Thursday, January 17, 2013

With Malice Toward Some; Julius Vogel Edition

The next time I'm in Wellington, I must remember to go and piss on Julius Vogel's grave. That's the conclusion after a night's research into How Things Change.

Tonight's aspect involved uncovering the roots of New Zealand's first Deaf policy, and how the progressive Vogel got it so horribly wrong. I'm still incandescent with rage, so I'll leave analysis for another time. Except for the paragraphing, occasional bracketed barracking and the bold font emphasis, the following is a verbatim transcript from The Press, October 15th 1879:

Proposed Deaf and Dumb Institution
[By Telegraph]

Sir J. Vogel, on the 18th June, informed the Colonial Secretary that in accordance with instructions he has engaged the services of Mr Gerrit Van Asch, to proceed to New Zealand as teacher of deaf and dumb mutes, 20 pounds being paid as honorarium to Dr. Abbott for assiting in making the selection. Mr. Asch to embark for New Zealand at the latter end of October.

In an enclosure Sir Julius Vogel, Messrs Edwin A. Abbott (presumably, this Abbott, Head Master of the City of London School, keen Francis Bacon fan and fellow sci-fi writer to Vogel), and Walter Kennaway (Secretary for Public Works), report at length to the Premier, under date June 10th, that seventeen applications to the appointment was read, twelve being persons who professed to teach on the combined system, three from persons who had no special knowledge of teaching of deaf mutes, and one a professor of the German system, which teaches pupils to converse by means of articulate sound (sound they can't hear), and understand by lip reading, interpreting the movement of the lips of the speakers to the exclusion of all signs except natural ones.

The introduction of this system has been comparatively recent. Mr Van Asch came over from Holland expressly to teach the system, but its general introduction is, perhaps due to Mr St John Ackers, who travelled with his wife all over the Empire, and part of America in order to find the best system for teaching their child, a little girl who lost her hearing in infancy.

They adopted the German system taught by an American lady, and were so delighted with progress made that they threw themselves enthusiastically into the cause of promoting the system, establishing a college, with a number of influential coadjutors (Curiously enough, no trace of an Ackers Deaf college exists online. The first US college for the Deaf started in 1857, with sign language used from the beginning. Also, no-one ever thought to consider a Deaf adult's opinion on the matter).

Mr Asch had a private school on this system. The German plan discards the system of arbitrary signals as opposed to natural ones to express words, letters, or short sentences, by which deaf mutes are enabled to compensate themselves for loss of hearing and speech. They read and write with facility and read from the lips with astonishing facility, varying with their intellectual ability. It is applicable to all children not idiots.

Others advocate systemised symbols, as the French or Dactyl system, and declare that the percentage of children capable of acquiring the German sytem is so small, and that only the French system is capable of imparting the requisite instruction. The professors of the combined systems attempt to combine the teaching of articulation and lip reading with teaching of dactyology.

The opinions of Messrs. Vogel, Abbott, and Kennaway lies between the two extremes. They think the German system the most beneficent in its result. Under the French system there is danger that deaf mutes should shun the society of those who are not deaf, and by congregating together increase the natural disadvantages of their affliction (Oh, so that's why they didn't ask a Deaf adult. We can't have deaf people forming social groups, can we?).

They are, however, not quite confident that the German system is applicable to all children not idiots, some intelligences being too low to acquire that system. Children under the German system think in words, while under the French or combined system they think in signs (lip-reading is incredibly strenuous and not entirely accurate. It's a bit like teaching a colour-blind person to paint realistic sunsets).

They selected the only applicant under the German system. The general salary paid to teachers under the German system is about a hundred to a hundred and fifty pounds a year. With the exception of one gentleman, none under the French system receive a salary of over two hundreds pounds a year. The exception was a clergyman receiving five hundred. Assuming that the German system may not prove all sufficient for New Zealand, a teacher of the French system could be secured for a hundred and fifty pounds a year.

Mr Van Asch has a thorough knowledge of the German system, and the results of his teaching are astonishing in the extreme. He is accustomed to take entire charge of his pupils, including their board and lodging. He speaks English with perfect accuracy and entire freedom from foreign accent or idiom. By his means the German system will take full root in New Zealand, and the French system, if hereafter required, can be super-added (Sign language would soon be banned entirely. It would finally be allowed to be taught in the curriculum again in 1979).