George Veditz's Message
[From: Proceedings of the Ninth Convention of the National Association and the Third World's Congress of the Deaf. Colorado Springs, CO. August 6-13 1910.
Los Angeles, CA: The Philocophus Press, 1912, (pgs 22-31)].
THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE
(It was noted that President Veditz "read his address in forceful and graphic signs, holding the attention of all to the end")
To the Members of the Convention and Congress:
We are once again met in national and inter-national convention to discuss problems concerning our welfare as a class...
We possess and jealously guard a language different and apart from any other in common use---a language which nevertheless is precisely what all-wise Mother Nature designed for the people of the eye, a language with no fixed form or literature in the past, but we are now striving to fix and give a distinct literature of its own by means of the moving picture film.
...No other class is so deeply and so vitally interested in the problem of education...there is hardly a class that is so self-reliant or is performing in such full measure the duties and citizenship as the American deaf.
...the N.A.D is entering upon a new era and it rests with you whether it is to continue a vigilantly active and progressive organization , ever watchful for the welfare of our class, or is to sink back into its old condition of comatose and servile inactivity.
...[If we could ensure a permanent and safely invested endowment fund], the N.A.D. can become the militant organization it should be. It can then send regular delegates to conventions of physicians and surgeons, of laryngologists and aurists, of educators from public schools, and above all, of the Speech Association and the Teachers' Association. It can take measures to educate the public, possible in no other way...
THE CIVIL SERVICE
...I take pride in the fact that during my administration several discriminations intended or actually existing against the deaf have been removed or remedied. The Committee on Eugenics has disclaimed any intention of including the deaf in it proscription list. The Commissioner of Immigration at Ellis Island, as well as the Department of Commerce and Labor, has, on our protest in the threatened deportation of the Rev. Carl Olsen, because he was deaf, disclaimed any intention to discriminate against our class...
...But our greatest victory was the rout of General John Black and his colleagues of the Civil Service Commission. Two Presidents of the United States, the Department heads under two administrations, Governors, Senators and Congressmen were involved in the fight. The deaf themselves were a unit and fought shoulder to shoulder. The zeal was such that it almost accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of uniting them politically.
We won, but still we have not won, for it seems we are making no attempt to enjoy the fruits of our victory.
I believe it would be well for the Association to create a standing Civil Service Commission of its own, whose duty it shall be to see to it that no only no discrimination be exercised against the deaf by examining boards, but that existing limitations be still further lessened or removed...
RESOLUTIONS ON METHODS OF EDUCATION
...Last fall it occurred to me that we might resolve and resolve until, to use a homely phrase, the cows come home, and nothing would come of it if we stopped right there. Accordingly, I selected six of these resolutions, had them printed and sent copies to the superintendent or principal of every state school for the deaf in this country, as well as of a number of pure oral day and boarding schools. Each was accompanied by a courteous request for expression of opinion.
The resolutions referred to were as follows:
Resolved, That we recognize and appreciate to the fullest extent all methods of educating the deaf, but deplore and condemn the narrow and destructive spirit that endeavors to educate all pupils by any single method. We are firmly and unalterably in favor of the Combined System, which adapts the method to the pupil, and not the pupil to the method...
Resolved, That the educated deaf, even though they may not be in the profession, feel that it is their privilege to discuss and pass upon questions of educational methods, inasmuch, as they are the results of these methods, and that their opinions therefore should have the weight of authority.
Resolved, That to those deaf who have never acquired speech through the medium of the ear, speech as represented by the motions of the lips and mouths is a sign language and those oral teachers who decry the conventional language of signs and the manual alphabet are guilty of an inconsistency.
Resolved, That, in our opinion, it is the duty of every teacher of the deaf, no matter what method he or she uses, to have a working command of the sign language.
Resolved, That the highest educational interest of the deaf require an increased ratio of deaf teachers possessing the requisite intellectual and moral qualifications.
Resolved, That the oral method, which withholds from the congenitally and quasi-congenitally deaf the use of the language of signs outside the school room, robs these children of their birthright.
A number of the superintendents responded promptly....
...Right now let me say that a person who thus disregards the opinions of the educated and organized deaf has no license to pose as an educator of the deaf nor as the head of a school supported by the taxes of the people and of which they pay their share.
And right here let me say that the organized deaf do not understand their own might. It is in their power, if united, to dictate to the schools what methods of education should be pursued therein. Their cause is so palpably just that public, legislators and parents must in the end side with them.
I will quote the letters received in reply from the chiefs of the two hostile camps in full---that from Dr. Edward Miner Gallaudet, our Grand Old Man, the father of the Combined System, and that from Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, the High Priest of the Oral Method in this Country.
Washington, DC, November 2, 1909.
Mr. George W. Veditz, President of the National Association of the Deaf,
Colorado Springs, Colo.
DEAR SIR: I have yours of October 26th, with the resolutions enclosed; they meet my approval entirely, and I am glad to know that your Association will take measure to press the sentiments expressed in these resolutions upon those who have the responsibility of managing schools for the deaf. I have long felt that the voice of the educated deaf should be heard and heeded in matters concerning the care and teaching of those to whom the sense of hearing has been denied. I am,
Very truly yours,
Washington, DC, January 5, 1910.
Mr. George W. Veditz, President of the National Association of the Deaf,
Colorado Springs, Colo.
DEAR SIR: Your note of the 29th ult. received, enclosing a copy of certain resolutions passed last year by the National Association of the Deaf, of which you are President.
I am glad to see from these resolutions that your Association takes an interest in the general subject of the education of the deaf; and your opinions are certainly entitled to respect and consideration.
You ask for my views upon the same subject in order to ascertain how far my attitude differs from yours.
It gives me pleasure to comply with your request; and I may say after
examining your resolutions, that we differ chiefly upon one point: the use of the sign language in instruction of the young. You advocate its use, and I do not; and that is the chief point of difference between us.
I have nothing to urge against the use of this language by adult deaf persons in talking to one another if they so desire. That is a matter which concerns themselves alone; and they are certainly entitled to employ any language that they may prefer.
My objections relate chiefly to the use of the language in the instruction of the young; and I look at the matter from the standpoint of a teacher pledged to do his best for the little pupils entrusted to his care.
One thing is certain; Our pupils come to use to learn English, not the sign language: and one great object of their education is to enable them to communicate with the people at home, and with the world of hearing and speaking people around them.
It is therefore our duty, as instructors of the deaf, to teach our pupils to use the English language as freely as possible. It is our duty to teach them to read and write; and to speak, and understand spoken utterances by watching the mouth. It is our duty to make the English language the vernacular of the deaf child, so that he shall think in English, and become as like the hearing child in every particular as the necessities of his case admit.
Whether we use spoken English, or written English, or English spelled upon the fingers, as our usual means of communication, is a matter of quite secondary importance to the language itself; for these are all forms of one and the same language, English.
But when we come to the language of signs we are dealing with a different language altogether, not English at all; and it is certainly no part of our duty as instructors of the deaf, to encourage our pupils to employ a foreign language, not understood by the people at home, nor by the world of hearing and speaking people with whom we desire them to come into communication. It is no part of our duty to help them to become foreigners in their own country by permitting them to use, as a means of communication, a language that is not understood by the people of that country.
In brief, our relative positions seem to be as follows:
I hold that in an English-speaking country like the United States, the English language, and the English language alone, should be used as the means of communication and instruction in all of our public schools.
You hold that the sign language should also be employed in schools for the deaf; though why deaf children should be obliged to learn two distinct languages, where one alone is sufficient, your resolutions fail to state. In my opinion necessity alone could justify this, and necessity has not been shown.
The sign language unfortunately is not English, and is therefore a foreign language to English-speaking people. It is obviously not advisable that our pupils should acquire, and use as their vernacular, a language that is not understood by the people among whom they live.
Alexander Graham Bell.
Dr. Bell's reply is to my mind a confession of the failure of the oral method.
I would urge upon this convention to condemn in no equivocal terms the schism that now exists in the ranks of our teachers---to condemn that condition of affairs that splits them into two apparently hostile camps, that make it necessary to hold two conventions, one for the teachers of speech, and one for those teachers to whom all are fish that come to their nets...
Wherever the deaf have received an education the method by which it is imparted is the burning question of the day with them, for the deaf are what their schooling makes them, more than any other class of humans. They are facing not a theory but a condition, for they are first, last and all the time the people of the eye...
George Wm. Veditz, President