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Kenneth Walter Hodgson & “The Problems of the Deaf” (1953)

H Dominic W Stiles9 December 2016

Author of the famous book, The Deaf and Their Problems (1953), Kenneth Walter Hodgson is opaque in the records, with very little seeming to be found about him as a person other than records of the book.  The little to be found I discovered from a half page typescript of old library notes presumably from the 1970s, combined with the registration of his death.  As a few people have asked about him over the years, and we have been able to say nothing about him, I thought I would share what we do have.

He was born in West London on the 10th of June 1914, son of Walter Graham Hodgson, an electrical engineer from Birkenhead, and his wife, Emily Nott.  The information I have (from our very old library enquiry folder) tells us that he was educated at Sloane School, then Selwyn College, Cambridge as an Open Exhibitor in History, and then in King’s College, London.  He then taught for a few years in Liverpool slum schools until 1941, when he was called up.  That same year he married Dora Craven, and they had a son William Graham Hodgson, in 1942.*

Kenneth Hodgson went into the R.A.F. but suffered from poor health, and from 1944 he was teaching again.  He worked mainly with “handicapped and deprived children in poor districts.”  He then worked in a school for deaf children, but we are not told which one, unless he mentions it in the body of the text of The Deaf and Their Problems.  This work revealed to him a lack of literature available in England for candidates for the Diploma in Deaf Education.

The Deaf and Their Problems was intended to go some way toward meeting this lack in the “pure oralist”  tradition, then unquestioned by teachers of the deaf in England.  But the accumulation of evidence changed the book into an argument for experiment on much broader lines, including manual language.

The Deaf and Their Problems has an introduction by Sir Richard Paget.  A review in The Teacher of the Deaf for December 1953 (p.189-90), by Thomas J. Watson (1912-84), a teacher at Henderson Row and later at Manchester University as a lecturer, writing as ‘T.J.W.’, criticized the book:

In a book with such a title, one would expect to find a full discussion of the problems – educational, social and emotional – of deaf children and adults.  The title, however, is rather misleading, and one finds that two-thirds of the book are devoted to a history of the education of the deaf, and that only the first fifty-five and last sixty-seven pages discuss deafness and its problems.[…]
Mr Hodgson does present what appears to be some new material.  He is not, however, always careful about the accuracy of some of his statements. […]
How far it is justifiable to mix fact with comment is a matter of opinion, but it would be helpful if references were given for some of the statements made. […]
One cannot in fairness end a review of this book without saying that if the reader preserves an open mind, then both the history and the discussion of problems should be read and considered carefully.  The former will help towards a broader view of the present situation, and the latter will provoke thought. (ibid)

Conclusion HodgsonSome might say today that his historical section is possibly the most interesting part of the book.

The note we have says that some pure oralists tried to prevent publication of the book, though it typically and frustratingly offers no source for that statement, something which leads me to wonder if the note is based on information supplied by Hodgson.  The typescript page continues,

professional ostracism made continuance of work with the deaf impossible, and necessitated a return to the “hearing” world of education until a severe heart attack compelled retirement in 1969.  Since then, concerned with the teaching of spiritual philosophy and, with the founding of AMICI (Friends), to assist young people with drug problems.

He died in Surrey in 1983.  I did find a letter by him from 1957 in New Scientist, in which he says “our children remain handicapped and stunted by the arbitrary limitation of their teaching to speech as the only form of language.”

UPDATE: 27/10/2017 *The reference to him said he was a rowing international, and thanks to the comment by his son W. Graham Hodgson below we can now correct that as it was he who was the international rower.  Also thanks to David Reading for the interesting comment on Hodgson’s work in counselling.

If you knew him or have anything to add, please comment.

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 277

George Frankland, Deaf Journalist (1866-1936) “brilliant scholar, deep thinker and one of the finest writers of prose”

H Dominic W Stiles10 June 2016

George Frankland  was born to middle class parents in Liverpool on the 9th of September, 1866 (British Deaf Mute p.290, from which much of this is taken).  The article goes on,

It is not quite clear whether George’s deafness was congenital ; his mother considers it due to falls and shocks to head in infancy.  This, by the way, accounts for his poetic tendencies.  The deafness, however, was only partial.  Consequently, George was treated in most respects as a hearing child – to his sorrow often enough.  He was sent to the ordinary hearing schools, but owing to his infirmity, and the conventional methods of education, learned comparatively little. (ibid)

However he did learn to read at an early age, which led him to writing.

Life became more difficult when his father died in 1881.  George worked for a time for his older brother, as an office boy,  but found the work too little to kindle any interest.  He went to Liverpool School of Art, but “did not distinguish himself”, although he there came into contact with another deaf person for the first time, Mr. J.R. Brown, one of the masters.  John Rowland Brown (1850-1923) had trained under T.M. Lindsay c 1864-67, and later moved to Liverpool where he was an assistant master at the college for 30 years. “Returned to Ght [Graham’s Town] on retirement c. 1902 where he held a one-man exhibition in 1916.”  (p.129, Pictorial Africana by A Gordon-Brown, via Google Books)

In 1884 George came in contact with James Wilson Mackenzie (1865-95), a gifted young deaf artist, some of whose paintings are still to be seen in the Wirral.  He and his brother introduced George to the Liverpool Deaf community.

With money short and his father’s estate tied up in the court of Chancery for may years, and failing to make his way in the world of art, George pursued a literature, learning shorthand, playing the piano to some degree, was supposedly “a genius at the organ” (Fry, 1936), and becoming enthusiastic about chess.  He stayed with his brother, trying to follow his trade as a shoemaker, but again felt he was wasting his time with too little he could do.  When his sister moved to London to study the piano, George studied typewriting “at Miss Day’s, and, through Mr. J.R.K. Toms, whom he met there, came into contact with the London deaf.” (British Deaf Mute, p.291)

He bought a typewriter but did not have the speed for office work.  Poor George seems to have really struggled to find his niche, but he continued to write, and had a safety net of a small income from his father’s property when the estate was settled.  In London he attended St. Saviour’s church, and helped organise the Cricket Club.  Gilby says that in 1894, “It was during this year that our first real Cricket Club secured a ground at Neasden, and George Frankland became its first Secretary.  It ran for several years at Bishop’s Avenue, Finchley.  Many happy afternoons did we spend there while the ladies with my assistance got tea ready and made huge out of it which went towards the rent of the pitch.” (Memoir, p.132-3)

He became a full time reporter for British Deaf Mute and The Church Messenger/Ephphatha from 1893.  In his obituary, M.S. Fry recounts that Frankland was much the quietest of the small group of journalists who worked for Joseph Hepworth on the British Deaf Monthly and The British Deaf Times.  “A brilliant scholar, deep thinker and one of the finest writers of prose, and a most lovable man” (Fry, 1936).

FranklandBritish Deaf Mute, 1896, 5:290-1 (with picture)

Fry, Maxwell S., Obituary: the late Mr George Frankland, British Deaf Times, 1936 vol.33 p.104

Picture, British Deaf Monthly 1896 vol 6, p.36

Please note, I have followed the original article in the B.D.M. fairly closely.  Please chip in with any additional information.