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laudet and Mr. Clerk had gone to obtain aid for the Hartford school, an humble storekeeper by the name of Seixas began to teach, in 1819, a little class of deaf pupils, and he was so successful that an institution was organized in 1820 with Seixas as first teacher and principal. In a very few months he was succeeded by a permanent principal from Hartford. Back in 1819 Massachusetts had provided an appropriation for the education of 20 indigent pupils at Hartford, and in 1825 New Hampshire and Vermont adopted the same policy. “Other states soon followed this good example. Thus, through the efforts of the founders of this [the Hartford] school, the humane, just and wise policy of educating deaf-mutes at the public expense was firmly established in this country, and has been adopted by almost every state in the union. In some of the western states means for the education of deaf-mutes are secured by constitutional provision. This has put the schools for deaf-mutes in the United States on a better basis, financially, than those in any other part of the world.” Only two years after the founding of the Pennsylvania school, Kentucky followed with its institution, being the first to be supported by a state. The act establishing it limited the pupils at any one time to 25, and their term of instruction to three years. In fact limits of this kind are usually prescribed in all the early institutions. (The Illinois school now has 612 pupils, and the New York schools allow a term of 17 years.) The first principal of the Kentucky school went to Hartford for a year to study methods. Ohio and Virginia soon followed in the good work. Both received their first superintendents from Hartford. Thereafter institutions sprang up rapidly in the south and west, taking their early superintendents or teachers either from the parent school at Hartford or from one or another of the older schools. In 1857 there was incorporated by the national congress the Columbia institution at Washington, D.C., which requires
special mention. Though originally intended as a school where the deaf children of government beneficiaries could be educated, circumstances of which not the least influential was the energy of its principal, Dr. Edward M. Gallaudet, son of the pioneer, soon brought about a change enabling the institution to confer collegiate degrees. The institution was then divided into two departments, the advanced department taking the name of the National deaf-mute college. Thus, in 1864, America had taken a step “unprecedented in the history of deaf-mute instruction.” Most of the deaf and dumb are either born deaf or became so before acquiring language. They are dumb because they are deaf, and without special instruction can never know any but a gestural language. The pioneer educators of the deaf in this country were all “broad-minded men of liberal education,” and they set a high standard at the outset for the work. A language of signs they saw was the key to the instruction of their pupils, who, indeed, were allowed so few years of schooling, that no time was to be lost in laboring over the extraordinary difficulties of teaching them speech. Moreover, these teachers saw with great satisfaction the development of their pupils through the language of signs. This language is ideographic —“being readily expressive of ideas and emotions,” rather than of phraseology. Put into words their order is entirely different from the natural order, thus, “Let it be supposed that a girl has been seen by a deaf-mute child to drop a cup of milk which she was carrying home. He would relate the incident in the following order of sign words: Saw-I-girl-walk-cup-milk-carry-homedrop.” “ The late superintendent of the Illinois institution, Dr. Gillett, writes: “When reduced to a system they [signs] form a convenient means of conveying to one mind the ideas conceived by another, though not clothed in the language in which a cultured mind expresses them. One addressed in the sign language receives the idea and translates it into
English without any intimation of the phraseology in the mind of the speaker, so that a dozen persons familiar with the sign language, observing the gesticulations of a speaker, would each translate correctly the thoughts given forth, but no two of them would be in exactly the same phraseology. It is a concrete language, in which the expression of abstract ideas is exceedingly difficult." As the ideas are given out chiefly by means of hand gestures, schools using the sign language as a means of instruction are said to follow or use the manual method.” Among the manually-taught deaf this language early becomes the vernacular. As it is a language of living pictures, such deaf people think in pictures and dream in them. The sign language is said to be to the deaf what spoken language is to the hearing; and yet its use in the school room is deemed by many teachers extremely detrimental to the acquisition of the English language, and, therefore, unwise. All our educators of the deaf agree that giving to their pupils the ability to use the English language is their chief end and aim. They differ widely, however, over the use of signs. The greater number believe a moderate use of them to be economical of time and extremely useful to the deaf in the acquisition of knowledge. There is a small but growing number who dispense with signs in toto just as soon as possible. These latter teach by the intuitive, direct or “English language method." They teach English by and through English, spoken, read and written. It is extraordinarily difficult to get started by the oral or English language method. But teachers of this method claim that once well started their pupils advance more logically, more surely, more precisely, and finally more swiftly than the pupils of those permitting the intervention of signs. Advocates of using the signs together with other means claim that the minds of most of their new pupils are sluggish from want of language to think in, and that they need to be aroused by the quickest method; that their pupils have already lost too many years of youth, and that to cause them to lose more because of a theory is wrong and wicked. This school asserts that “A large percentage of the deaf under proper methods can obtain a very useful amount of speech and lip-reading, but [that] there is also a large percentage of them that would be greatly restricted in their mental development, if allowed no other means of instruction,” and continues: “We are striving to take the golden mean, placing first in importance mental development and a knowledge of written language, and adding thereto in the case of every child speech and lip-reading to the degree that his capacity and adaptability allow him to acquire them."" And again, “For rapid and clear explanation, for testing the comprehension of the pupil, for lectures and religious instruction before large numbers of pupils, there is no other means equal in efficiency to the sign language. Its proper and conservative use always tends to mental development, saves time, and is the most efficient aid known in the acquisition of written and spoken language.”” The other school affirms that the two methods or systems are mutually exclusive, saying: “Of course no pupil can be taught under the intuitive and the sign method at the same time, and it is impossible to combine into one system a method which is dependent upon the ‘sign’ language at every stage of instruction with a method which dispenses absolutely with the ‘sign’ language at every stage in teaching the English language. In the ‘sign-language' method instructors aim to teach the vernacular language through the intervention of signs, but their deaf-mute pupils acquire a mixture of natural signs, pantomime, conventional signs and finger spelling which becomes the habitual vehicle of thought and expression, wherever it is possible to use a gestural language, to the exclusion of the English language. The intuitive method dispenses entirely with the crutch of the ‘sign-language' in the mastery of English.” A form of the English language method, taught at the Rochester (N. Y.) institution, substitutes finger spelling for signs as these are used in manual schools, and is called the “manual alphabet method.” Superintendent Westervel: says of it, “It is the principle of our method of instruction that the child has a right to receive instruction through that form of our language which he can understand most readily, with the least strain of attention, and the least diversion from the thought to the organ of its expression.” So much for the rival methods, which, however, it is absolutely necessary to understand if we would comprehend the history of deaf-mute education in America. The history of the rise of the oral method is interesting. As has been said, the manual method reigned supreme for the first fifty years of the work. In 1843, Horace Mann, secretary of the Massachusetts state board of education, and Dr. Howe, director of the Perkins institution for the blind in Boston, made a tour of Europe. In his next annual report Horace Mann praised the oral method as taught in Germany, stating that it was superior to the method employed in America. The report was widely read, and caused no little commotion among our teachers of the deaf, several of whom went abroad to see for themselves. These gentlemen did not agree with Horace Mann, and little change was then made in American methods. Still as a result of their recommendations, classes in articulation were introduced into several schools. Later, in 1864, the father of a little deaf girl in Massachusetts began to agitate for the incorporation of an
* Gillett. Some notable benefactors of the deaf. Pp. 14-15.
* The simple sign for cat well illustrates the graphic nature of the language. In order to teach this sign, a sign teacher “would show the child a cat, if possible, or a picture of a cat, which would be recognized by the child. The next step would be to direct attention to the cat's whiskers, drawing the thumb and finger of each hand lightly over them. A similar motion with the thumb and finger of each hand above the teacher's upper lip at once becomes the sign for cat. The instructed deaf child will be expected to recall the object, cat, on seeing this conventional sign.” Gordon. The difference between the two systems of teaching deaf-mute children the English language. Pp. 1–2.