Long ago, there lived a Cogswell family.
They had a daughter who was deaf.
They didn’t know what to do.
One of the family friends was a priest by the name of Gallaudet.
He approached Alice Cogswell, and found that he couldn’t communicate with her.
There were no schools around for her.
He thought even though she was deaf, she deserved education.
He looked for ideas throughout the states but had no luck.
Alice’s father told Gallaudet to go to Europe to find out what would be best for her since their education system had been established for many years.
Thomas Gallaudet decided to seek and call upon lawyer and other people who he knows have money to raise funds for his journey.
Once he had enough, he sailed to England.
He visited the Braidwood Institute, where they practiced the oral approach.
They asked him to pay first if he wanted to observe their teachings.
They also told him he could not imitate their education approach in America.
Rather, he’d need to bring Alice there.
As a pastor, he felt turned off.
He met with Dugald Stewart. He was a Scottish philosopher.
He told Gallaudet, “What Braidwood is doing is akin to teaching parrots to speak; the children are learning to mimic sounds, but nothing is being processed in the head. They can’t think.”
He told Gallaudet of another school in Paris that used the signed approach.
It was impressive and created a stir in the philosophy community.
He urged him to go and see the results of this signing institution.
Abbe Sicard and Laurent Clerc, who was deaf, both hosted an exhibition to showcase the children to the communities from around in Paris.
The audience members asked difficult and complex philosophical questions such as,
“What is God? What is the spirit? What makes us human?”
The students wrote impressive answers in response on the board.
Gallaudet saw this and said, “Yes! This is what I’m looking for.”
He approached the teachers and asked for permission to bring their best student to America so they can set up a deaf school with their signed method.
The top student was not interested in going to America.
He said that America was a provincial and backward country; they didn’t have fine cities like Paris.
The second best student was Laurent Clerc.
He didn’t want to go at first, but after some discussion, Gallaudet proposed that he could teach in America for three years, and then he could return home.
Clerc thought long about this, and agreed.
He told Abbe Sicard of his decision to move America, which Abbe disappointedly accepted.
Gallaudet and Clerc sailed together.
They were struck twice by a bad storm on the journey.
What if they had disappeared on the way here?
He knew there was a chance of never returning home.
He took a gamble.
Did they sit idly during the journey? No!
They learned from one another.
Gallaudet taught Clerc English.
Clerc taught Gallaudet sign language.
They arrived first to New York.
Clerc was shocked to see the muddy roads. France had already established their roads years ago. America was still a new country that was unkempt.
They spent a year talking with legislatives to raise money for the school.
With Cogswell family’s support, they were able to raise enough.
They fought hard. They went through the senators.
They travelled to Hartford and built the American School for the Deaf.
April 15th, 1817. The first Deaf institute was established.
Clerc became a teacher there.
He never returned to France. He ended up settling in America.
Alice, and others were added to the class and it grew.
New students brought different sign languages: Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language, some home signs, Native American Sign Language, and French Sign Language.
All these sign languages merged to become ASL.
The students who went to ASD grew up and established more Deaf school throughout America.
It was what created a national Deaf identity.
We will always tip our hats off to Clerc.
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