The Education of the Deaf-Mute in the 19th Century. Description of a Social Activity

Deafness in the 19th Century
By François Buton

In the 19th century, the education of the deaf-mute was an increasingly successful endeavor which developed mainly in Catholic congregations. However, it was not an institutionalized practice in that it lacked a legal framework as well as consistent regulations concerning the opening of schools, the hiring of teachers or the admission of pupils. Only the Institution of Paris, the oldest and biggest school, protected by the State since the Revolution, possessed the resources capable of stopping the institutional and pedagogical fragmentation of the practice. This double feature of the education of the deaf-mute – the dominance of Catholic congregations and the prestige of the Paris Institution – strongly shaped the reform efforts of the 1880s, which were not only pedagogical (general imposition of the oral method) but also institutional (developing a « special » curriculum in relation to « ordinary » public education).


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