What is the summary for "The Deaf Mute Howls" by Albert Ballin?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ballin has a very definite take on the education of the deaf: he advocates the teaching of sign language instead of the intrusive methods of teaching the deaf to both speak and read others’ lips. The title itself is a definite reference to the unnatural sounds of a deaf person trying to learn to talk (which does not come natural to them).

In Ballin’s time, there was a trend to prohibit sign language in an effort to force the deaf to both talk and read lips. Ballin was against this. Ballin suggests that the forcing of the deaf into these two practices was more about people seeking selfish acceptance into mainstream “hearing” society and less about the true betterment of the deaf. The way Ballin does this is by reporting the attitudes of the deaf towards themselves. Terms like “deaf-mute” are derogatory and shouldn’t be used, suggests Ballin.

Further, Ballin insists on the “hearing” people of the world to be more accommodating by using what he calls “Universal Sign Language.” This shifts the blame to the mainstream world who can both hear and talk. In fact, sign language is Ballin’s solution that he suggests. In other parts of his book, Ballin also recounts his arguments and discussions with the creator of the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell) and his interest in the field of motion pictures (which, of course, was new to the country in 1930).

In conclusion, although this is not a modern book (Ballin originally wrote it in 1930), Ballin’s ideas still apply to the deaf today. Sign language, which is Ballin’s preferred method of the deaf to communicate, is valued far over the usual practices of teaching deaf people to read lips and to speak using their vocal chords.