"The World is Wide Enough for Us Both”: The Manitoba School for the Deaf at the Onset of the Oralist Age, 1889-1920


  • Sandy Barron PhD candidate, Carleton University




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. 

Author Biography

Sandy Barron, PhD candidate, Carleton University

Sandy Barron is a PhD student at Carleton University. His MA thesis, undertaken at the University of Calgary, examined the origins and early development of the Manitoba School for the Deaf, 1888-1920. His current dissertation topic is a study of the politics of blind and deaf exclusion from education in Prairie Canada from 1880 to 1930.


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Silent Echo vols 1 – 10. Deaf Heritage Room, Manitoba School for the Deaf (DHR, MSD),


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Annual Reports of the MIDD/MSD, 1890-1920. DHR, MSD and LL, PAM.

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How to Cite

Barron, S. (2017). "The World is Wide Enough for Us Both”: The Manitoba School for the Deaf at the Onset of the Oralist Age, 1889-1920. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 6(1), 63–84. https://doi.org/10.15353/cjds.v6i1.333