The belief in an oral education for the deaf guided the school's founding and curriculum until the late 1970s. In the last half of the twentieth century, there has been strong debate about the benefits of an oral education versus a manual one. Oralism seeks to integrate deaf students within the mainstream hearing culture by developing their abilities to communicate with and understand hearing individuals. Manualism, or sign language, offers an alternative means of communication that is not commonly known to hearing individuals, but that is central to the cultural identity of the deaf community. An oral education alone can isolate a student from the deaf community, just as a manual education alone can isolate a student from the hearing world. The benefits of a combined approach are that students can communicate with and be a part of both worlds.