Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/121

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109
"DEAF AND DUMB."

"DEAF AND DUMB."
By MABEL ELLERY ADAMS.

THE average man has no idea of the real meaning of the common adjective phrase "deaf and dumb." He occasionally sees a group in some public place conversing by means of signs or the manual alphabet, and he says to himself, "Deaf and dumb." Less often he comes in contact with an orally taught deaf person, and either talks with him or hears others talk with him, and goes away and says: "I met a deaf and dumb man to-day and heard him talk; it's wonderful, wonderful!" quite unconscious meantime that his way of expressing what he saw is also wonderful.

Sometimes this same average man hears that a friend's child has been born deaf, and if he is a little conservative he says: "Oh, well, the child can be educated at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum; they teach them everything there. Many deaf and dumb people are able to make a good living nowadays." If, however, our average man is fully up to the times, he says: "Oh, the child can be taught to talk just like other folks; they have got a way of teaching the deaf and dumb children to speak and to understand other people by looking at the motions of the lips; so they get along just about as well as though they could hear."

All this is very crude, no doubt, but it is safe to say that nine out of every ten people in ordinary life, whom circumstances have never brought in contact with the deaf, have very much the same ideas. To be deaf is to be unable to hear, and to be dumb is to be unable to talk. The lack of hearing is remedied by teaching the child to use his eyes and understand either signs or the motions of the lips, and the lack of speech is remedied by teaching the child to use his vocal organs or his hands to make others understand, and behold! the task is accomplished, and he is "just like other folks." Not one thought is given to language, to the wonderful medium of exchange by means of which the business of life is carried on, that is supposed to come by Nature, or instinct, or miracle, but never by teaching. A cultured lady, a literary woman, said to me once, after seeing some deaf children and hearing them go through certain vocal exercises which included every elementary sound in the English language: "Now, if these children can make all these sounds correctly, why don't they go right on and talk? What hinders them?" She was a bright woman, and when a very short explanation had been given her, the reason flashed upon her, and she said: "Why, what a fool I am! I see, they've got something to say, and the mechanical ability to say it, but no language to say it in," and in that one sentence she expressed the reason for being of all the institutions and schools for the deaf in