Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thoughts on DeafSide

Sharing my perspective on DeafSide and questions raised for you to share as well.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hearing Parents Can Learn ASL! How?

One of the criticism about ASL as Deaf babies' first language is not made possible because 95% come from hearing parents. Actually, it is possible as long as there are services available. Today, it is slowly growing especially that schools for the Deaf are providing support in giving parents the opportunity to learn ASL and having the mentors visiting their homes. If you study a bit more about the Sweden Model, it has turned into success for both CI and non-CI children. This is what Deaf Bilingual Coalition and other organizations are advocating for- by pushing for more ASL mentors and programs implemented in every local Early Intervention program.

Please allow me to borrow the passage from Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf and change some of the wordings to make it more fitting for United States:

"The goal is to allow families to take advantage of many services in the community which support the bilingual nurturance of their child's development. ASL classes should be made available at schools for the Deaf, Universities (unquote: there has been an increase of 400% offering ASL classes in U.S.) and through technology.

*A qualified Deaf ASL instructor may be hired by the family for personal instruction and paid by the federal government.

*When a family from another country immigrates to United States, English as a second language instruction classes are subsidized by the federal government for both children and adults. They have a right to have English language instruction available to them and to communicate in U.S. with depth and ease. Similarly, parents of a Deaf child whose most accessible language is ASL, have a right to communicate with depth and ease with their child. ASL classes ought to be subsidized for these families.

*Families can contact their local clubs to consider subsidizing ASL classes.

*Families can also hire a Deaf baby-sitter to provide a good language model for their child at a young age and to be a natural role model for the child and his/her family. Families must be sure to check out references as is true for any baby-sitting situation.

*Families are encouraged and welcome to participate in activities that include other Deaf children and Deaf adults. Examples are sports events, parties, ASL storytelling nights, summer camp and the many other Deaf community events.

* Families and residence are also key in providing a literature rich home environment. Access to much ASL Storytelling is critical and can be achieved by borrowing ASL storytelling videotapes from provincial resource services library, and perhaps your local library and purchasing ASL videotapes from Dawn Sign Press, Harris Company, Butte Publication and much more and by going frequently to Deaf community events."

The main problem is that there is a wall between parents of Deaf CI children and the Deaf community. Too often, hearing parents of Deaf children have not gotten to meet a Deaf professional and the community and that they are clueless about what the Deaf community is all about. I am not talking about meeting them at one time but frequently enough to understand the realm of "Deaf Life". I am not blaming the parents for not having these opportunities but the doctors, audiologists, and early interventionists who did not give them this kind of guidance are to be responsible.

As for hearing parents who sign to their Deaf children, I have seen similar resemblance to those who are from Deaf parents. I have seen it happening in some of my classes whose parents are strongly involved in their lives and sign with them. There are parents who have developed ASL fluently as long as there is service in their location that provides tremendous support. The problem today is that there is a lack of ASL therapy services but that will change someday since awareness is highly raised thanks to Deaf Bilingual Coalition, CAEBER, Shared Reading Project from Gallaudet University and people who cared.

Read more on Baby Signs FAQ's.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Please Wake Up Moms and Dads who support AG Bell!

This is a part two series in a response to those commentators who call themselves "a mom" and "another mom" on Deaf Chipmunk's vlog. Portraying AG Bell in a positive light is like trying to sell an used car that has a history of multiple repairs to a buyer who is unaware of the car's problems.

For this mom to claim that "whatever pent-up anger you hold toward your parents (who I doubt were involved in AG Bell, since they never required anyone to do the things you are claiming)..." shows that she is missing the boat. Well, hello, there are thousands and thousands of oral Deaf people who have been affected by AG Bell. They may not require the parents to join but they get to play God in influencing parents and educational programs when parents are vulnerable and so desperately want their Deaf children to talk. AG Bell did not tell them the whole truth and left out relevant information about ASL. It affected my Deaf parents when their parents were told certain things by the schools who were heavily influenced by AG Bell. My mother told her story in her vlog (titled: "Why didn't my parents sign?") about how AG Bell drove the school to adopt an oral-only philosophy and how my grandparents trusted the misleading advice. My grandparents were the ones who were angry (not just my mother) for being misled by the likes of AG Bell and they wished they were taught how to sign.

These "moms" who are making an assumption that AG Bell is not involved need to listen more to the Deaf people who were brought up under the oral method, and their parents, and stop talking just for once--just long enough to learn something. Go and read "The Telephone Gambit" by Seth Shulman, which is the most powerful book that explains how Bell stole the patent from a rival, Elisha Gray.(see msn webpage). Even in June 2002, The U.S. House of Representatives passed a symbolic bill officially recognizing Meucci for his contributions to the invention of the telephone. Also check out "Chasing Aleck: The Story of a Dorm" by Rebecca Edwards and the the Deaf Heritage book by Jack Gannon.

"A mom" said, "Dr. Bell never recommended or endorsed anything akin to Hitler’s tactics. He was simply a forerunner of today’s genetics research. He was not in contact or friends with Hitler." may not be exactly 100% correct. AG Bell's attitudes may border on Nazism. He was recklessly arrogant to say the very least. Please allow me to introduce this source that says:

"Along with many very prominent thinkers and scientists of the time, Bell was connected with the eugenics movement in the United States. From 1912 until 1918 he was the chairman of the board of scientific advisors to the Eugenics Record Office associated with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, and regularly attended meetings. In 1921 he was the honorary president of the Second International Congress of Eugenics held under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Organizations such as these advocated passing laws (with success in some states) that established the compulsory sterilization of people deemed to be, as Bell called them, a 'defective variety of the human race.' By the late 1930s about half the states in the US had eugenics laws, the California laws being used as a model for eugenics laws in Nazi Germany."

Bell called the Deaf a "defective variety of the human race"! So Moms, how could you support an organization that represents this degrading perspective--a view which is intended to apply to your own Deaf child(ren)?

As for "a mom's" statement about how "All the 'up to date' scientists of his time were reading and involved in eugenics, including the founder of today’s Planned Parenthood and many other famous people from that era." Yes, that founder was Margaret Sanger but she advocated for a woman's choice to decide how and when, if ever, she will bear children. She wrote:

"We maintain that a woman possessing an adequate knowledge of her reproductive functions is the best judge of the time and conditions under which her child should be brought into the world. We further maintain that it is her right, regardless of all other considerations, to determine whether she shall bear children or not, and how many children she shall bear if she chooses to become a mother....[18]"

So, Margaret Sanger was a part of Eugenics movement but the main difference between her and AG Bell was that she advocated for women's choice whereas AG Bell wanted to force sterilization upon Deaf people. He was targeting a certain group, or race, as he put at it. Imagine that you are supporting an organization that wishes to ban having your own grandchildren! I know that is all in the past but the name AG Bell still remains as an organization that represents AG Bell and his ideology. Who would want to support this so-called organization that carries such obnoxious history of AG Bell anyway?

Now, "a mom " also said, "Bell, who opposed residential schools and was a very kindly man in so many ways. His ideas that deaf kids and adults could operate fully in society, marry hearing people, and live amongst everyone is not shocking, nor is it evil." Oh golly, you've got it all twisted around! A kindly man? The point is that AG Bell wanted to prohibit marriage between Deaf people! It doesn't make sense for you to put a rosy interpretation on this and claim that he was simply advocating that deaf people marry hearing people. In this document, Bell was concerned that "deaf persons, especially those attending special schools and using sign language, have a strong tendency to marry other deaf persons due to their restricted social circle, he even suggests that some sort of legislation may be needed to prevent such marriages, wished to prohibit deaf teachers from being allowed to teach in schools for the deaf. His goal was to eradicate the language and culture of the deaf so as to force them to integrate into the hearing culture for their own long-term benefit and for the benefit of society at large. " This attitude of his is widely seen as being paternalistic and arrogant!

I happen to be a Deaf teacher and I have seen so often how students benefit greatly from teachers, mostly Deaf, who are fluent ASL signers. I helped many, I mean many, students passed their Regents in Social Studies exam which includes multiple choices and essay portions. Social Studies is always one of the most difficult parts of the Regents test to pass because of difficult reading materials including documents and writing the essays. When I have Deaf students coming in for tutoring, it is mostly guaranteed that I will be able to help them to pass to test. Imagine if your Deaf child wanted to be a teacher? How could you possibly support the AG Bell organization when Alexander Graham Bell proposed to prohibit Deaf people from becoming teachers?

Please wake up, moms and dads of Deaf children who support AG Bell!

See Part One, click here.