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EDUCATION OF DEFECTIVES
Systematic care of the defective classes began in America in 1815, when a young theological student, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, started for Europe to study methods of teaching the deaf and dumb. A school for this class was opened in 1817, one for the blind in 1831, and one for the feeble-minded in 1845—practically fifteen years apart. In each case the first schools were in New England, the second in New York, the third in Pennsylvania; and these schools followed one another quickly. All started in the face of more or less distrust as to their feasibility. At first all were experimental, being started through private initiative. A few pupils were taught and exhibited before the amazed public, when in the case of the deaf and the blind private funds in abundance were contributed and the schools quickly established as private corporations. In the case of the feebleminded the first school to be incorporated was a public organization—that is, it was supported by the state. Before 1822 the state had not been educated to the point of supporting schools for the special classes, but by 1848 it was ready to see its duty towards even the idiotic, though wealthy people were by no means prepared to contribute directly to schools for them.
The three states named having led the way, the movement spread quickly into Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Illinois — in almost identical order for each special class. Here, however, the schools for the three classes arose as state institutions. It had become an accepted part of public policy for the state to provide a means of education for all her children. The superintendents of the early schools for the deaf and dumb were generally clergymen; those of the blind and the idiotic, generally physicians. The institutions were necessarily boarding schools; and the early ones were established as a rule in or near the state capitals, chiefly that their achievements might be kept before the members of the legislatures, on whose practical sympathy the continuance of the schools usually depended. The large private or semi-public institutions are confined to the eastern states, where the movement began. Their support comes chiefly from private bequests and the interest on invested endowment funds. All, however, receive what is termed state aid, and all make annual report to the state legislatures, to the commissioners of public charities or of public education, as the case may be. All these institutions are governed by honorary boards of trustees or managers, who appoint the superintendent or principal. In the semipublic organization the managers form a self-appointing, close corporation; in the public, they are appointed usually by the state governor, by whom they may also be removed. The semi-public institutions are usually well endowed. Their expenditures are, therefore, not limited by legislative grant; and, moreover, these institutions are free from political interference, an interference which, in the case of several of the state organizations, has seriously affected from time to time the efficiency of the institutions themselves. As a rule, the institution plants are large and well equipped. Even when within the built-up cities the buildings are surrounded with ample lawns and playgrounds. The appropriations of money are generous, whether the schools are public or semi-public. The earlier institutions were built on the congregate plan; the later and those that have been rebuilt have generally adopted the segregate or cottage plan. The pupils are not committed to these institutions, but are admitted or rejected by the boards of trustees on the recommendation of the superintendents. The early institutions for all three classes of defectives began purely as schools. And all those existing to-day, except those for the feeble-minded, discharge or graduate all pupils after these have completed the course of instruc
tion. With the feeble-minded this plan was found to be inexpedient, for reasons which will be stated later. A very recent movement, started by the instructors of the deaf, is the affiliation of the educators of the defective classes with those of the national education association. It is being more and more recognized that the line between a defective and normal child cannot be drawn hard and fast, and that many a child who appears dull and stupid in school is in some measure defective. Hence, these special schools afford fields of most helpful suggestion to teachers of ordinary children. All persons intending to make teaching a vocation should become acquainted with these schools and their methods. It is interesting to note that systematic work for the deaf and dumb, the blind, and the feeble-minded began in France, and that to France America sent its early teachers to study methods and ascertain results.
About the middle of the last century three schools for the deaf and dumb were opened in Europe, one in France, one in Germany, and one in Scotland. Though they sprang up at about the same time they were yet wholly independent in origin. In Paris the Abbé de l'Epée having observed two deaf-mute sisters conversing by means of gestures, seized upon the idea that in gesture language lay the secret of instructing the deaf and dumb. He therefore elaborated a system of gesture signs and made it the medium of instruction in the school which he started. Heinicke in Dresden and Braidwood in Edinburg simply adopted articulate speech as the language of man and taught their pupils through it, requiring them to speak and read the lips of others. Thus arose the two important methods of deafmute instruction.
Reports of the successes, chiefly in the British school, having reached America, several parents of deaf-mutes sent their children to Scotland to be educated. These deaf
children returned no longer as mutes; they were able to
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wandering about there for nine months he gave up hope of acquiring the Braidwood method and accepted an invitation to study methods at the Paris school. At this school he spent the three remaining months of the year, a time far too short in which to acquire the special language of gesture signs. Hence, he induced a deaf-mute, who was teaching in the school, to accompany him to America. This man was the brilliant and accomplished Laurent Clerk, who became an engine of power for establishing schools for deaf-mutes in our country. Thus was the French method or the signlanguage method brought to America. It was improved and further systematized by our early teachers and in this form was the basis of instruction in all our schools for half a century. During the absence of Dr. Gallaudet, influential men of Hartford had secured from the state legislature the incorporation of the Connecticut asylum for the education and instruction of deaf and dumb persons. Upon his return he and Mr. Clerk traveled for eight months among prominent cities in behalf of the cause of the deaf. The exhibition of Laurent Clerk alone helped the cause as nothing else could have done. On April 15, 1817, school work began at Hartford with seven pupils. During the year 33 pupils came. This was the first permanent school in the country. While in other countries similar schools had no reliable basis of support, the founders of our schools immediately established theirs on a permanent basis. Private aid was necessary at first, but no sooner had the feasibility of the work been shown than public moneys were granted. In this year the Connecticut asylum changed its name to the American asylum at Hartford for the education and instruction of the deaf and dumb ; for it was then supposed that one school could accommodate for many years all the pupils of the country who would attend school. But interest in the schooling of deaf-mutes had been aroused in other places. In 1818 a school was opened in New York under a teacher from Hartford; and in Philadelphia, where Dr. Gal