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Volume 142, No. 3, 1997 Mistaken Investigations Concerning the Value of the Oral Method Guilio Ferreri. Giulio Ferreri Rector of the Royal National Institution, Milan, Italy Alfred Binet and his fellow helper, Dr. Simon, have made an investigation as to the value of the oral method, and have published a report of it in their well-known review, l'Année psychologique. In the minds of the authors the results of their investigations must have appeared very important, but to educators of the deaf, as well as to every conscientious scientist, it is a very poor affair. But in that case, it may be asked, is it worthwhile to take this study into serious consideration? It is; because one must apply to the crime of Alfred Binet and Co. the theory of Licurgus, who taught that one should judge a misdeed not in itself but in its consequences . And. in view of the wide circulation and the merits of l'Année psychologique, the mistakes made by the Paris psychologists in judging of the oral method may be disastrous in their consequences upon the opinions of learned men. One must, however, hope that the numerous readers of that publication will appreciate the fact that, when a scientist goes out from his own laboratory and his own field of study for an escapade extra mfinia [beyond customary practice], his work, although apparently thoughtful, often ends as a sort of incursion, and the illustrious scientist becomes ridiculous. This is exactly what has happened to Mr. Binet and his companion, who wished to make an investigation as to the value of oral teaching to the deaf, "putting away all spirit of assumption or disparagement ." This in plain vernacular means that they wished to attempt a new enterprise, foreign to their ordinary occupations, without having made the necessary preparation, and without the help of specialists who, in the interest of normal psychology, could have put them on their guard against the fallacies of their experiment and the suggestions of "parti pris" [prejudice]. Thus their investigation, besides being unscientific, has turned out one-sided and imperfect. But, it may be objected, Alfred Binet is a man who would understand all this. And, in fact, he was the first one to perceive the little or no scientific value of the investigation; for immediately at the beginning of his article he found it necessary to give warning that "besides this psychological interest, which, it may be said, is a wholly disinterested interest, there is another reason which Translated by the author from I'Educazione dei Sordormuti for October 1909. Reprinted from Ferreri, G. 1910. Mistaken investigations concerning the value of the oral method. American Annals of the Deaf, 55(1), 34-38. Volume 142, No. 3, 1997 American Annals of the Deaf impels us to occupy ourselves with the question." This reason is to be sought in the cost of the modern instruction of the deaf. But have we then to do with an economical research? In this case we do not believe the author is in condition to judge of our work, because he should first establish equations which are impossible for a psychologist . This is so true that when he found himself face to face with real and true problems of psychology (the optimism of the parents, the indifference of the public as to the launching of the deaf into social life, the ungrammatical language and other defects in their means of communication, speechreading, etc.), Mr. Binet entirely forgot psychology and formulated propositions which one should hardly pardon in a horse jockey. What would be said of a physicist who, when informed of Curie's first experiment, and knowing the enormous price of radium, should express the opinion that it would be better not to continue the experiment? This, to make a poor comparison, is Mr. Binet's conclusion as to the value of teaching articulate speech to the deaf, when, instead, we had every right to expect a course of psychological instruction in a field so rich in observations and so little explored by professional psychologists . Mr. Binet perhaps does not know of the riches of our special literature , accumulated by the observation and...


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