Quotes from AG Bell

Quotes from AG Bell – In his own words

“Nature has been kind to the deaf child, man cruel. Nature has inflicted upon the deaf child but one defect — imperfect hearing; man’s neglect has made him dumb and forced him to invent a language which has separated him from the hearing world. Let us, then remove the afflictions that we ourselves have caused… let us banish sign language from our schools. If—it is our object to destroy the barriers that separate them from the outside world and take away the isolation of their lives, then I hold that our energies should be devoted to the acquisition of the English language as a vernacular in its spoken and written forms. With such an object in view we should bring the deaf together as little as possible and only for the purpose of instruction. After school hours we should separate the deaf children from one another to prevent the development of a special language and scatter them among hearing children and their friends in the outside world”

Bell, Alexander Graham
1883 Fallacies Concerning the Deaf, and the Influence of Such Fallacies in Preventing the Amelioration of their Condition. Wahsington: Judd & Detweiler, pp. 76-77

“A hearing partner will wed you to the hearing world and be of inestimable value to you in all the relations of life. Not only will your own success in life be thereby increased, but the welfare of your children will be materially promoted. It is surely to the interests of children, both deaf and hearing, that one at least of their parents should hear.”

Bell, Alexander Graham. Marriage: An Address to the Deaf, Literary Society of Gallaudet College. Washington, DC: Volta Bureau, 1891.

Excerpts from a letter from AG Bell to George Veditz, NAD President:

“.. I may say, after examining your resolutions, that we differ chiefly upon one point: the use of the sign language in the instruction of the young. You advocate its use, and I do not; and that is the chief point of difference between us…

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…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.”

Alexander Graham Bell, January 5, 1910, published in the Proceedings of the Ninth Convention of the National Association and the Third World’s Congress of the Deaf, Aug 6 to 13, 1910


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kealakekua
    May 27, 2008 @ 11:14:27

    Why bash at AGB? How would you feel if they want to bash you?

  2. pdurr
    May 27, 2008 @ 11:53:42

    I am sorry you feel that posting AG Bell’s own words is considered bashing him.

    bashing means to “engage in harsh, accusatory, threatening criticism.” how is posting AG Bell’s OWN words as they relate to Deaf people, deaf education and sign language a form of bashing.

    If you have quotes of AG Bell you’d like to share – pls put them up



  3. Floridagirl
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:25:46

    Kealakua, you obiviously didn’t read anything about Alexander Graham Bell who had given ill-treatment to the Deaf community who allowed their national sign langauge. He viewed evil in the image of ASL and also evil in the image of Deaf marriage.

    “In 1884, Bell issued a warming that Deaf people were forming clubs, socializing with one another and, worst of all, marrying other deaf people. He concluded that the creation of a “Deaf race” was underway”

    AGB was beign ridiculous.

    I recently learned about Hitler; Germany wasn’t aganist only German sign language. One thing that was sad all Deaf required sterilization and all Jewish Deaf put in prison camp.

    Although since 1880 Deaf people in Germany were not allowed to use national sign language in public, they still used it to study in the Deaf schools and they passed all of the required test. It was good God that they weren’t deprived of this communication in national sign language. Even they had a great deaf of luck not to have to use their voice. The Nazis would slaughter any deaf person who did not have literacy skills.

  4. Floridagirl
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:30:18

    oops great deal (not deaf) of luck

  5. Floridagirl
    May 27, 2008 @ 13:41:52

    Oops, (bad grammar)Deaf were required to have sterilization and all Jewish Deaf were put in prison camp.

    I almost forget to add comment.

    “history, however, true history, gives us different understanding of oralism. In fact, the oralist tradition is a story of greed, plagiarism, secrecy, trickery- but not education”

    “discourage Deaf congregation and intermarriage, help the Deaf read in English while coultivating their minds.”

    the book is titled- When Mind hears a history of the Deaf.

  6. Dianrez
    May 27, 2008 @ 14:04:18

    By his own words was he damned…there is another paper, “On the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race” that contains even more damning words, also written by Bell, and presented before the U.S. Congress. Very interesting and appalling read.

  7. Joseph Pietro Riolo
    May 27, 2008 @ 16:40:22

    I am not going to dispute the words that were penned by Dr. Alexander Graham Bell’s hand. As I learned from biblical and legal interpretations, it does no justification to treat his words in the void of all historical contexts.

    I was using Google’s Book Search to see if I can find anything positive about Dr. Bell and here is what I found:

    “The promoters of this bill have wisely abstained from restricting in any way the methods of instruction to be used in the schools. The measure expresses a willingness on the part of the State to accommodate its policy to the wishes of the parents of deaf children to retain them at home; and, in pursuance of this spirit of accommodation, the bill leaves the parents and local authorities some liberty of choice regarding methods of instruction. When the most experienced teachers are divided as to the value of the different methods of instruction, who is competent to decide? The State may rest assured, that, when the interests of their afflicted children are at stake, the parents will be apt to make a careful choice. The State is secured against rash experiments of a doubtful nature by the general control to be exercised over all the schools by the State Superintendent and the State Board of Supervision, who also control the operations of the Delavan institution. By this provision also the harmonious relations of the small day schools to the central institution are guaranteed.” (Page 71, second column)

    Education of Deaf Children: Evidence of Edward Miner Gallaudet and Alexander Graham Bell By Edward Miner Gallaudet, Alexander Graham Bell. Edited by Joseph C. Gordon. Published by Volta Bureau, Washington, D.C. in 1892.

    In other words, Dr. Bell believed that the parents have the right to decide the method of education for their deaf children. This sounds so similar to our time where the parents have the right to decide the type of education for their deaf children. But, I have to remind myself that I may be taking the above quotation out of the historical contexts. Assuming that I do not do any violence to the quotation, it seems that there is a commonality between Dr. Bell and us.

    There may be more commonalities but it will be very time-consuming to search for them.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this post in the public domain.

  8. Karen Mayes
    May 28, 2008 @ 04:14:57

    I have to speak up… Joseph Pietro Riolo is correct.

    When I was involved in a church years ago, I learned to read in the contexts when reading the “quotations” of the Bible. When someone recite a quotation, I don’t take it literally… I’d want to see the paragraph, the context, etc., to have a better understanding of when, where, why, which, and how it happened.

  9. pdurr
    May 28, 2008 @ 06:57:04

    Karen – completely agree. The quotes i posted in the blog entry are representative of the body of the work they were taken from as i was being careful not to misrepresent or misconstrue.

    Citations are also given so folks can read the full sources. Seeing the primary sources is really important.

    All the publications by scholars in Deaf history (Baynton, Gannon, VanCleve and Crouch, Lane, Winefield, etc) agree that Bell was zealous in his promotion of an oral only approach.

    Joseph – thanks for finding this quote. As Karen advises – i went to read the source u have lifted from in full to get the full context. I found it at:
    Histories of American Schools for the Deaf, 1817-1893 – Different journal it was published in than what Joseph cites but appears to be the same work – just reprinted.

    If you read the full response from Dr. Bell re: the proposed bill in Wisconsin re: the education of the deaf and small day schools – the option he is advocating for and of which he is confident the parents will opt for is that of speech and articulation.

    There is good information in both Forbidden Signs by Baynton and A Place of their Own by VanCleve and Crouch re: Wisconsin and Nebraska legislation and oral only education.



  10. pdurr
    May 28, 2008 @ 07:23:38

    approx 17,000 Deaf Germans people were sterilized during the Nazi era. Estimates of as high as 70,000 disabled Germans were put to sleep in the Nazis’ quest for a perfect race and no “useless eaters”

    many other groups were targeted beyond the disabled and Jewish people (communist, Jehovah Witnesses, Gays and Lesbians, Romis, etc)

    more information on Deaf People during WW II – go to http://www.rit.edu/deafww2

    some vlogs re: social darwinism and eugenics






  11. pdurr
    May 28, 2008 @ 07:41:44

    “On the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race” is a very important paper

    havent been able to find the full document online yet



  12. Floridagirl
    May 28, 2008 @ 09:35:20

    Thanks for replying, Patti

    I had read the book titled Crying Hands from beginning until end for two days, and it caused me to feel fascinated.

    I can’t give too much detail of information about Crying Hands.

    That book clearly implied what I suspect, that coda children were murdered by Nazis.

    Felix Reich wrote that “instruction scarcely differs from that of other institutions, at most in that no definitive rejection of sign language was ever made that the development of the mind and spirit, and not simply the acquisition of language, was considered the greatest goal.”

    “to train the spirits and hands of children so that they could succeed in life, and in addition to give them religious feeling and qualities of character so that they became happy individuals”

    I love quotes.

  13. pdurr
    May 28, 2008 @ 17:45:10


    me love quotes too

    Crying Hands is a very important book

    re: thank u for sharing quotes from Felix Reich – as superintendent of the Israelite School for the Deaf he got several young Deaf Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to England but then could not return because the war broke out. He was interned on the Isle of Wright during the war. would love to find out more about what became of him. etc



  14. tbriker
    May 14, 2009 @ 12:09:42

    AG Bell’s words and actions were very harmful even to today. If you look at what he did in all historical contexts, it makes him look even worse.

    You had the Deaf people concerned for their own well-being who banded together to establish the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in 1880. In the early 1900’s you had Deaf people spending huge sums of money to preserve sign language on film.

    I really don’t understand why there are sympathizers of AG Bell. AG Bell and his group who were involved in eugenics contributed to the darkest moments in our historuy– such as eugenics and genocide during Nazi Germany.


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