History Through Deaf Eyes – Assimilation through Spoken English

“If speech is better for hearing people than barbaric signs, it is better for the deaf: being the fittest it has survived” – Emma Garrett, Oral Educator, Home for Training in Speech of Deaf Children Before They Are of School Age, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Oral educators warned that deaf people had become “Foreigners among their own countrymen.” They charged that the use of sign language encouraged deaf people to form a community apart, with its own organizations, newspapers, cultural practices and beliefs. Oralists hoped that a purely oral education would lead to greater assimilation, better mastery of spoken English, and increased work opportunities. 1901 convention of the American Instructors of the deaf Sign Language was described as part of an evolutionary framework and debated at meetings of superintendents and school principals. It was an on-going topic of discussion at meetings such as this 1901 convention of the American Instructors of the Deaf, held at St. Mary’s Institution for the Deaf in Buffalo, New York. The language of deaf people was described by some educators as “characteristic of tribes low in the scale of development.” Oralists classed sign languages as inferior modes of communication. Gallaudet University Archives