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How Alexander Graham Bell Hurt Deaf Culture

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How Alexander Graham Bell Hurt Deaf Culture Alexander Graham Bell (AG Bell) is famous for inventing the telephone. AG Bell wanted to help deaf people because his wife was deaf. The telephone he invented had some amplification. He believed that his telephone would help the deaf people to hear and communicate on the telephone. What he thought would help deaf people and other opinions he held made him notorious for the near destruction of American Deaf Culture.

AG Bell was found to have quoted that ASL was a beautiful language, but was against its use. AG Bell said “I admit with ease with which a deaf child acquires sign language and its perfect adaptability for the purpose of developing this mind; but after all, it is not the language of the millions of people among who his lot is cast.” And “We should try ourselves to forget that they are deaf. We should try to teach them to forget that they are deaf.” (Paddy 129) Following the 1880 Conference of Milan which outlawed the use of sign language as a method of teaching deaf children AG Bell used his influence on the Board of Education promoting his ideas of oral education.

In 1872 Alexander Graham Bell opened a school in Boston. Its purpose was to improve the speech of those who are deaf, who stutter and who had articulation problems. He called it the School of Vocal Physiology. Soon many schools utilizing only the oral method for teaching deaf students were established. This was popular among hearing educators but resulted in deaf teachers losing their jobs. Residential schools for the Deaf, that promoted ASL and Deaf Culture, were soon after closed and oral schools become the norm.

In the 1900s education was not the only area where AG Bell was encroaching. He was concerned that deaf people would have deaf babies, so he was involved in not only segregating deaf males and females but also supported sterilizing deaf people. He was a member of the Committee on Eugenics with was established in 1909. Thus the individual rights of deaf people were taken away. The culture was in danger of eugenics and genocide. With no language, no socialization, and no relationships, deaf culture cannot exist. Deaf people were isolated and abused facsimiles of hearing people with no real lives.

So while AG Bell lived his life and profited from his actions, a result of those actions was near elimination of a beautiful language and a rich culture; however, Deaf people found a way to keep their culture and language. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) was established around the time of the Conference of Milan, as a way for deaf people to fight back. Through strength, secrecy, underground stealth, and pure stubbornness, ASL is never gone. The war on Deaf Culture that was supported by AG Bell is not over, and rages on even in present day. Deaf people must still be strong, stubborn to preserve the Deaf Culture, and backing ASL.

Ladd, Paddy. Understanding Deaf Culture In Search of Deafhood. Great Britain: Cromwell Press Ltd. 2003. Print.

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