Saturday, October 07, 2006

Deaf Students Take Over College Building

My thoughts on this are somewhat jumbled. I admit I've never understood this whole "deaf culture" thing, and in fact the deaf often seem to have a real chip on their shoulder regarding those of us who can hear.

I used to live on a Gallaudet Drive (although not in DC), across the street from a school for the deaf. A close friend was learning sign language and volunteered to help the students at the school--field trips, things like that. He said it was brutal what those students would try to get away with regarding those who weren't fluent in ASL.

I've read about deaf parents not wanting their children to have cochlear implants (or other technologies) because hearing would take the child out of "deaf culture". I know they value their culture, but they shouldn't be surprised when the rest of us view their condition as a disability. That doesn't make them terrible people, it just means that they can't do something most people on the planet can do--they can't hear. To deprive a child of hearing because of your culture--well, seems selfish to me. I certainly wouldn't entertain having government force them to accede to the surgery, but neither do I celebrate their decision not to allow it.

So back to the story. These deaf students took over a college building because they don't like the fact that the new university president isn't "deaf enough". She didn't learn ASL until her 20s and they don't consider her fluent in the language. Apparently, only someone who's been steeped in the deaf culture since birth can effectively run this university.

These particular students are showing exactly the type of intolerance that I bet they accuse the hearing world of showing towards them.

1 comment:

EllenK said...

My daughter, a dance and kineseology major with a minor in anatomy and physiology, is taking ASL as her foreign language. It's history is very interesting and it's view of Bell, who I always thought of as somewhat of a hero, is totally different than most people's. I understand to a certain degree the wanting to be part of a culture in which you aren't considered abnormal. What I don't understand is wanting other people or your children deprived of the possibility of expanding their opportunities by denying implants. I doubt you would have many blind people say that they didn't want their children to see, or paraplegics that would deny their children a chance to walk and run, so it's a little off putting and aggressive that the deaf community would judge someone simply because they hadn't used ASL from birth. Would it be considered equitable to deny a college professor tenure if they didn't speak English from birth? And this gets back to the whole crux of the matter-does a teacher have to exhibit the same characteristics as the student in order to be successful? There are proponents who will only place African Americans in predominantly African American schools. And the Dallas ISD is hiring teachers from outside the country to teach Hispanic children, even though there are currently experienced and successful teachers in place.
This goes further in our culture with adoption. There are people, most notably the native American tribes, who would rather a child stay in the limbo of foster care than be adopted by a non native American family. Culture is one thing, but to deny a child a chance to be loved, cared for and educated based on political views is cruel.