Tuesday, July 27, 2010


As defined at http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/oralism:
Oralism: A philosophy of education for the deaf, opposed to manualism, that uses spoken language consisting of lipreading, speech, the process of watching mouth movements, and mastering breathing techniques.

September 6 – 11, 1880, in the city of Milan, Italy, a group of 164 participants attended the 2nd International Congress on Education of the Deaf (ICED). The Milan Conference was organized by the Pereire Society. This society was a strong supporter of oralism. They organized the Milan conference with the intent to ban sign language. And they secured this outcome by carefully selecting who was invited, inviting the delegates to see the oralist success in a local school, and by encouraging negative reactions to those giving speeches supporting sign language and cheering those supporting oralism.

This convention consisted of 87 Italians, 56 Frenchmen, 8 Englishmen, 5 Americans, and 8 other delegates. Not a lot of diverse representation for an “international” meeting. During the conference there were 12 speakers who gave their opinions on the issues connected with deaf education. Nine of the 12 speakers gave an oralist view and 3 supported the use of sign language.

At the meeting, the members voted overwhelmingly to outlaw the use of sign language as a method for educating deaf children, in favor of the pure oral method. The group also opposed a compromise motion to include sign language along with speech. And thus began an attempt to abolish the language of Sign.

The original resolutions passed at this meeting did irreparable damage to deaf individuals, educators, professionals, schools and communities around the world. Thankfully, perhaps due to the fact that Gallaudet College (now University) refused to abandon the use of sign and to the founding of the National Association of the Deaf, ASL has persevered. Regardless of what the extremists and strict oralists believe, ASL is the language of the Deaf and always will be.

I was ecstatic to find that, on Monday, July 19th of this year, the International Congress of the Deaf opened its 21st Congress with a historic announcement that it formally rejects the resolutions passed at the 2nd Congress. This move in part was due to the letters and actions from advocacy organizations and leaders throughout the world urging the ICED to embrace signed languages and deaf cultures.

NAD’s President, Bobbie Beth Scoggins, had this to say about the monumental proclamation:

"We are elated to see that, for the first time in 130 years, the ICED has joined us in rejecting the actions of its predecessors and moving forward to improve educational systems for the global deaf and hard of hearing community. We are grateful and proud to see the ICED take this important and very appropriate step towards reconciliation. The formal rejection of the 1880 resolutions made in Milan by the ICED realizes a dream that we have had for 130 years. Together with the ICED we have taken the first steps towards a beautiful, bilingual future of cooperation and mutual respect."

Here’s to a new and brighter future for our deaf and hard of hearing students! Let’s let them use what works for each, instead of a contrived notion that oralism is the only way!


  1. FYI, 1880 Milan resolution never said anything about banning sign language. That's something that a lot of people were not aware of. The wording was that oral was preferred to signed language. Preferred. Not, Banned.

  2. Hi Candy! Yes, you are correct that that was the wording, however, the result was, essentially, the banishment of sign language from the education system for the deaf. I wasn't quoting the resolutions as they were printed, I was speaking of the consequential result of the convention.

  3. Milan has no effect to our eduction system. It's their own illusion.


  4. Candy, I was surprised to see the language of the Milan congress did not actually say "banned". So you're right. HOWEVER, the following resolutions from that Congress basically outlined the steps for eliminating sign language from the lives and education of Deaf people. So, while they didn't say "banned", that's pretty much what they did in practice.

  5. Candy, please take a look at actual 1880 Milan resolution:

    At this Congress, a declaration was made that the oral method was superior to that of sign. Eight resolutions banning sign language and voting in favour of the oral method, most particularly the two topmost resolutions, were passed with high majorities, giving those who opposed it absolutely no chance at all. The sign supporters tried to get their voices heard, but failed.

    Summary of the Eight Resolutions –

    • Resolution 1: instruction by the oral method in deaf education must be preferred.
    Voted 160 to 4 in favour on 7/9/1880.

    • Resolution 2: effectively sealing the fate of sign language in the education of the deaf.
    Voted 150 to 16 in favour on 9/9/1880.

    • Resolution 3: providing the education of poor deaf children and adults.
    Unanimously voted in favour on 10/9/1880.

    • Resolution 4: creating guidelines on how to instruct deaf pupils orally.
    Carried on 11/9/1880.

    • Resolution 5: the need for instructional books for deaf oral teachers.
    Carried on 11/9/1880.

    • Resolution 6: to ensure the long-term benefits of oral instruction.
    Carried on 11/9/1880.

    • Resolution 7: the optimal ages for oral education and length of instruction.
    Carried on 11/9/1880.

    • Resolution 8: phasing out of sign-language-using pupils and to create segregation of sign and oral pupils if necessary.
    Carried on 11/9/1880.

    Now Candy, why do you always argue??

  6. Candy,
    You seems to be supporting the 1880 Milan resolution because it did not have the specific wording "banning sign language" but did subtly so and you know it.

    Do you support oral philosophy over preferred sign Language(ASL)?

    Candy, I can't trust you what you say anynore!

  7. In some countries, perhaps, but not in America. What happened in America was oralism flourished and sign language stood the test of time. Yet, even with this recent event, some deaf people are still upset with the idea of respecting all forms of communication options. So, we'll see what transpires down the road... ;)

  8. Hi Michele. I am a student in the Philippines. May I ask you something about this article? A bit personal question..

  9. Candy, you said "some deaf people are still upset with the idea of respecting all forms of communication options." Well, that's a given.

    Some people don't like tomatoes. Some people don't like the idea of teaching Ebonics. Some people don't like fruit on Sunday. And some people don't like being open-minded about things (such as education techniques).

    It's human nature. You're *never* going to please everyone. There will *always* be people who have opposing opinions.

    It sounds like you're upset because everyone isn't happy and content with the ways things are now. Has there ever been an event in the history of mankind where all (absolutely no exceptions) agreed? I don't think so.

  10. Anonymous,

    Sure, you can ask me anything. :v) Shoot.....

  11. How come it took so long to reject an 1880 resolution?

  12. Upset? nah, I really don't give a hoot. I have heard time and time again regarding how 1880 banned signed language. I knew in America, signed language was always present. I also knew oralism grew. Never bothered to read the resolution itself until much recently and what I saw, I was surprised. I'm all about getting to the truth. The more we know, the better we understand. I didn't read the summary, I read the actual resolution and as DonG said, yup! He was surprised. As was I! And, then DonG said "that's pretty much what they did in practice." Who are "they"? All deaf schools? Some deaf schools? The world? America? Europe? If there was a ban, ASL would have been completely GONE from our life as we know it. So, proper wording would be, 1880 resolution put the idea in many educator's mind that oralism is preferred to ASL and as a result, oralism flourished. There was never a ban. While some schools banned signed language, true. However, ASL stood the test of time! That's it. I can't speak for other countries, I'm sure they had it worst.

  13. Ah..."proper wording." See, now I would know nothing about that sort of thing. OK, folks...now there's a "proper" way to talk about this subject. Take note and don't deviate...

  14. Hi Michele.

    I do lipread with hearies with no voice. they understand to force watch on my lipread attention, not my attention to my voice. Clear.

    Because if they listen voice.. it would not perfect.. Because hearies is always to be perfect hearies voices, hear, hear in the swimming when it is siren, not even deaf..

    But deaf have always watching, on the visual. Always. Not hear..

    Because we are not born to hear. But we have a visual eyes to see the world, and sometimes written communication.

    I never thought about gesture... try to do more good gesture for hearies to understand to communicate.. It is minimum to start with before it can connection relationship to clear communication.

  15. To tell you, Michele.

    We can't be banned sign languaged..

    Because we are born with deaf to use signed languaged with that but part with lipread oralism without attention focus on voice.

    We are not perfect voices to lipread with that.

    It must be a lot and a lot of training oralism for hearies, should we? I am sure we would tired of that.

    It is better off oralism without voice that hearies can understand.

    1. Hi im an 8th grade ASL student ive become weary and forgive me of any english misuses, im becoming lethargic so people back then HAVE learned to deal with th e fact that signing is legal AND a language