America, as usual, appears to have unique powers of division. In this case America is divided into Deaf America and deaf America, into oralists and manualists (?), into those who respect Alexander Graham Bell and those who reject and denounce his legacy. Bell, whose wife and mother were deaf, devoted much of his life to improve the teaching of speech to deaf and hard of hearing children. As such, he was hardly a champion of sign language, see the following excerpt from Through Deaf Eyes:
In 1884, Bell published a paper “Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race,” in which he warned of a “great calamity” facing the nation: deaf people were forming clubs, socializing with one another and, consequently, marrying other deaf people. The creation of a “deaf race” that yearly would grow larger and more insular was underway. Bell noted that “a special language adapted for the use of such a race” already was in existence, “a language as different from English as French or German or Russian.” Some eugenicists called for legislation outlawing intermarriage by deaf people, but Bell rejected such a ban as impractical. Instead he proposed the following steps: “(1) Determine the causes that promote intermarriages among the deaf and dumb; and (2) remove them. The causes he sought to remove were sign language, deaf teachers, and residential schools. His solution was the creation of special day schools taught by hearing teachers who would enforce a ban on sign language.
It is hard to imagine a more ruthless approach to the ‘problem’ of a more or less isolated American Deaf subculture. Let me just state my position clearly:
I would have been against it. No. Lucky for me I am Dutch and not American and therefore I do not feel called upon to state my position. I feel free to rise above the divide. Oralism existed here too, but I dare say it was less extreme, and the opposition was therefore less extreme too. Needless to say, the advocates of (also) using sign language are on top at the moment and oralism in its extreme form has all but vanished. Within this context, the following video was recently put online. It is a good illustration of the strong emotions felt by the victims of oralism.
Source: Daveynin: “Scene parody plot: Hilter is angry; his final defeat against sign language has now pushed him over the edge.”