The French Deaf Leader, Ferdinand Berthier and His Influences

Ferdinand Berthier was born on September 30, 1803. He was a French pioneer for deaf people and an intellectual educator. He also played active roles in politics in nineteenth-century France. His influence in charting the deaf people of his country gained him worldwide fame. He participated in the process of empowering the morals and culture of deaf people. This article discusses Berthier’s contributions and accounts of his life.

The Paris Deaf Institute

Ferdinand Berthier was born in the southeastern part of France. He arrived at the Paris Deaf Institute in 1811, where he started to train as a tradesman. France was a rural area at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The journey might have seemed quite long and uncommon to him as his first experience. August Bebian was the main teacher at the institute. Bebian had joined the deaf institute in 1802. Berthier considered him his mentor for his commitment to the education of deaf people. He later wrote highly about his teacher in journals and books to keep his memory alive. Bebian could hear, but his immense support for the deaf charmed Berthier. Bebian introduced the first systematic study of the French sign language.

Jean Massieu and Laurent Clerc

They were two important pupils at the Deaf Institute. Later on, Jean Massieu and Laurent Clerc became teachers at the institute. They also influenced Berthier and contributed greatly to the cause of the deaf. Sicard also held classes during that time. Massieu had helped Sicard to gain support for the institute around 1790. He also became the first deaf man to join the teaching faculty in 1794. He also helped Laurent Clerc in the institute. Clerc and Massieu became important figures for Berthier, and he looked up to them. He learned the most important lesson from the influential figures. It was that he could work with his mind, as well as his muscles, with the same ease.

Conditions existing in France

Life for the common folk was hard during the first half of the nineteenth century. Poverty spread all across rural areas. Frenchmen of lower ranks mostly had low-class jobs. There were farmers and others employed in shoemaking, labouring and printing. There were hardly any boys of lower class in non-manual jobs. The deaf institute’s mission was to educate deaf boys and girls for occupation. So, the institute wanted to prepare them for earning equal rights in trade deals. Bebian did not approve of the institute’s training. It hardly qualified to satisfy “the most humble artisan”. Ferdinand Berthier was exceptional in his educational background. His words spoke volumes, and his interest lay in ideas. Berthier already had a career in liberal arts and became an assistant teacher by 1824.

Contributions of Ferdinand Berthier

Ferdinand Berthier played a major role in the Paris Deaf Institute as a senior teacher in 1830. Alphonse Lenoir, another deaf man, was a senior teacher at the time. Bebian had quit by now, and Berthier had gotten to an even higher position as a senior teacher. Berthier made his first address to King Louis in November 1830. He requested that 18,000 deaf men and women participate in France’s “regeneration”. His address was remarkable for two reasons. One, it influenced the ideology. Furthermore, on his behalf, the deaf community was obliged to be part of the revolutionary process. Secondly, he advocated for Bebian to resume office. As a result, it proved his loyalty to the King as well as the mentor he has always been inspired by.

The Banquet Movement

The Banquet Movement was a gathering of deaf men observing a ceremony. Berthier, Lenoir and Claudius Forestier organized the banquet that took place on November 30, 1834. The first banquet, for instance, would have fifty-four deaf men sharing their first experiences. The first banquet also celebrated Abbe de Epee’s birthday. These banquets were the first step in developing a history for the deaf. The banquets also gave Berthier a platform for leadership. He had fulfilled the need among the deaf for social and cultural importance. Other professors too joined in motivating these gatherings to take place. In some instances, banquets still take place in honor of Ferdinand Berthier.

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