Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Christian's Duty toward the Deaf: Differing Christian Views on Deaf Schooling and Education in 19th-Century Dutch Society

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The Christian's Duty toward the Deaf: Differing Christian Views on Deaf Schooling and Education in 19th-Century Dutch Society

Article excerpt

A historical study is conducted into the founding of three boarding schools for Deaf children in the Netherlands, in 1790, 1840, and 1888. The article focuses on how three different religious views inspired divergent perspectives on citizenship and the role of the state, the church, and charily in helping Deaf people to become well-integrated citizens. For each school, a brief general context and a brief description of its political and religious background is given. The founding of the school, with accompanying difficulties, is then described, as well as the fundamental ideas ofthe founders regarding the image ofthe Deaf person, Deaf children and their capacities, societal goals ofthe institution, subject matter considered important in the school, further relevant organizational aspects, and financing and the responsibilities of state, church, charity, and private enterprise. The views of the three institutions are compared and contrasted.

Before 1755, Deaf1 children were edu- cated privately, if at all, by teachers who developed methods that were mostly kept secret. Moreover, this private ed- ucation was affordable only for chil- dren from well-off families. In Paris in 1755, Abbé Charles-Michel de L'Epée founded the first school for Deaf chil- dren to offer a free education. He shared his teaching methods by giving public lessons for members ofthe roy- alty, scientists, and anyone else inter- ested in Deaf education and in the relationship between language and thought. The Deaf were seen as an ex- periment of nature that could shed light on these scientific and philosoph- ical issues (Rèe, 2000). L'Epée's exam- ple was soon widely followed, with schools for the Deaf being established in Europe and the United States.

In the Netherlands, Deaf schooling took its own particular shape. The three boarding schools for Deaf pupils were founded - at half-century intervals - in times of great political and religious change. This gave each school a very different ideological basis and atmosphere. The schools' founders had different views on the Deaf person and on the aims of Deaf education. Their religious backgrounds inspired different views on citizenship in general and on the role of the state, the church, and charity in helping people with disabilities become well-integrated citizens. These views resonated with changing opinions in the Netherlands outside the field of Deaf education.

A general Christian school, the Royal H. D. Guyot Institute (henceforth Guyot Institute) was founded in 1790. It was inspired by the Enlightenment idea that Deaf people are also rational individuals and by L'Epée's teaching methods, which embraced the concept that Deaf children can be educated to become valuable citizens. In the Netherlands, the Enlightenment movement was of a clearly liberal Protestant inspiration. It was felt that each Christian denomination should have its rightful place in society. The Institute for the Deaf, a Roman Catholic school, was established in 1840. It opened in the context of an emerging Catholic emancipation movement in the Netherlands, which soon resulted in the claim to a specific Deaf school for the Catholic community. This institution was also inspired by L'Epée's teaching methods. Another half century later, the more strictly Calvinistic Protestants realized the goal of establishing their own school by founding the Effatha Christian Institute for the Deaf (henceforth Effatha) in 1888. This was at a time when the Schoolstrijd, a broad controversy over school organization and funding in the Netherlands, was just beginning. The two main questions at issue were, first, whether the state should permit, or even pay for, denominational schools in addition to public (i.e., nonreligious) schools, and second, which denominations should then be allowed their own education systems. This led to the typical Dutch phenomenon of "pillarization," in which, over the course of nearly a century, each religious denomination was to form its own exclusive schools, shops, newspapers, labor unions, and cinemas, among other institutions. …

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