What could a Deaf person, a Deaf community become?
What could we have been had not sign language and Deaf teachers been removed from Deaf education after the Milan ‘Congress’ of 1880?
What could we have been had we not been forced to endure more than a century of English illiteracy, self-shame and stigma?
Who and what were we in the centuries before such prohibitions descended, when Deaf Professionals and Deaf pride was reputedly much stronger?
And, what can we bring forward from those times which might inform the fledging steps we must take in this 21st century?Dr. Paddy Ladd is a British bloke who wrote a thesis from the point of view as a British person relevant to his experience in his country versus an American person in his/her own country. But let's look at what Dr. EM Gallaudet said in 1886 to Lord Egerton during a question and answer session with Dr. Gallaudet.
The most damning quote by Dr. Gallaudet to Lord Egerton in 1886? (6 years later after the Milan Convention of 1880)
"I am not aware that the opinion or the practice of any teacher in America, or of any school in America, has been changed by this action of the Milan Convention."
That is in direct opposition to claims today that deaf people (i.e. signers) were harmed by the Milan Convention decision in the United States. Gallaudet and many others at the time rejected such a recommendation by the Milan Convention on oral method only route.
But here's an interesting twist, Dr. Gallaudet advocated for the use of the oral method in America as well. It was to be included with all other teaching and communication methods at the time.
32 Abingdon Street, Westminster.
Wednesday, 10th November, 1886.
Present: The Eight Hon. The LORD EGERTON OF TATTON In The Chair.
You have Lord Egerton asking questions to Dr. EM Gallaudet in 1886. This was done 6 years after the Milan Convention of 1880. Note the bold sections. The red color ones are the more interesting quotes.
13.306. Lord Egerton: I see that a number of resolutions were arrived at by that Congress, and I think the Commission would be very glad to know if you could give us some idea of the opinion of those in America best calculated to express an opinion upon the results arrived at at that Congress?
Gallaudet: The feeling in America was that the resolutions adopted by that Convention, giving a formal approval to the pure oral method, were not entitled to very great weight. The Convention was far from being a representative body. I mean to say that there was no basis of representation, so that a particular institution or a particular country should be considered as being represented by a certain number of delegates. My own opinion at the time was, and nothing has since occurred to change it, that the decision of the Convention at Milan as regards the pure oral system, as expressed in these resolutions, was not to be taken as of very great weight in determining questions of method, and that opinion was entertained by a very large majority of the teachers of the deaf in America, including many who taught then and teach now on the oral method. In justice to the few who hold to a different opinion I should say there were some teachers in America who accepted the decision of the Milan Convention as expressing their views. I am not aware that the opinion or the practice of any teacher in America, or of any school in America, has been changed by this action of the Milan Convention.
13.307. Lord Egerton: May I take it that from your own experience the combined system, with as much vocalization as can be added, is the method that you would recommend !
Dr. Gallaudet: I should say oral teaching should be included.
13.308. Lord Egerton: Is that the method which is recommended in America today?
Dr. Gallaudet: That is the method which is recommended by the resolutions which I had the honor to read to the Commission yesterday, as coming from the largest Convention that has ever been held in America, and at which all methods were represented. My views are in accordance with the recommendations in those- resolutions, and I have held those views during now a period of 19 years. I may say frankly, that my experience prior to that time was such as to lead me to depreciate and undervalue the oral teaching of the deaf, and I wrote and spoke and worked as a manual teacher purely up to 1867 ; but when I then visited Europe and examined the oral schools, especially in Germany, I became satisfied that I had failed to grasp the situation theretofore, and I accepted at once the addition of the oral method as a necessity in any system that aimed to reach the highest good of the deaf.
So, the acceptance of the oral method today shouldn't be a problem. but the today's approach, understanding, and advance in technology are light years away from that of in 1886. Yet the signing is still recommended to be included. No harm in that but I must re-iterate that an informed decision is still up to the parents. Parents still hold the trump cards. All we can hope is at parents are adequately informed to make an important but informed decision.
Using the Milan Convention of 1880 as a scape-goat in order to blame the so called harm to the signing community does not hold that much weight. Competiting ideas on educational and communication approaches were a continual and dynamic process over the last 130 years since the Milan Convention of 1880. In each respective ideological practices it has become more refined along with increased knowledge and confidence in their area of expertise on AVT, SEE, ASL, MANUAL, CUED SPEECH, AUDITORY or ORAL approaches today combined with the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants that helps improve the acquisition of the spoken and auditory language. What we now know today along with the advances in hearing technology cannot be compared to the thinking of the 1880s and rudimentary approaches with limited knowledge on educational practices and approaches. There is simply no comparison to be made in terms of equivalency here between two very different eras.
The old adage that's true today is that there is no one shoe size that fits all for people with hearing loss from mild to profound hearing loss. That philosophical approach is adequate today but not in 1886. Yet sign language is still a very important communication approach (even language) for people with hearing loss and those who don't have hearing loss.
The problem today is that some Deaf people are simply addicted with this whole scapegoating efforts doing the constant blame game in the name of Deaf politics rather than simply focus on positive examples and let that shine through. Which is why today I continue to say, "Deafhood? No thanks." You need to understand from my point of view as to why I say that. It's simple. It's these stupid Deaf politics that get in the way of. Sort of like refusing to agree to disagree but instead prefer to throw a temper tantrum on the floor for the world to see.
I don't judge people on their preference to use or not use their voice. Same goes for signing preferences. And the use of their hearing aids or cochlear implants. Nor do I go behind closed doors and do all these Salem witch trials to determine (i.e. the extreme audacity) whether if this or that person is "Deaf-centric" enough in the name of "deafhood." When that happens you KNOW those people are brainwashed and fervently ideological who do not realize the consequences of making those kinds of inquiries can have. That's one of the reason why segregation and discrimination are happening behind closed doors. And that "deafhood" has become about politics and ideology and nothing about acceptance for what they are instead focus on "who" they are. This is true for CAD (California Association of the Deaf) when they proposed to use the "deafhood" requirement in order to be a member (see video below).
Can we say "segregation" now? Can we say "discrimination" now? Can we say that those people simply do not accept people with hearing loss by focusing on what they are?
This "deafhood" ideology is now becoming the new "McArthyism." It's no longer a philosophical concept but it has now become a required practice.
Basic summary of that video.
*CAD requires members to be a part of "deafhood."
*Must take workshops in order to qualify as officers of CAD.
*Says it is discrimination if one says "no thanks to deafhood" and cannot run for officer of CAD.
*Medical view of "deafhood" - everything is always about improving our lives, who are they to tell us what shouldn't be or should be.
I'll include more summary briefs for those who don't know sign language later on.