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From: American Annals of the Deaf
Volume 139, Number 5, December 1994
pp. 461-464 | 10.1353/aad.1994.0001

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E d i t o r i a l The More Things Change I n a meeting of the Joint Annals Administrative Com­ mittee earlier this year there was some discussion of plans for the celebration in 1997 of the 150th anniver­ sary of the establishment of the American Annals of the Deaf in 1847 at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. Because the Annals is the oldest educational journal in America, the anniversary is quite sig­ nificant. Through a fortuitous confluence of circumstances, the American School for the Deaf will host the meetings of the Conference of Educational Administrators Serving the Deaf (CEASD) and the Convention of American In­ structors of the Deaf (CAID) in the summer of 1997, allow­ ing us to have the celebration where it all began. Among the possibilities discussed was the publication of a special issue consisting of articles and papers that have appeared in the Annals over the years. In preparation for this I have recently engaged in the literary equivalent of “channel surfing” among some of the volumes around the beginning of the twentieth century before settling on 1910. One of the most striking aspects to me was the amount and level of exchanges between the United States and Europe, with translations of relevant publications from France, Germany, and Italy. It also seems to me that many educators today operate under myths regarding education of the deaf in the past that really are oversimplifications and/or distortions of reality. For example, much of our current literature seems to assume that some time around I960 we all woke up and realized that American Sign Lan­ guage was really a language, a realization that had some­ how escaped our predecessors. Coupled with that is the belief that education of the deaf was solidly oral, with little or no room for dissenting opinion. There seems to be a consensus that issues of cognition, of legal rights, of edu­ cation of deaf children with visual or mental disabilities, and of the educational placement of deaf children are re­ cent phenomena. A reading of the Annals in the period around 1910 clearly disproves this. The issues and differences of opinion in 1910 are simi­ lar to those of today in most cases. Concern over deaf/ mentally retarded and deaf/blind children is expressed. Educational costs and curricular differences between day and residential schools are examined. There are papers on the legal status of the deaf in France, the development of memory in deaf children, and the development of lan­ guage. Thirty years after the “final victory” of oralism at the Conference of Milan in 1880, the methods war was still being waged in the United States and Europe. We have authors who lament the damaging effects of signs on English and speech along with authors who argue that only the language of signs, not speech, is the natu­ ral language of those who have never heard. All of this should look familiar to current readers. What impressed me was the amount of attention de­ voted to methodology, particularly signs. A book by J. Schuler Long, The Sign Language: A M anual o f Signs was reproduced in sections over several issues. Another serial publication was from the German translation of a book by Matthais Schneider on language, thought and deafness. Schneider argued that sign language was not only helpful but also essential for the cognitive devel­ opment of the deaf child. Most intriguing to me was a translation from I’ Annee Psychologique of a study by Binet and Simon of mental measurement fame called “An investigation concerning the value of the oral method.” They followed up 40 graduates of the Na­ tional Institute for the Deaf and concluded that, after 30 years of oralism, the results were unsatisfactory. Binet and Simon asked three basic questions: 1. Can the graduates converse with their families? 2. Can they converse with strangers? 3. Can they converse in business and social life? Binet and Simon reported that their subjects commu­ nicated within their families through monosyllables and gestures. They might say a word such as “bread” in iso­ lation and family members might combine pantomime and broken speech...