The Sign Language alone has been in use in this Institution since its foundation in 1846; and, though much has been said by some in favour of the Oral System of Teaching, still, from the diversity of views held by those who take an interest in the education of the Deaf and Dumb as to the success of that system generally, We do not feel warranted in making any change till, at least, there shall be more unanimity of opinion as regards the superiority of the Oral over the Sign System. Besides the above consideration there are others regarding expense, etc., Which the Committee of this Institution (the support of which depends so much upon public charity) have been obliged to take into account.
Our own experience of the Sign Language as a medium by which to educate the Deaf and
Dumb, tends to make us favourable to the system We have pursued for the following reasons :-
First The Sign Language is so natural to the Deaf and Dumb. When children come to this Institution it is found that they have already acquired, in the bosom of their families, such a knowledge of natural signs as to enable them to make known all their ordinary Wants, and to hod communication with their companions in the Institution. Now, the signs in use here being built as far as possible on natural signs, these new pupils very readily learn their meaning, and, by free intercourse with their fellow-pupils, soon widen their range of knowledge.
It Very usually happens, indeed, that children while going through a certain programme of studies in school, will have already prepared themselves in the distinctive parts of the next higher programme thereby lightening considerably the labour of the teacher. And, further, whatever of interest is told to the advanced pupils is, as a general rule, communicated by them even to the least advanced-the deaf-mute being very quick in adapting his language to the capacities of others less forward in studies than himself. One excellent result of all this inter communication is, that the deaf-mutes help to educate one another; and this is the more to be valued in an Institution like ours, in which the pupils time is limited to six years, and from which pupils are sometimes withdrawn, long before the expiration of that term, by parents who need their children’s assistance, and from other causes.
Secondly: The Sign Language is Within the reach of all deaf-mutes who are not other Wise incapable of being taught such as the idiotic, etc. When children enter the Institution at a proper age, that is from eight to nine years, and remain the full time, it may be said that, Without exception, they succeed in their studies taking into account their respective natural abilities as in the case of speaking children in ordinary schools. Moreover such pupils leave the Institution not only fairly educated but well advanced in the knowledge of some trade. And it may be observed, in passing, that We have ample evidence of the success of our Ex-Pupils in business, judging from their respectable appearance When, on occasion of the Annual Mission, they come here from all parts of the country at their own expense, foregoing at the same time a weeks Wages. On such occasions, too, the Sign Language is used with special effect in conducting the religious exercises.
Thirdly: The Sign Language is Well adapted to the purpose of conveying Religious Knowledge to the deaf-mute; and it is surprising with What avidity the pupils who have been but a comparatively short time in the Institution, drink in Religious Instruction, imparted to them chiefly by means of natural signs.
Lastly: Mr. Scott Hutton (a gentleman of great experience in the education of the Deaf and Dumb in both the United Kingdom and Canada) having visited this Institution in 1882, and examined the pupils in the letter appended, gives his impressions as to the results produced by the System of teaching pursued.
Rev. P. M. Wickham
Sr. Joseph’s. Cabra.
Institution for the Deaf and Dumb,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, September 22nd, 1882.