While teaching, my students and I discussed the framework of ideology created by hearing white men. We also talked about how embodiments truly molded our beliefs and values. In other words, how we see the world is based on what we believe to be true. In a nutshell, if you’re born black, woman, crippled and gay, you have four strikes against you because you do not fit the framework set up by hearing white men. It is easy to declare that we will change the world only to find it very difficult to follow through the existing oppression.
No matter how much we may try to argue, we will never be able to dismiss the power of voice. The ability to hear and speak is the way of life for almost everyone. With that belief embedded in the framework, deaf people will never be perceived as equal, fully human even if our language helps their babies learn how to communicate at an early age. They will always think we need to be corrected so we can be “more human” or be “normal.” As we always ask the question, “What does ‘normal’ mean anyway?”
As a teacher, I am finally seeing the products from the cochlear implant industry. Ever since I was a child, I knew there were some children who received implants, but I did not thought much about the impact on them until now. Most of them have weak English skills yet they still struggle to understand ASL. It breaks my heart. If their cognitive growth is limited, how can they discuss the meaning of life with their peers and family? Are they able to process innovative ideas and feel as if they are able to lead by example?
How can they live up to their own abilities and expectations if they are never given the appropriate tool in the first place?
Thank you, General Studies Program at Gallaudet University for inviting me to give a presentation about ASL Literature.
This presentation is based on a research about successful bilinguals.
I created this for my class. It was fun doing this!
The purpose of this research is to eradicate any misconception about babies with hearing loss should not learn sign language because it will hinder their ability to speak, read and write.
There are research that show an early stage of sign language acquisition boost cognitive, spatial and visual aspects of brain.
This video is a visual evidence.
Thank you for watching!
The Department of ASL and Deaf Studies hosted an award competition based on the best video application submitted, and I was one of three winners for this competition. The award included full sponsorship of my entrance fees at Deaf Youth USA (DYUSA) camp in Philadelphia during the summer of 2009. I attended this very exciting and innovative camp for Deaf Youth, and was inspired to produce a short documentary film about DYUSA so people can get a glimpse of what DYUSA is all about.
Before reading this and learning all about the transition from Total Communication philosophy to Bilingual and Bicultural philosophy, I always thought The Learning Center (TLC) was ahead of their time because they were the first school that was bold enough to establish Bilingual and Bicultural (bi/bi) program in 1970s. Apparently, I’m very wrong. It is way overdue. In The Learning Center for Deaf Children: The Transition from a Total Communication School to a Bilingual/Bicultural School, Marie Jean Philip shared her experiences as a Bilingual/Bicultural Coordinator at TLC. She shared that from the beginning, she always wanted to be a teacher to young children. She was refused admittance to graduate schools because she is Deaf. In fact, she was not accepted to 40 graduate schools including Gallaudet University in 1973. I find this odd, because three years before, Bilingual and Bicultural philosophy were introduced at TLC. In fact, the philosophy has been around for a long time. It has been around when Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc journeyed from Europe to North America. The bilingual concept is still controversial in this country, especially with Spanish speakers. This does not make any sense to me.
The mass paranoia of other languages taking over this country have influenced past and current medical officials and school administrators to create specific policies and one of them is the “least restrictive environment” which is very restrictive. I cannot imagine living in such environment, and unfortunately, I think most of my classmates grew up in that environment. So much of damage have been done in the Deaf community, especially with their self-esteems. In fact, it is common to see Deaf children believing hearing people were smarter and better. Even this happened to Marie Jean Philip once. She was encouraged to teach American Sign Language (ASL) to hearing people at a university and she felt, “how could I, a Deaf person, teach hearing people who were better educated than I.”[i] Fast forward to today from 1980s, at the unveiling of Gallaudet Renaissance, Ryan Commerson shared a story about his experiences as he worked at Michigan School for the Deaf as a teacher. He worked with third graders and they thought Ryan to be hearing. He said, “At first, I felt insulted. Did it mean I signed like hearing people? So, I decided to ask them why they made that assumption.” A student said, “You know things.” That moment I finally understood why media is very important.
Despite what Marie Jean Philips once thought about herself, her ideology changed over time as she became more empowered and active with TLC. She shared a story about parents and their anguish as they learned that practicing SimCom is a mistake. Many parents were angry with TLC, because all of their efforts turned into wasted efforts. “Parents were appalled at many wasted years in which they struggled to learn SimCom and at their Deaf children’s faulty education.”[ii] TLC took time to apologize to parents and provided another solution which is using ASL. That definitely took a lot of courage, especially from the administrators.
Marie Jean Philips explained how she planned to prevent this from happening again to other families at TLC. With a team, she created objectives and one of them is to add a grade level to its bi/bi program each year until the program is completed. This ranged from a parent-infant program through 12th grade.[iii] In fact, she and her team created a list of desired qualities for “top” graduates such as the ability to read at the 12th grade level, knowledge and mastery of both ASL and English, and high self-esteem.[iv] Mary Jean Philips also added the importance of ASL in a Deaf educational setting but the importance of ASL literature is often overlooked. ASL literature is important because Deaf students need to be able to express themselves in ASL, to tell stories and poems, before s/he learns how to read and write in English as their second language.
This is no brainer. Yet, for years and years, Spoken English and written English are still the first languages for everyone to learn. Therefore, Deaf students who want to use ASL continue to be treated as second class citizens in academic environment. This is still in practice, especially at Gallaudet University. In fact, few of us are making plans right now. How could we not? A plenty of us fell in love with Gallaudet Renaissance.
[i]Philips, M. The Learning Center for Deaf Children: The Transition from a Total Communication School to a Bilingual/Bicultural School, 2.