The Struggle between Natural and
"God had provided a
language addressed to the eye. This is to the deaf-mute a natural
language and the only natural language ."
1869, report of the Principal. American School for the Deaf, Hartford
Many deaf adults and signing
teachers referred to the "natural language of signs," but oralists
believed that speech was the "normal" or "universal" way to communicate
among civilized humans. The depth of feeling was great on both sides,
and the conflict of ideas and values lead to accusations of dishonesty
and hypocrisy. The terms "natural" and "normal" remain tangled up in
this enduring argument.
"He (my father) determined
even at my early age to have me brought up as much like a normal child
as possible. As a result, I do not know to this day, how to speak on my
fingers. The sight of deaf people speaking in the public on their
fingers was always obnoxious to me and I remember declining repeatedly
during my youth to learn this method from my deaf acquaintances."
1876-1954, Clark Institution Alumnus and board member