Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

An Investigation concerning the Value of the Oral Method

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

An Investigation concerning the Value of the Oral Method

Article excerpt

We announced in the preface to volume xiv of our Annie our intention to make a careful study of the results of teaching the deaf by the oral method. It is a matter of considerable interest, putting away all spirit of assumption or disparagement, to become acquainted with the value of this method; for this interest exists both for psychology and for the organization of the instruction to be given to the deaf.

In the first place, when one is a bit of a psychologist, one feels curious to know how an art so delicate as that of speech can be taught to unfortunate beings who are totally deaf. Is it possible that speech, with its delicate shades of intonation which we acquire through the ear, can be learned by individuals who have never heard? Is it possible? Perhaps it will be thought that no one has the right to declare anything impossible; but this is one of those things which require a very strong proof to be accepted.

Besides this psychological interest, which, it may be said, is a wholly disinterested interest, there is another reason which impels us to occupy ourselves with the question. This second reason is of a different kind; it is essentially practical. The oral method has been followed for about thirty years in schools for the deaf in France.

This special method of teaching has acquired great importance in the pedagogy of the deaf. A considerable part of the hours of school are devoted to it; it continues for many years; it requires individual instruction, and consequently an expensive corps of instructors. What in fact are the services which this method renders to the deaf when they have gone out from school and are trying to make their way in the world? This is the question which we wished to answer.

I. Choice of the Subjects of Inquiry. Number of Those Whom It Has Been Possible to Find in Paris.

At our request the Government caused the National Institution for Deaf-Mutes in the rue Saint-Jacques to draw up a complete list of the deaf who went out from this school from 1892 to 1902. This list contains (1) the full name of every pupil; (2) the date of birth; (3) the date of admission to school and departure therefrom; (4) the most recent address. Then with respect to each of them the following questions were answered: (5) are they of normal intelligence or mentally defective? (6) at what age did they become deaf? (7) is their deafness total or partial? (8) have they profited by the oral method in an average degree? The first four inquiries were to enable us to identify the pupils and find them; questions five, six, seven, and eight were to enable us to avoid errors arising from exceptional cases. It is known, indeed, that a pupil who has a little hearing, or who has become deaf after having spoken for several years, profits much more by the oral method than those who are totally and congenitally deaf. Usually when a teacher who is not overscrupulous wishes to convince an outsider of the advantages of the oral method, he exhibits to him a somewhat exceptional case; for instance, a semi-deaf pupil. It was in order to guard against this possible error that we asked for such exact information. On the other hand, we did not wish to judge the oral method by its results in cases where the intelligence of the individual was very much inferior to the average, or where, in consequence of some special circumstance, the pupil might not have profited by the instruction in an average degree, and consequently would not be representative of what can be obtained in the best conditions possible; hence questions five and eight.

In order that our inquiry might be broader and not limited to a single school, we requested the Government that the Departmental Institute for Deaf-Mutes at Asnieres, Paris, might supply the same information with respect to the pupils who went out from this Institute from 1894, the date of its establishment, to 1902.

Provided with this information, we began our inquiries in December, 1907, in Paris. …

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