There are the same obstacles in the use of the written or printed word as have been mentioned in connection with dactylology, namely, lack of rapidity in conveying impressions through the medium of the English sentence.
I have thus hastily reviewed the several means which teachers generally are employing to impart the use of English to deaf pupils, for the purpose of showing a common difficulty. The many virtues of each have been left unnoticed, as of no pertinence to this article.
The device suggested at the beginning of this paper, claiming to be nothing more than a school room appliance intended to supplement the existing means for giving a knowledge and practice of English to the deaf, employs as its interpreter a different sense from the one universally used. The sense of sight is the sole dependence of the deaf child. Signs, dactylology, speech reading, and the written and printed word are all dependent upon the eye for their value as educational instruments. It is evident that of the two senses, sight and touch, if but one could be employed, the choice of sight as the one best adapted for the greatest number of purposes is an intelligent one; but, as the choice is not limited, the question arises whether, in recognizing the superior adaptability to our purpose of the one, we do not lose sight of a possibly important, though secondary, function in the other. If sight were all-sufficient, there would be no need of a combination. But it cannot be maintained that such is the case. The plan by which we acquire our vernacular is of divine, and not of human, origin, and the senses designed for special purposes are not interchangeable without loss.
The theory that the loss of a certain sense is nearly, if not quite, compensated for by increased acuteness of the remaining ones has been exploded. Such a theory accuses, in substance, the Maker of creating something needless, and is repugnant to the conceptions we have of the Supreme Being. When one sense is absent, the remaining senses, in order to equalize the loss, have imposed upon them an unusual amount of activity, from which arises skill and dexterity, and by which the loss of the other sense is in some measure alleviated, but not supplied. No additional power is given to the eye after the loss of the sense of hearing other than it might have acquired with the same amount of practice while both faculties were active. The fact, however, that the senses, in performing their proper functions, are not overtaxed, and are therefore, in cases of emergency, capable of being extended so as to perform, in various degrees, additional service, is one of the wise providences of God, and to this fact is due the possibility of whatever of success is attained in the work of educating the deaf, as well as the blind.
In the case of the blind, the sense of touch is called into increased activity by the absence of the lost sense; while in the case of the deaf, sight is asked to do this additional service. A blind person's education is received principally through the two senses of hearing and touch. Neither of these faculties is so sensible to fatigue by excessive use as is the sense of sight, and yet the eye has, in every system of instruction applied to the deaf, been the sole medium. In no case known to the writer, excepting in the celebrated case of Laura Bridgman and a few others laboring under the double affliction of deafness and blindness, has the sense of touch been employed as a means of instruction.
[Footnote 1: This article was written before Professor Bell had made his interesting experiments with his "parents' class" of a touch alphabet, to be used upon the pupil's shoulder in connection with the oral teaching.--E.A.F.]
Not taking into account the large percentage of myopes among the deaf, we believe there are other cogent reasons why, if found practicable, the use of the sense of touch may become an important element in our eclectic system of teaching. We should reckon it of considerable importance if it were ascertained that a portion of the same work now performed by the eye could be accomplished equally as well through feeling, thereby relieving the eye of some of its onerous duties.
We see no good reason why such accomplishment may not be wrought. If, perchance, it were discovered that a certain portion could be performed in a more efficient manner, its value would thus be further enhanced.
In theory and practice, the teacher of language to the deaf, by whatever method, endeavors to present to the eye of the child as many completed sentences as are nominally addressed to the ear--having them "caught" by the eye and reproduced with as frequent recurrence as is ordinarily done by the child of normal faculties.
In our hasty review of the methods now in use we noted the inability to approximate this desirable process as a common difficulty. The facility now ordinarily attained in the manipulation of the type writer, and the speed said to have been reached by Professor Bell and a private pupil of his by the Dalgarno touch alphabet, when we consider the possibility of a less complex mechanism in the one case and a more systematic grouping of the alphabet in the other, would lead us to expect a more rapid means of communication than is ordinarily acquired by dactylology, speech (by the deaf), or writing. Then the ability to receive the communication rapidly by the sense of feeling will be far greater. No part of the body except the point of the tongue is as sensible to touch as the tips of the fingers and the palm of the hand. Tactile discrimination is so acute as to be able to interpret to the brain significant impressions produced in very rapid succession. Added to this advantage is the greater one of the absence of any more serious attendant physical or nervous strain than is present when the utterances of speech fall upon the tympanum of the ear.
To sum up, then, the advantages of the device we find--
First. A more rapid means of communication with the deaf by syntactic language, admitting of a greater amount of practice similar to that received through the ear by normal children.
Second. Ability to receive this rapid communication for a longer duration and without ocular strain.
Third. Perfect freedom of the eye to watch the expression on the countenance of the sender.
Fourth. In articulation and speech-reading instruction, the power to assist a class without distracting the attention of the eye from the vocal organs of the teacher.
Fifth. Freedom of the right hand of the pupil to make instantaneous reproduction in writing of the matter being received through the sense of feeling, thereby opening the way for a valuable class exercise.
Sixth. The possible mental stimulus that accompanies the mastery of a new language, and the consequent ability to receive known ideas through a new medium.
Seventh. A fresh variety of class exercises made possible.
The writer firmly believes in the good that exists in all methods that are, or are to be; in the interdependence rather than the independence of all methods; and in all school-room appliances tending to supplement or expedite the labors of the teacher, whether they are made of materials delved from the earth or snatched from the clouds.
S. TEFFT WALKER,
Superintendent of the Kansas Institution, Olathe, Kans.