Over the last couple of months I have found myself objecting to the term “oralist,” at least as applied to myself. In addition, the more I contemplate the terms “oral failure” and “oral success,” the angrier I get. Why?
Let’s take “oralist” first. I can see that it’s used in a fairly general term: someone who was taught using oral methods. It’s also used to refer to people who support the use of such methods, particularly exclusively, to deaf children. The little bit I’ve read about the Milan Convention describe the two “camps” as “oralists” and “manualists.”
Well, I may have been educated orally. But it was something done to me, not a choice I made for myself, nor even one I support across the board. If I could change anything about how I was educated, I would add in sign language and access to other signing children. I do not countenance the isolation, and I do not countenance the continuation of oral therapy on a child for whom it is not beneficial.
As for “oral failure” and “oral success,” where to even begin? This truly maddens me, because these terms pass the responsibility of the outcome ON THE CHILD! No. No. No, and a thousand times NO. It is not the child’s “fault” (another loaded concept here) if speech therapy isn’t right for that child; it isn’t the child’s “success” if he or she happens to do well with speech therapy. It is strictly chance: it is the outcome of the particular combination of how a child perceives auditory input and the actual skill of the child’s teacher, neither of which the child controls.
Let me repeat this: The failure is on the part of the therapist or teacher. These people are evading their own responsibility in the breakdown of a child’s education when it turns out that speech therapy IS INAPPROPRIATE but they continue to force the child to try to comply with it.
I mean, this makes me furious. No one here is an “oral failure” (I don’t even want to use this term at all)! Many of us have had the educational system fail us. This is a crucial distinction. Some of you seem to be shrugging and saying “So what? These are just words.” Well, words and descriptions are extremely important. These particular terms are shifting responsibility away from the perpetuators to the victims and that’s simply unacceptable.
Those of us orally educated, we survived it. We all learned something from it, although what I learned and what Aidan learned were in some ways entirely different and in other ways very similar…
So. I was orally educated, and that’s it.