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A DESERTING INSTITUTION.

The American to whose notes on Australasia we referred at length the other day was struck with the political maturity of these colonies, and Principal Rainy told us that he was filled with wonder at the extent to which all sorts of institutions had been created in such a short period. It is, indeed, a question whether we have not too many institutions, though few or none of them could the colonists be persuaded ’to forego. Education, in particular, has been well provided for; and it was recently seen how the attempt even to economise by raising the school age was frowned upon by the bulk of the community. We have, on the whole, good reason to be proud of our education system, however costly it may ; and no part of it is better worth the money expended on it than the institution for deaf mutes. The teaching of these unfortunates is one of the triumphs of modem civilisation. In ancient times it was thought impossible to educate them. One of the Latin poets says— To instruct the deaf no art could ever reach, No care improve them, and no wisdom teach. This belief, practically speaking, lasted down to comparatively recent times; and the consequence was that the deaf and dumb were, as a rule, treated in much the same harsh manner as lunatics and idiots. Their social isolation was, at any rate, complete, and their intellectual development scarcely greater than that of the higher kinds of animals. There was also a common belief that they were naturally vicious and ill-tempered, which would not, of course, tend to improve their condition. Shut out, through the deprivation of the sense of hearing, as well as by inhuman prejudice, from intercourse with their fellowcreatures, it was impossible for them to attain the status of rational beings, for which their natural endowments designed them. Their lot was pitiable in the extreme, and it shows what a poor thing after all European civilisation was—and, perhaps, still is in some countries that no institution for deaf mutes was established till the middle of the eighteenth century It can scarcely be doubted, however that deaf mutes were occasionally taught to communicate with their fellows even in these dark ages. The Venerable Rede tells of a deaf man whom an English bishop taught to speak in 685. But such cases must have been very rare ; and whom the deepest obligations is Jerome Cardan ; who, pondering their piteous case, said that while writing was associated with speech, and speech with thought, yet written characters and ideas might be connected without the intervention of sounds. He added that the instruction of the deaf was difficult, but not impossible. These sentences may be said to contain the germ of that system of instruction which has restored deaf mutes to the rights and privileges of our common humanity. As a rule they are dumb simply because they are deaf. They have minds naturally capable of thought, and perfectly formed organs of speech; but it requires the patient endeavors of their instructors to repair the defect of Nature and call forth their latent intelligence. As soon as it was recognised that this could be done, ingenious minds in different parts of Europe took up the subject; and now no settlement of civilised men can be regarded as complete without an institution, however humble, for the deaf and dumb. The institution at Sumner may well be considered an honor to New Zealand. It is admirably managed, and though it costs a good deal of money, it performs a highly philanthropic purpose in a most efficient manner. The number of pupils at the end of 1888 was thirty-nine, and the expenditure for the year £3,210; of which sum about £330 was contributed by the parents. The pupils came from all parts of the Colony. There were nine from each of the three districts of Otago, Canterbury, and Auckland, one from Westland, two from Nelson, six from Wellington, two from Hawke’s Bay, while one came all the way from South Australia. Nine left the Institution at the end of the year —four with a good, and three with a fairly good education; the other two were withdrawn through causes which, the director says, call for special notice. One was a girl, who during her two years and ten months’ residence made remarkable progress in speaking and lip-reading, in reading and writing, and in the understanding of simple language. In a few years she would have been one of the most advanced pupils, and ready to learn millinery or dressmaking, so that she would have been in a position to earn her own living. But she will now probably be kept at home merely for domestic drudgery, and thus lose the benefit even of the short training she received. Mr Van Asch holds that “to make use in this manner “ of the provisions of the State’s labor “and expenditure is tantamount to “ abusing a great privilege,” inasmuch as the purpose of the institution is thus in great measure defeated. The director recommends that in all future cases in which the parents “ wish “ to avail themselves of the State’s as- “ sistance in educating their deaf chil“dren, a clause should be inserted “ in the agreement binding the parents “ to leave their children under instruction for as long a period of time as “ the Minister of Education shall de- “ termine.” The other case was that of a bright little boy, who was Also making excellent progress, but who

was removed after being only about ten months in the school, because the family doctor and the district schoolmaster were of opinion that he would now learn to speak all right. “ Such “cases of withdrawal must be very “ discouraging to the director ; and, “ whether his recommendation could in “ all cases be carried out or not, it is “ in the highest measure desirable that “ the pupils should not leave school “till they are better fitted to take part “in the business of life.” Mr Van Ascn refers to the practice followed in the European and American institutions for deaf mutes of teaching the pupils some useful trade ; and the medical officer in his brief report says that when “a permanent and well- “ organised establishment is built the “ Government will have to take into “ consideration the necessity for train- “ ing the boys in industrial pursuits. The girls should, of course, be trained for some useful occupation. There is a special reason why the education of deaf mutes should be carried to a further stage than that of children in the common schools. Unless they are given some kind of technical training by which they can maintain themselves in after life, they are in constant danger, through the death or poverty of their relatives, of being thrown upon the charitable aid of the Colony. We are quite sure that the Government would not be blamed by the country for extending a still more generous aid to this most valuable and interesting institution. Technical training in the case of these deaf mutes is a kind of necessity, if they are to reap the proper benefit of their previous education. There is, indeed, something positively painful in the thought of awakening their dormant intelligence to the fact of theirutter helplessness. To equip them for the battle of life they must not only be taught to speak and think, but to work with their hands for their own livelihood. This further education is no doubt kept in view by the Government; and it is to be hoped that they will soon see their way to add technical instruction to that which is at present so ably imparted by Mr Van Ascii and his assistants. Appended to the director’s report is an account of a visit paid to the Institution by the late Minister of Education, which gives a vivid glimpse, both of the magnitude of the task of teaching the deaf and dumb, and of the success with which it is being accomplished at Sumner.

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Bibliographic details

A DESERTING INSTITUTION., Evening Star, Issue 7999, 30 August 1889

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1,341

A DESERTING INSTITUTION. Evening Star, Issue 7999, 30 August 1889

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