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The Spanish National Deaf School

Portraits from the Nineteenth Century

Susan Plann

Publication Year: 2007

In nineteenth-century Spain, the education of deaf students took shape through various contradictory philosophies and practices. Susan Plann depicts this ambivalence by profiling a select group of teachers and students in her detailed history The Spanish National Deaf School: Portraits from the Nineteenth Century. Plann’s subjects reveal the political, financial, and identity issues that dominated the operation of the National School for Deaf-Mutes and the Blind in Madrid from 1805 to1899. Roberto Francisco Prádez y Gautier, the first deaf teacher in Spain, taught art from 1805–36; he also was the last deaf teacher for the next 50 years. Juan Manuel Ballesteros, the hearing director from 1835 to1868, enacted an “ableist” policy that barred deaf professors. At the same time, another hearing teacher, Francisco Fernández Villabrille, wrote the first Spanish Sign Language dictionary. In the 1870s, two deaf students, Manuel Tinoco and Patricio García, resisted the physical abuse they received and set the stage for the growth of a Deaf identity that opposed the deprecating medical model of deafness. Marcelina Ruiz Ricote y Fernández, a hearing female teacher who taught from 1869 to 1897, combated the school’s sexist polices. The Spanish National Deaf School concludes with Martín de Martín y Ruiz, the most famous deaf-blind student from the Madrid school. Through these portraits, Plann has brought life to the major issues that defined education in nineteenth-century Spain, themes that have influenced the status of deaf Spaniards today.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-xv

This book is a collection of biographical essays or “portraits” of nineteenth-century Spanish Deaf people and their educators, all of them connected in one way or another with the state-sponsored Madrid school, known first as the Royal School for Deaf-Mutes, then as the National School for Deaf-Mutes and the Blind. The result...

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pp. xvii-xix

In Madrid: Archivo del Ateneo Científico, Literario y Artístico de Madrid; Archivo del Colegio Público El Sol (formerly the Colegio Nacional de Sordomudos y de Ciegos); Archivo Fotográfico Ruiz Vernacci; Archivo General de la Universidad Complutense, Rectorado; Archivo...


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pp. xx-xxv

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pp. 1-3

The year 1805 marked the opening in Madrid of the Royal School for Deaf- Mutes.1 This was Spain’s first state-sponsored school for deaf children, but it was hardly that nation’s first encounter with their teaching. It is often said that the instruction of deaf people originated in Spain in the 1500s. It was then that Spanish monks first taught the deaf children of noble...

Map of Spain

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pp. 4

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1. Auspicious Beginnings: Roberto Francisco Prádez y Gautier

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pp. 5-28

In May of 1805, Roberto Francisco Prádez y Gautier, a deaf man in his early thirties, presented himself at the Royal School for Deaf-Mutes at number 2 on the calle de las Rejas. He proposed to instruct the school’s students in reading and writing or drawing.1 Reading and writing were already being taught, but the school’s...

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2. The Gatekeeper: Juan Manuel Ballesteros

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pp. 29-63

The summer of 1835 found the Madrid deaf school in a state of complete and utter chaos. Subjected to ongoing physical abuse at the hands of their instructors and the school’s sadistic rector, the students had retaliated by discharging a cannon in the patio of the school, threatening the life of one of the teachers, and attempting to burn...

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3. The Teacher’s Noble Work: Francisco Fernández Villabrille

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pp. 64-94

Francisco Fernández Villabrille arrived at the Madrid deaf school in 1835, when the establishment was at a turning point in its history. For years, the school had suffered from mismanagement and neglect, but now the newly appointed associate director, Juan Manuel Ballesteros, was struggling to revitalize instruction and restore order...

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4. The Seeds of Deaf Resistance: Manuel Tinoco

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pp. 95-115

Corporal punishment was common-place in nineteenth-century Spanish schools. Indeed, an old adage claimed, “letters are learned with blood” (la letra con sangre entra).1 On August 25, 1834, a royal order abolished the use of blows with a rod or lash (azotes) or any other punishment capable of producing lesions, recommending instead...

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5. The Fruit of Deaf Resistance: Patricio García

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pp. 116-132

On Tuesday, January 8, 1878, the director general of Public Instruction, José Cárdenas, arrived unannounced at the National School for Deaf- Mutes and the Blind.2 The impetus for his visit was a note delivered to the Ministry of Development by a deaf alumnus, José Soriano.3 Written in pencil in a childish hand and folded...

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6. In the Name of Woman: Marcelina Ruiz Ricote y Fernández

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pp. 133-160

Throughout the 1800s, the education of Spanish girls lagged consistently behind that of Spanish boys, and this was true of deaf and hearing children alike. Fewer girls than boys attended school, and there were fewer schools for them. The deaf school in Madrid was no exception, and girls there were always substantially...

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7. Wisdom beyond the Senses: Martín de Martín y Ruiz

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pp. 161-187

Martín de Martín y Ruiz was the first deaf-blind Spaniard to receive an education. He was born at 3:00 a.m. on January 30, 1852, in the city of Valladolid at number 5 on the calle del Sacramento. His father, Gerónimo Martín, was a shoemaker from Mansilla de las Mulas, in the province of León; his mother, Ana Ruiz, was...

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pp. 188-193

As the nineteenth century came to an end, National School policies concerning deaf teachers remained largely unchanged, and deaf professors continued to be excluded from the classrooms. Although at mid-century, Juan Manuel Ballesteros had experimented with deaf teaching assistants, his successor, Carlos Nebreda y López, apparently...


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pp. 194-269


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pp. 270-273

E-ISBN-13: 9781563684029
E-ISBN-10: 1563684020
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563683558
Print-ISBN-10: 1563683555

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 1 table, 20 photos
Publication Year: 2007