"The World is Wide Enough for Us Both”: The Manitoba School for the Deaf at the Onset of the Oralist Age, 1889-1920
Keywords:Deaf education, Deaf history, Deaf education methods debate, Manitoba, Provincial governance, regional vs. national historiography
Historical research on the oralist era in North American deaf education has typically been undertaken through a national lens. This study asserts that a more localized and regional view of the communication methods practiced at deaf schools will aid in the creation of a more complex picture of how oralism spread in Canadian and North American deaf schools. Based on an analysis of the papers of the Manitoba Ministry of Public Works; the archives of Silent Echo, the Manitoba School’s newspaper; and published works by the school’s principals, this paper contends that strict oralism faced fierce resistance in Manitoba from both Deaf citizens and teachers, as well as the school’s hearing principal, before 1920. Principal Duncan McDermid and deaf teacher J.R. Cook published and republished arguments in the Echo against oralism and in favour of moderation in the sign debate. In consideration of all three characteristics of strictly oralist schools in the early twentieth century – a ban on sign language, separation of deaf students from Deaf communities, and the expulsion of deaf teaching staff – the Manitoba School for the Deaf emerges as an exception to the trend of encroaching oralism in Canadian deaf schools during the early twentieth-century.
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