Arguments in favor of Oralism are refuted by Manualists

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  1. Oralistic argument:
    There is the need to be able to communicate with the larger world around the deaf person.
    Therefore, deaf children must learn to speak and lipread the language of the larger world.

    Manualistic refutation:
    To be able to communicate at high level, one needs a well-developed language in one's head. Once one has language in one's head, it is easier for him to learn the language of the larger world and establish more meaningful communication with it.
    Therefore, deaf children must first learn Sign Language. Then, those of them who are capable of it may learn the language of the larger world as a first foreign language.

  2. Oralistic argument:
    Learning Sign Language would interfere with baby's learning to process sounds (by hearing or via cochlear implants) or to lipread.

    Manualistic refutation:
    The culture of USA has a bias against multilingual education. Other cultures do not have such a bias. Children, who are raised in those cultures, learn more than one language at their childhood and become multilingual without ill effects.
    While learning another language simultaneously may delay the process of vocabulary acquisition of one's mother tongue, there is no long range harm due to this. Since each language "maps" to reality in somewhat different way, the child can only benefit from the ability to see the world via multiple "maps" (in the same way physics is enriched from being able to model reality according to Classical Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity etc. - various models which provide different approximations to the same reality).

  3. Oralistic argument:
    If we educate a deaf child using Sign and he enters Deaf Culture, how will he be able to compete in the hearing world for high quality education, jobs, etc.?

    Manualistic refutation:
    There are several, several cases of people who grew and were educated in one culture and then moved to another culture (e.g. by immigration from their country of birth to USA), whose language they often did not master. Among those cases, large percentage of people were successful, sometimes highly successful. The successful ones often had the benefit of support groups of persons who immigrated from the same country and shared the same original culture.

  4. Oralistic argument:
    It is claimed that the Deaf culture is more 'primitive' and 'restricted' than the surrounding Hearing culture of the country/county/city in question.

    Manualistic refutation:
    The scope of a culture depends upon the people who choose to live in it and develop it. Oralists deny the Deaf culture the brightest and ablest deaf persons - those who have also better chance of being 'oral successes'.
    The worth of a culture to people who live in it depends not only upon the scope or sophistication of the culture, but also upon the self-esteem, being-at-home feelings which it grants to those for whom this culture is the natural home. Once someone has a 'home' to which he can return in the evening, he has the self-esteem and power and tools to succeed in his journeys in other cultures of the large and wide world.

  5. Oralistic argument:
    We try to educate the deaf child using Oral methods. If he succeeds then OK. If he doesn't succeed and this happens, then we divert him to Manualistic education and let him learn Sign Language.

    Manualistic refutation:
    This is a very big and dangerous gamble. It is essential that the deaf child have a proper language in his head at early age. Oral methods are not reliable means for achieving this end. Children who fail to acquire language using Oral methods are too old to be able to properly acquire Sign Langauge by the time they are branded as 'oral failures' and permitted to learn Sign Language. This policy is liable to leave them with neither spoken language nor signed language for the rest of their lives.

Last update date: 
2005 Nov 28