It appears probable that, before any very long time, all valuable literature may be put into the hands of the blind; and the preparation will take place with much more ease if the common alphabet be used, than if works have to be translated into a set of arbitrary signs. It is easy for a blind person, previously able to read, to learn the use of the raised printing. Even adults, whose fingers' ends are none of the most promising, soon achieve the accomplishment. An experiment has been made on a poor washerwoman with the specimens I brought over. She had lost her sight eight years; but she now reads, and is daily looking for a new supply of literature from Boston, which a kind friend has ordered for her.
It will scarcely be believed that the objection to this exercise which is most strongly insisted on is, that it is far better for the blind to be read to than that they should read to themselves. It seems to me that this might just as well be said about persons who see; that it would save time for one member only of a family to read, while the others might thus be saved the trouble of learning their letters. Let the
* I have just received the following works, printed at the Boston press for the use of the blind. I shall be thankful for assistance in getting them into use, in securing a fair trial of them by blind pupils Six copies of the Book of Psalms.
blind be read to as much as any benevolent person pleases; but why should they not also be allowed the privilege of private study? Private reading is of far more value and interest to them than to persons who have more diversified occupations in their power. None could start this objection who had seen, as I have, the blind at their private studies. Instead of poring over a book held in the hand, as others do, they lay their volume on the desk before them, lightly touch the lines with one finger of the right hand, followed by one finger of the left, and, with face upturned to the ceiling, show in their varying countenances the emotions stirred up by what they are reading. A frequent passing smile, an occasional laugh, or an animated expression of grave interest passes over the face, while the touch is exploring the meaning which it was till lately thought could enter only through the eye or the ear. They may be seen going back to the beginning of a passage which interests them, reading it three or four times over, dwelling upon it as we do upon the beauties of our favourite authors, and thus deriving a benefit which cannot be communicated by public reading.
One simple question seems to set this matter in its true light. If we were to become blind to-morrow, should we prefer depending on being read to, or having, in addition to this privilege, a library which we could read for ourselves?
As to the speed with which the blind become able to read, those whom I heard read aloud about as fast as the better sort of readers in a Lancasterian school; with, perhaps, the interval of a second between the longer words, and perfect readiness about he commonest little words.
Alphabetical printing is far from being the only use the Boston press is put to. The arithmetical, geometrical, and musical signs are as easily prepared; and there is an atlas which far surpasses any illustrations of geography previously devised. The maps made in Europe are very expensive, and exceedingly troublesome to prepare, the boundaries of sea and land being represented by strings glued on to the lines of a common map, pasted on a board. The American
maps are embossed; the land being raised, and the water depressed; one species of raised mark being used for mountains, another for towns, another for boundaries; the degrees being marked by figures in the margin, and the most important names in the same print with their books. These maps are really elegant in appearance, and seem to serve all purposes.
"Do you think," said I, to a little boy in the Blind School at Philadelphia, " that you could show me on this large map where I have been travelling in the United States ?"
"I could, if you'd tell me where you have been," replied he. "Well, I will tell you my whole journey, and you shall show my friends here where I have been."
The little fellow did not make a single mistake. Up rivers, over mountains, across boundaries, round cataracts, along lakes, straight up to towns went his delicate fingers, as unerringly as our eyes. This is a triumph. It brings out the love of the blind pupils for geography; and with this, the proof that there are classes of ideas which we are ignorant or heedless of, and which yield a benefit and enjoyment which we can little understand, to those to whom they serve instead of visual ideas. What is our notion of a map and of the study of geography, putting visual ideas out of the question? The inquiry reminds one of Saunderson's reply from his deathbed to the conversation of a clergyman who was plying the blind philosopher with the common arguments in Natural Theology: "You would fain have me allow the force of your arguments, drawn from the wonders of the visible creation; but may it not be that they only seem to you wonderful? for you and other men have always been wondering how I could accomplish many things which seem to me perfectly simple."
The best friends and most experienced teachers of the blind lay down, as their first principle in the education of their charge, that the blind are to be treated in all possible respects like other people; and these respects are far more numerous than the inexperienced would suppose. One of the hardest circumstances in the lot of a blind child is that his spirits are needlessly depressed, and his habits made needlessly dependant. From his birth, or from the period of his loss of sight, he never finds himself addressed in the every-day human voice. He hears words of pity from strangers, uttered in tones of hesitating compassion; and there is a something in the voices of his parents when they speak to him which is different from their tone towards their other children. Everything is done for him. He is dressed, he is fed, he is guided. If he attempts to walk alone, some one removes every impediment which lies in his way. A worse evil than even helplessness arises out of this method of treatment. The spirits and temper are injured. The
child is depressed when some one is not amusing him, and sinks into apathy when left to himself. If there is the slightest intermission or abatement of tenderness in the tone in which he is addressed, he is hurt. If he thinks himself neglected for a moment, he broods over the fancied injury, and in his darkness and silence nourishes bad passions. The experienced students of the case of the blind hint at worse consequences still arising from this pernicious indulgence of the blind at home. Unless the mind be fully and independently exercised, and unless the blind be drawn off from the contemplation of himself as an isolated and unfortunate, if not injured being, the animal nature becomes too strong for control, and some species of sensual vice finishes the destruction which ill-judged indulgence began.
In the New-England Institution at Boston, the pupils are treated, from the time of their entrance, like human beings who come to be educated. All there are on an equality, except a very few of the people about the house. The teachers are blind, and so all have to live on together on the same terms. It is a community of persons with four senses. It is here seen at once how inexpressibly absurd it is to be spending time and wasting energy in bemoaning the absence of a fifth power, while there are four existing to made use of. The universe is around them to be studied, and life is before them to be conquered; and here they may be set vigorously on their way. At first the pupils bitterly feel the want of the caressing and pampering they have been used to at home. Some few, who have come in too late, are found to have been irretrievably incapacitated by it; but almost all revive in a surprisingly short time, and experience so much enjoyment from their newly-acquired independence, their sense of safety, their power of occupation, the cessation of all pity and repining, and the novel feeling of equality with those about them, that they declare themselves to have entered upon a new life. Many drop expressions resembling that of one of the pupils, who declared that she never thought before that it was a happy thing to live.
Their zeal about their occupations appears remarkable to those who do not reflect that holyday is no pleasure to the blind, and idleness a real punishment, as it is the one thing of which they have had too much all their lives. They are eager to be busy from morning till night; and the care of their teachers is to change their employments frequently, as
there is but little suspension of work. They have a playground, with swings and other means of exercise; but one of the greatest difficulties in the management is to cause these to be made a proper use of. The blind are commonly indisposed to exercise; and in the New-England Institution little is done in this way, though the pupils are shut out into the open air once, and even twice a day in summer, the house doors actually closed against them. They sit down in groups and talk, or bask in some sunny corner of the grounds, hurrying back at the first signal to their books, their music, their mat and basket making, sewing, and travels on the map.
Another great difficulty is to teach them a good carriage and manners. Blind children usually fall into a set of disagreeable habits while other children are learning to look about them. They wag their heads, roll their eyes, twitch their elbows, and keep their bodies in a perpetual seesaw as often as they are left to themselves; and it is surprising how much time and vigilance are required to make them sit, stand, and walk like other people. As all directions to this purpose must appear to them purely arbitrary, their faith in their instructers has to be drawn upon to secure their obedience in these particulars, and the work to be done is to break the habits of a life; so that it really seems easier to them to learn a science or a language than to hold up their heads and sit still on their chairs. The manners of the blind usually show a great bashfulness on the surface of a prodigious vanity. This is chiefly the fault of the seeing with whom they have intercourse. If their compassionate visiters would suppress all tears and sighs, make an effort to forget all about the sense that is absent, and treat them, on the ground of the other four, as they would treat all other pupils in any other school, the demeanour of the blind would nearly cease to be peculiar. Their manners are rectified easily enough by the only method which can ever avail for the cure of bad manners; by cultivating their kindly feelings and their self-respect, and by accustoming them to good society.
The studies at the institution at Boston are appointed according to the principles laid down in the valuable report of the gentleman, Dr. Howe, who studied the case of the blind in Europe, and who is now at the head of the establishment under our notice. Among other principles is this, "that