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Alexander Graham Bell and His Oposition

Page history last edited by Janna Dunagan 14 years, 11 months ago

Alexander Graham Bell and His Opposition

A good friend of Alexander Graham Bell (AGB) explained that “had it not been for Dr. Bell’s fame and wealth…, his views on the subject [of deafness] would have had no more force and weight than a goose feather in a tornado… (Gannon, 1981, 78).”  AGB’s perspectives on deafness were stated loud and clear for all to be aware of.  AGB disagreed with residential schools because he didn’t want deaf people to socialize together.

AGB believed that deafness was caused by the gene being passed down through inheritance.  Preventing the socializing at the main location of interaction for deaf people was only part of his solution.  Separating deaf people in residential schools also supported Bell’s proposal to ban marriages between deaf people.   Banning intermarriages would decrease the amount of deaf people being born into society.  AGB also supported the notion of integrating deaf students into hearing schools and again shows his opposition to residential schools.

AGB is also well known in Deaf culture for his dedicated support of oralism.  This was included in the 1880 Milan Conference which banned the use of American Sign Language in residential schools to instruct deaf and hard of hearing students.  The ban of ASL was not only to force oralism rather than the use of manual communication, but also to limit the socialization in residential schools for deaf students.  The ban of ASL also meant that the Deaf teachers in residential schools would be terminated from their positions again limiting access to communication and social interaction with language models. 

The hearing community quickly jumped on the coat tails of AGB and his beliefs in educating deaf children.  Over a century later, residential school enrollment is continuously decreasing.  Deaf and hard of hearing students are being mainstreamed into public schools and limiting the social interaction for the students in both educational settings.  It is possible that AGB’s vision of integration was not weightless as his stated.  Intermarriages on the other hand continue to exist regardless of their educational placement.

Gannon, J. R., (1981).  Deaf heritage: A narrative history of deaf Americans.  Silver Spring, MA: National Association of the Deaf. 78.

Published by Janna Dunagan on July 2, 2009

Educational Issues of Deaf Students     Front Page 

 

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