PART 5 – Continuation – bold & red + blue added by me –
1880: The National Association of the Deaf Founded
The Genesis of the National Association
By George William Veditz
From: Deaf-Mutes Journal
Genesis of the National Assoication. Deaf Mutes Journal 1933, 62 (22) June 1.
to see Part 1 Veditz 1933 NAD paper part 1 (click text to link you to Part 1)
to see Part 2
to see Part 3
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But when the “Second National Convention of Deaf-Mutes” met in this city of New York, the last week of August 1883, the deaf began to see the menacing head of the serpent in the grass and to lip-read its forked tongue.
Eighteen States were represented at this convention with an enrollment of 174. New York lead with ninety, then Connecticut, sixteen; Pennsylvania, fourteen; Massachusetts, fifteen; New Jersey, nine; Maryland and New Hampshire two each; Rhode Island, three; and Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, West Virginia, one each; Canada, one.
And it was then that the American deaf, in convention assembled, first voiced their condemnation of the German-Bell speech method. I cannot do better than quote a portion of the proceedings of the afternoon session of Thursday August 30th.
‘ Business was resumed with the reading of a paper by Mr. Jerome Thaddeus Elwell, of Pennsylvania on ‘The Truth about the Pure Oral Method.’ As Mr. Elwell was about to begin, Mr. Patterson of Ohio, objected to the reading of the paper being out of order. The Chair (Mr. Hodgson) decided Mr. Elwell’s paper to be in order. Mr. Patterson appealed from the decision of the Chair.
Mr. George, of Illinois moved that the appeal be decided by a vote. Carried. Upon being put to a vote, the President’s decision was sustained.
Mr. Patterson gave his reason for not wishing to have the paper read, arguing that it related to a question that did not concern the Convention. Messrs. George, McGregor, and Fox spoke in favor of having the paper read, and Mr. Hodgson (Mr. Weeks in the Chair) replied to Mr. Patterson. He said that Mr. Elwell was a teacher as was Mr. Patterson, and as a member of the Convention he had rights equal to any; which rights should be respected. Many of the members were instructors, following the Combined System, and would like to have the paper read.” On motion, the paper was read.
That was the first definite instance of revolt of the adult American deaf against the dictates of the German-Bell propaganda and against those who were beginning to truckle to this propaganda. That was an even half century ago, and today the National Association and what for fifty years it has stood for, have been steam-rollered and deprived of whatever aggressiveness and assurance they at one time had. Edward Miner Gallaudet, the one educator who above all others represented our aims and our wishes, passed out of the drama with the Norfolk convention of 1907 and no one has succeeded to his mantel. Personally I appealed to two men whom I believed by record and antecedents to be qualified to be our spokesmen, but received negative replies. Judging by his actions and utterances I believed that a successor to Gallaudet is about to enter the stage. It is Ignatius Bjorlee, Superintendent of the Maryland School.
At this moment I have no access to my old-time records and references, but not long after the New York Convention, eight hundred of the most prominent deaf-mutes of Germany, ALL of them educated according to the German method, submitted a petition to Dr. Schneider, Minister of Education for the Empire to permit the introduction of certain provisions of the Combined System into German methods of educating the deaf. Dr. Schneider, with all the authority and arrogance of a Czar, and with the German educational goose-step grained and ground into his mentality, informed his petitioners in effect that they did not know what they were talking about, and the German method remains the German method to this day.
The 1883 convention represented five fewer states than that of 1880, but the men who were foremost in Cincinnati were foremost in New York. Their discussions were wider in their scope and one thing was very apparent, our ship of state was beginning to find itself. The adult deaf were definitely pledged to the proposition that they were entitled to opinions and the expression of these opinions on all matters affecting the class, educational, most of all. The most noteworthy action taken was the appointment of a committee to have charge of arrangements to fittingly celebrate the Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet centenary in 1887, and to raise funds for a bronze memorial.
The president of the convention was Edwin Allan Hodgson, the only logical choice for the office. The corresponding and recording secretaries were Harry White and Thomas Francis Fox. The treasure was Dudley Webster George. President Hodgson named his executive committee of eighteen and appointed as its chairman Theodore A. Froehlich, of New York.
The third convention of the Association was held in Washington in June 1889. During the interval of six years, thirteen hundred dollars was raised for the Gallaudet Memorial, the memorial itself finished (Daniel Chester French, sculptor) and unveiled at the appointed time with impressive ceremonies witnessed by the cream of the American deaf.
Leaving the past for the present, what is our outlook? Everything depends on the man you make president and on the instructions you give him by resolutions duly adopted.
I would suggest, first of all, you instruct him to appoint a capable and suggestive committee to increase our endowment fund. I originated that fund and put the first two hundred dollars it possessed into its treasury. It is futile to plan for this fund under present economic conditions as they exist at this writing April, 1933. But we shall surely get out of this slough of hard times and then, it may be sooner than we expect, plans already made should be carried out. I might say that in 1910, shortly after the Colorado convention, I had a plan that seemed promising. It was to make a man with plenty of time and well-to-do our agent to pass through every large city in the country, there meet the two or three leading deaf in each city, who had previously prepared a list of “prospects”—meaning wealthy and liberal citizens of their locality—the committee headed by the “agent” or chairman to call on these citizens and submit our plea. Subscriptions of various amounts, large and small, might be expected, and the total would give us the war-chest so much needed. The “agent” was the late Oscar Regensberg, (added here – Known as Reggie) and the donors of the two hundred dollars already in the fund consenting. I was ready to use the amount for his expenses.
Mr. Regensberg concurring, I submitted the plan to the newly elected President of the Association, Mr. Olof Hanson. Mr. Hanson had just promulgated an ukase that the chairman of several committees of the Association should submit monthly, yes, monthly reports of their doings. I requested that Mr. Regensberg and myself should not be required to report until our work was done, whether successful or not, instead of monthly as ruled in the ukase. In his reply, Mr. Hanson rose to the full height of seven-foot six and stated he could make no exceptions and hinted at GRAFT. Reggy and myself quit in disgust. I am not sure I answered Mr. Hanson, but if I did I have a notion I told him he might betake himself to Valhalla.
The plan of trying to build up a real endowment fund with life memberships of ten dollars each is silly. There are not enough of us willing to part with ten dollars for the purpose. But ten, or is it fifteen, thousand dollars now in the fund may serve as a bait to the philanthropic to add their contributions, and with this start the time has come to attempt the accumulation of a real war chest, meaning, as soon as business and economic conditions have decidedly improved. That may be within the life of this new administration which this New York convention will put in power.
I will only add that I have a plan of my own and that I shall carry out, if I happen to live a couple of years longer. It will not, cannot possibly, interfere with any plans the new administration may make.
I would venture to suggest that the deaf stop using the designations ‘Combined System’ and ‘Pure Oral Method.’ Call the one the American Method and the other the German-Bell Method. Smash the hoary lie that the German-Bell Method is the newest and most up-to-date and scientific method of educating deaf children. We must smash the ridiculous, untenable claim that once a deaf child has been taught speech and lip-reading it has been restored to normalcy. There is no method of education, no means on earth, that can normalize one who cannot hear. I became deaf at eight. I have never lost my speech, but I am not “normal,” meaning thereby that I am not on equal footing with the hearing. Speech, itself, in others, the telephone, the radio, music, the opera, the talkies, all the multitudinous sounds and noises of Nature, all are beyond me, and to the extent that they are beyond me and beyond you, members of this convention, to that extent, you and I are not “normal.” As long as the normal, full-sensed human enjoys the advantages that hearing denies the deaf, and at which roughly may be estimated at forty percent of the total of these advantages, Solomon in all his glory and with all his wisdom could not restore us to “normalcy.” What we need and what we want is an educational system that will adapt itself to each individual in our schools, and, by a more natural mental development, lessen our disadvantages in what is becoming more and more a hearing world. Let us not overlook the fact that to those who have never heard there is no such thing as speech. Speech is merely the sign-language of the lips. Every bit of knowledge that reaches the mind through the eye is conveyed through some kind of sign-language, whether it be this typed page, or a book, or a penciled pad, or a fingerspelled communication, or a moving throng in our streets, or a landscape or an approaching or passing auto.”
Why should oral fanatics, or why should we, barricade the mind to a perception of these facts? It would be a good thing if every oral teacher and superintendent were twice a week, including Sundays, to seal both ears with wax and cotton, taking the cue from the sailors of Ulysses, who himself lashed to the mast, sailed safely though the blandishments of the harp-twanging Sirens of the Sea. Thus made “deaf-mutes” for the time being, they would appreciate the difficulties of their deaf boys and girls, and acquire that understanding and fellow feeling that makes one liberal and kind.
The suggestion sounds fantastic if not absurd, but why not. The kickers will be the teachers. The cheerers on the sidelines will be We, Us & Co. I am not a Scottie and would give a dollar to see the fun.
What our Association [now] needs is a ‘Committee on Education’ to co-operate with similar committees of the State associations and try to bring home to the minds of parents as well as of teachers and superintendents what deafness really means with all the deprivations that follow in its train, irremediable, because Nature’s immutable laws say, NO!
For all this, money will be needed. How much? Just a bagatelle, a mere quarter of a million dollars. A pipe dream? Bats in my belfry? As if I did not know, for it is exactly what my galorious friends, Olof Hanson and Jay Cooke Howard, told me in 1906, one score and seven years ago when I regarded them as among the great howitzers of the N.A.D. and confide my plans to them, expecting joyful assent and co-operation which never materialized—in fact these two gentlemen did more to spike the endowment fund plan than all other agencies put together. Prove it? Of course I can or I should not make the allegation. And that’s that.
And why should it be a pipe dream? If a certain, highly esteemed but prejudiced lady, with a political and social pull equivalent to ten thousand horses, could inmesh two million dollars wherewith to endow a dinky little pure oral school in Northampton, Mass., why cannot the N.A.D. with the proper lead and backing raise one-eighth that sum for the benefit of thirty thousand American deaf? And of scores of thousands of deaf children to come into our schools in future years?
There should of course be other committees—on automobile discriminations; on Civil Service prejudice; on reviving the Federation plan that had a fine start in Colorado Springs in 1910, and was stabbed in the back by my successor; on a N. A.D. census of the adult deaf, some thirty thousand; and other matters that should occupy our attention.
Finally we do not use our “official organ,” the New York DEAF-MUTES’ JOURNAL, as often as we should, I have a notion that not one state paper on national issues concerning the deaf, has been promulgated during the administrations of the last five presidents by these presidents. The Association has been drifting like a ship without a compass or rudder. Elect a man who will truly be a captain with his hand on the tiller.
I do not expect to figure on the program of any future National convention, and this is goodbye.
Respectfully and sincerely,
George William Veditz
Colorado Springs, Col., April 5, 1933