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All my best,
~ A Deaf Pundit
This blog has moved to a new domain: http://thedeafedge.org
Be sure to update your bookmark and RSS feeds!
All my best,
~ A Deaf Pundit
Barry Strassler, the owner of DeafDigest, an email newsletter, is notorious for adding people to his email newsletter against their will. He has been doing this for years, and there are multitudes of people who have complained about his conduct. In fact, FakeDeafDigest on Twitter (likely a victim of the DeafDigest spam) mocks the email newsletter because of this.
I personally have attempted to unsubscribe repeatedly via two ways: clicking on the unsubscribe link in his emails, and contacting him personally to remove me. All unsubscribing attempts have failed.
Therefore, I have now taken the step of contacting all of his advertisers and requested that they cease their sponsorship of DeafDigest. I strongly encourage all of you to do the same. Spam is unacceptable and you do not sign up people to email lists without their permission!
DeafDigest’s advertisers are:
Please take the time to contact these companies and request they cease their sponsorship of the spam email newsletter, DeafDigest.
Yesterday afternoon, incredible events unfolded in my city, Grand Rapids, Michigan. A man went on an unprecedented murderous rampage, shooting and killing 7 people. After murdering these 7 individuals, he fled by car and at one point, had over 20 police cars and a helicopter pursuing him on the major highways. After his car was no longer drivable, (after his tires were blown and crashing into several police cars), the gunman ended up fleeing on foot and broke into a home. He subsequently took 3 individuals inside, hostage. One hostage was freed during negotiations. The standoff ended several hours later, near midnight, where he committed suicide. All of the remaining hostages were able to safely evacuate afterwards.
I was first alerted by this when I was emailed by the local television station with the headline, “Breaking News!” … I turned on the television to watch this situation, but captions were spotty in the beginning, and the media was being kept at a distance throughout the crisis. So there wasn’t very much information being shared, and this was all happening just over a couple of miles away from me.
Hoping to get more information on this unfolding situation, I hopped on Twitter and Facebook. One friend on Facebook both had a police scanner and lived a couple of houses over from where the gunman was holding the 3 hostages. Another friend on Twitter was retweeting one of his friend’s police scanner updates.
As a Deaf person, I was not able to follow the police scanner and keep closely apprised on this situation. I deeply appreciated the fact that Twitter and Facebook were there for me because if not for these two sites, I would not have been able to also keep my local Deaf friends and I updated as quickly on the situation. Not only were the captions spotty in the beginning, but throughout the entire crisis, the media was approximately 5-10 minutes behind. This could have been dangerous in some instances because multiple roads, highways, and even some businesses were shut down and barricaded.
Twitter (and Facebook to some extent), in emergency situations such as this, truly served as a radio for us Deaf. In my opinion, every deaf person should get a Twitter account for one reason – to keep abreast as much as possible when emergency situations arise. The only drawback to this scenario is that you have to be following the right people on Twitter in order to keep updated, which can be sometimes difficult to predict in advance.
But it worked out well in my case. Not only was I able to keep my local Deaf friends apprised, but also for several hours I was being the central news source on this crisis, for my entire network on Twitter. Social media for the win!
Today, if one asked the average hearing person how they would picture a deaf person, odds are they would either think of the elderly, Marlee Matlin, or a baby with cochlear implants. It is very likely that they would not picture a regular, everyday person who speaks American Sign Language [ASL]. And it is also probable, prior to Marlee Matlin and cochlear implants, that they would have pictured one much like the photo shown here.
It is an incontrovertible truth that for the majority, the concept of deafness centers upon the ear and one’s ability to articulate speech well. It is also a given for the majority, that being deaf is unacceptable. It is this very concept that has sparked a 130+ year long ideological and pedagogical war, (infamously kicked off at the 1880 Milan Conference), that continues to this day.
However, there are some who claim that this war does not truly exist today. They deny that there is an active opposition of ASL, nor a concerted effort to eliminate it and other signed languages from the field of Deaf Education and elsewhere. A few even claim that while favoring the majority’s concept of deafness, they accept & support ASL for others. They also make heavy insinuations and sometimes, outright claims, that there is merely a one-sided war, coming from the signing Deaf Community. They accuse us of being in denial about the “miracle” of technological advancements, and today’s and the future realities of educating deaf and hard of hearing children.
All of these claims have been used in response in the wake of outcries over recent events in Deaf Education, and particularly to the protests over the recent Indiana School of the Deaf board appointments.
The AG Bell Association and the LSL Doctrine
Now, before we even begin to address these claims, it is important to understand precisely what the controversial 3 ISD board members stand for. They are members of Hear Indiana, a state chapter of the AG Bell Association. The national organization is the namesake of Alexander Graham Bell, a man who advocated for the sterilization of the deaf, and for a ban on deaf inter-marriages. And, last but not least, he is the one who spearheaded the elimination of ASL from the field of deaf education in the United States, in the aftermath of the 1880 Milan Conference.
Clearly, today the AG Bell Assoc. and its chapters no longer advocates for these two former ideals, since they are held to be in violation of human rights. However, it should be noted that to this day, the AG Bell Association and its chapters have not denounced nor disavowed these ideals held by this man.
And still to this day, these organizations uphold the doctrine that speech is superior to signed languages, in educating the deaf. This doctrine is best known today as the Listening and Spoken Language [LSL] philosophy. [Note: this was formerly known as the Audio-Verbal Therapy (AVT)]. AG Bell Assoc. and its chapters clearly and openly support and promote the LSL doctrine, as evidenced here on their ‘For Parents’ section. On that page, AG Bell offers a link for parents to find a local Listening and Spoken Language Specialist. The AG Bell Assoc. is also hosting a LSL symposium July 21-23, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
So what exactly is the Listening and Spoken Language doctrine? A synopsis of this doctrine is provided here:
“It is truly integrating hearing into the child’s personality so that the child becomes assimilated into our community. It is both embracing and fostering a lifestyle that enables children, in spite of their deafness, to achieve their rightful places in our society. It is a means by which children with significant hearing loss are taught how to hear, how to listen, how to understand the language of their normally hearing parents, and how to effectively speak that same language.”
It is clear from this description that LSL proponents reject signed languages and a positive identity of a Deaf person. After all, signed languages do not conform to the concept of assimilating into the hearing community. Nor does signed languages help with the “integrating hearing into the child’s personality.” But that’s not all what their doctrine encompasses. On the very same website, it proclaims the following:
“Today, there is no need for our children to be deaf. Today, with all the hearing technology available to us, implementing the Auditory Verbal Approach should be the first option for our children.”
It cannot be overstated how integral technological advancements i.e., hearing aids and cochlear implants, are to the LSL doctrine. And so, this is what the 3 recent ISD board appointees stand for. This doesn’t appear to be very accepting of ASL and a positive identity of a Deaf person, does it?
Today’s and the Future’s Realities on Educating the Deaf
This now leads us into the matter of the accusations made against us Deaf Community members of being in denial about today’s and the future realities of Deaf Education.
So, let’s look at some statistics regarding today’s reality in Deaf Education. It’s reported that as of April 2009, approximately 25,500 children in the country have cochlear implants.
Now, there is a specific claim regarding cochlear implants, where it is said that “profoundly deaf kids can hear and discriminate all the sounds of spoken language.” It is true for some – it is undeniable that for some profoundly deaf children, the cochlear implant does succeed in this regard.
However, if this claim was universally true, then the CI surgeons wouldn’t have a problem guaranteeing this for all who receive it. But that does not happen. Why? Because just like any other surgery, there are going to be variables in the results. This Medical Today News article indirectly acknowledges that reality. And if the CI was universally successful in this regard, then the majority of the implanted children would not be receiving special education services under IDEA. But the majority still are today.
Onwards to deaf education itself, it is reported that 52% of the deaf and hard of hearing children are taught via the speech only method. This conversely means that 46% of the deaf and hard of hearing children use signed languages and/or sign systems.
Interestingly enough, the educational environment statistic conflicts with LSL proponents’ claim that 89% of the deaf and hard of hearing children do not use signed languages or sign systems. This claim has been one method, out of several methods, in convincing naïve parents that it isn’t worth using signed languages with their deaf children.
Another method in convincing the naïve parents to favor the LSL doctrine is the argument that the State Schools of the Deaf do not perform very well on testing scores, therefore ASL must not be very good in educating deaf and hard of hearing children.
They ignore experts in the Deaf Education field, such as the superintendent of ISD’s letter to the Indy Star, citing the reason for the drag on testing scores as the result of “parents who chose only a spoken-English approach and then waited until their child failed to show progress before introducing a visual language forces a school like ISD to play catch-up.”
That is today’s reality in Deaf Education and has been for the last several decades. Same song, different verse. Why would it change anytime soon? And still, even in the face of these facts, they want us to believe their claims that technological feats will conquer all, that they accept ASL and do not actively oppose the language?
An Ideological & Pedagogical War Today – Yes or No?
Given all of this, it stands to reason that yes, indeed, the ideological & pedagogical war is still raging on today in Deaf Education. Just because the war is fought differently today, does not mean it no longer exists.
However, I must confess that I did not fully appreciate just how differently, until all of this happened. As I read up on the recent events in Deaf Education, more and more disturbing questions arose.
Such as why did the Hear Indiana executive director make this statement to the media, “… Hear Indiana does not want to eliminate sign language, she said. But ISD receives an inordinate amount of state support, Horton said, noting that it receives $18 million from the state to teach sign language to almost 350 students.”? (Source:
This statement at first puzzled me. If I were in the shoes of the Hear Indiana executive director, my response to the media would have been: “We have had no hand in the new appointments to the ISD board. Our focus is on informing and advocating for our educational philosophy. We only involve ourselves very superficially with other entities that do not share our views.”
It is highly probable that this response would’ve been well received in the media, and it has the additional bonus of not really giving the Deaf Community anything to pounce upon. It was only when I went back and looked at a PDF by Hear USA that was written several years ago, that the pieces clicked together for me.
Hear Indiana did have a hand in the selection of the new ISD board appointees. The organization knows, from witnessing the recent entanglements of the Deaf Community with like-minded organizations, to only deny when they can get away with it.
And when Hear Indiana says they do not want to eliminate sign language, they mean they aren’t going to enter the schools and outright throw out signed languages.
After all, the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf formally rejected the resolutions of the 1880 Milan Conference. And then, there’s the sticky matter of the high probability of successful lawsuits being brought against them. Parental choices reign in the matter of education, and they have the legal right to use signed language in the instruction of their deaf children.
No, they aren’t going to outright eliminate ASL. You see, in the Hear USA PDF that was passed onto me, the last page had a list of questions that they wanted to explore. “What would it mean to conquer deafness?”
“What would businesses and institutions have to do?”
“What would be the costs?”
“Who will pay for it?”
“How would the market for implants, hearing aids, and audiology and otology services grow?”
“What and how rapid would be the impact on Gallaudet University and schools and centers for the deaf?”
“What would happen to American Sign Language and Deaf Culture?” …
And in a side box, they hypothesize that in 2010 this would happen:
Gallaudet University receives Congressional approval to expand enrollment of non-US students to 80 percent, in stages, between 2010 and 2020, so that Gallaudet can serve students from countries where hearing aids and cochlear implants are not available to the bulk of the population. This shift compensates for the declining enrollment of US students due to newborn screenings and intervention via hearing aids or implants. The legislation expands the Washington campus and deploys faculty and graduates to create campuses in Africa, Latin America, China, India and Eastern Europe; and funds Gallaudet through the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development.
Obviously, this hasn’t happened yet. But it does hint extremely well at their plans for the State Schools of the Deaf and elsewhere. We only need to look at the Utah School of the Deaf for what they will attempt nationally. In the name of budget woes, they will attempt, and already successfully did at USDB, to put ALL deaf children in one school, even with differing educational doctrines.
One administrator leading a school where you have a set of parents who want their children to be immersed in a bilingual environment, and another set of parents who want their children to only use English. Only in Deaf Education would this be acceptable.
This is a war of attrition, in where the majority surrounds the minority, and leads to fighting over resources and money, until the minority is ultimately defeated through sheer numbers.
Indeed… the Hear USA PDF names their plan very aptly. And that plan is called
Death of Deafness
“Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” – Morpheus, The Matrix
This quote was in response to Neo declaring he didn’t believe in fate because he didn’t like the idea of not being in control of his life. As deaf human beings, some of us have that splinter in our minds. But what is it, exactly?
*leans in close and whispers* That splinter in our minds is … audism.
The flawed schema and social construct imposed upon us by human beings who share the notion that deaf human beings are not equal to hearing human beings, and thus are treated accordingly.
Flawed schemata are essentially known as stereotypes and they are generally defined as “unreliable, exaggerated generalizations about all members of a group that do not take individual differences into account” (pg. 18, Schaefer). Keep in mind stereotypes can be both positive and negative. What we term as a negative stereotype is called a prejudice. *looks back and forth at audism and prejudice, then nods*
By acting upon our prejudices, this leads to what is called discrimination. “The behavior that deprives individuals and a group of certain rights and/or opportunities because of prejudice or for other arbitrary reasons” (pg 41, Schaefer). This can be on an individual basis, or on a collective basis.
When enough people share a schema, this turns into a social construct, which is necessary for a culture to exist. Let me break it down even further: individual thoughts can lead to collective thoughts, which in turn becomes part of a culture. And since thought typically leads to behavior, this means members of a culture will behave similarly.
Generally, this isn’t bad but it can lead to problems, like Morpheus explains in the first film, “The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”
In short, it’s a feedback loop. Audism → institutionalized audism → internalized audism.
And if one resists the attempt to internalize audism and it in general, they become like Trinity, Morpheus and the others in the Matrix movies. The freedom fighters for the deaf people, to destroy the idea that deaf are inferior to the hearing. But just how do we destroy audism, and how do we become like Neo, the best freedom fighter of them all?
One key aspect of what made Neo the way he was, is that he understood the Matrix so well that he was able to look at a program and understand how it was constructed. Trinity, Morpheus and the others could do this, but only up to a point. But what made him able to understand the Matrix so well? The first answer is that he knew the programming language of the Matrix. Remember, he was one of the best hackers out there, and that is one of the main reasons why Morpheus contacted him. But despite being one of the best hackers out there, he still struggled to discover the full extent of his abilities.
A main portion of the film is us watching Neo discover the extent of his abilities, and starting to truly believe in himself. There are extraordinary moments where we catch glimpses of his abilities, such as the now infamous bullet-time sequence on the helicopter pad when he goes to rescue Morpheus. But it wasn’t until the end of the first film that Neo was finally able to do this.
In other words, Neo self-actualized. The brief definition of self-actualization is to fully realizeyour potential, as I mentioned in my first blog post, but this doesn’t give a full picture of the concept. So, let’s look at Maslow’s concept of self-actualization – see right for the image of the pyramid showing the hierarchy of needs. Two things happened nearly simultaneously for Neo at the end of the film. He finally believed in himself, therefore gaining the needed self-esteem, and found love and belonging when Trinity told him that she loved him.
When this happened, it led to several things – instead of denying the truth, he accepted it and ultimately, himself. Neo also stopped his prejudices from controlling him. This is significant, because he serves as an example of how even among the best of us, we can and do hold prejudices against our oppressors, and that is one major reason of what holds us back.
*leans in close and whispers with a nod* Reverse audism.
Mahatma Gandhi understood this, and this is what he meant when he declared that we had to be the change we wished to see in the world.
Now, the problem of reverse audism is also compounded by what I call reverse horizontal audism, and this is also illustrated well in the last two films of the Matrix Trilogy. In the Matrix Reloaded film, we meet Commander Lock, who is a natural born – born in Zion, the last bastion of free humans, therefore he does not have a jack in the back of his head. Lock doesn’t understand the Matrix as well as those who were born into the Matrix. He’s also quite prejudiced against Morpheus and his allies because of two main reasons: Morpheus is not natural born like Lock is, and Morpheus repeatedly flouts Zion’s rules.
*looks around innocently* I don’t know about you, but this sure does seem familiar….
Fortunately, there are wiser heads who prevail and allows Morpheus and Neo to proceed on their mission, overruling Commander Lock’s objections and wishes to take the fight completely outside of the Matrix. Because of this, ultimately, Neo and the artificial intelligence reach somewhat of a truce, because Neo’s arch-nemesis, Agent Smith (which is what we could consider to be institutional audism) is such on a rampage that he threatens to take down both the artificial intelligence and the humans. So, Neo successfully takes down Agent Smith, and both intelligences live in somewhat of a peaceful co-existence afterwards.
They finally came to the realization that neither one could exist without the other.
So what does this mean for us? *puts on sunglasses* I think it means you have to know thyself, and of course …
Acknowledgments: I wish to thank MishkaZena and Amy Cohen Efron for the countless hours of dialectic explorations into Deaf Culture, American Sign Language, the psychology of oppression, and Deafhood. And of course, I wish to thank all of the commenters who stop by my blog, especially those who respectfully disagree with me, thereby forcing me to understand my principles and point of views better. This would not have been possible without you. 🙂
Racial & Ethnic Groups, 11th Ed. Richard Schaefer, DePaul University. 2008.
The Matrix, 1999.
The Matrix Reloaded, 2003.
The Matrix Revolutions, 2003.
Wikipedia: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
For those who haven’t taken the red pill yet, please see my previous blog post in this blog series. Caution: this blog post is heavily technical, but I feel it’s necessary to understand my following posts. The next blog posts will be in layman terms, I promise!
Audism as defined by Dr. Tom Humphries is “the notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears.”
As all other words, audism has also evolved in its definition, to reflect the institutionalization of audism. Dr. Harlan Lane wrote, “..the corporate institution for dealing with deaf people, dealing with them by making statements about them, authorizing views of them, describing them, teaching about them, governing where they go to school and, in some cases, where they live; in short, audism is the hearing way of dominating, restructuring, and exercising authority over the deaf community. It includes such professional people as administrators of schools for deaf children and of training programs for deaf adults, interpreters, and some audiologists, speech therapists, otologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, librarians, researchers, social workers, and hearing aid specialists.”
I personally believe that both definitions are accurate, and I will try to prove to you how these definitions are accurate. I am also going to put forth the radical proposition that audism is a product of the Matrix, but it also has become part of the Matrix. Not only that, but there’s more than one Matrix!
Call me crazy, but let’s look at the premises and see if enough of us can agree on these premises or not. So, what is the Matrix? Unfortunately, at this current stage of our human evolution, we cannot directly see the Matrix. But we can indirectly by stepping outside of ourselves, and looking within. More specifically, looking within our minds.
Our minds are poorly understood, but that doesn’t mean it’s not understood at all. There’s a process of our minds that is called schema (schemata is the plural), and that processing helps us collect and organize our knowledge so we can retrieve it later on. I quote from the linked wiki: Schemata are an effective tool for understanding the world. Through the use of schemata, most everyday situations do not require effortful processing— automatic processing is all that is required. People can quickly organize new perceptions into schemata and act effectively without effort. For example, most people have a stairway schema and can apply it to climb staircases they’ve never seen before.
Now, since we human beings are imperfect, our schemata is as well. Without adequate information and knowledge, our schemata takes shortcuts and lumps information into categories, without making any further distinctions, and/or making sub-categories. This is a key way of how stereotypes and prejudices come to be. Every single human being has biases and stereotypes. If they tell you that they don’t, they’re lying.
There is another factor in how our minds work, and that is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, also known as the Linguistic Relativity Principle. The basic concept of this theory is that our languages influence our thoughts and behavior. Hence, a person who uses English will think and behave differently than someone who uses Spanish, etc. To what extent language influences our thoughts and behavior is questioned, but nowadays academics agree it does have some effect.
This ties in well with the concept of schemata and I believe this article from Newsweek provides the perfect illustration of this: In Australia, the Aboriginal Kuuk Thaayorre use compass directions for every spatial cue rather than right or left, leading to locutions such as “there is an ant on your southeast leg.” The Kuuk Thaayorre are also much more skillful than English speakers at dead reckoning, even in unfamiliar surroundings or strange buildings. Their language “equips them to perform navigational feats once thought beyond human capabilities,” Boroditsky wrote on Edge.org.
If we have the proper words for something, a concept or an object, we understand it better and are able to react accordingly. This answers the question that was raised on the v/blogs of why the word audism should be used instead of merely using the words discrimination or oppression. Once we have a word for a specific kind of discrimination, the better we can start understanding it, therefore being better able to work around our faulty schemata that causes us to have biases and stereotypes.
Now, obviously language is not individualistic. It is a driving force of a culture, as a matter of fact. This leads to the theory of social constructionism. From Wikipedia: A social construction (social construct) is a concept or practice that is the creation (or artifact) of a particular group. … Social constructs are generally understood to be the by-products of countless human choices rather than laws resulting from divine will or nature.
A major focus of social constructionism is to uncover the ways in which individuals and groups participate in the creation of their perceived social reality. It involves looking at the ways social phenomena are created, institutionalized, and made into tradition by humans. Socially constructed reality is seen as an ongoing, dynamic process; reality is reproduced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it.
So what does all of this mean? It means, my dear friends, essentially as Walt Kelly said in his comic strip, Pogo, “We have met the enemy … and he is us.”
We are prisoners of our own creation, the Matrixes.
In the next post, all of this is broken down in layman terms, and the issue of horizontal and reverse audism is addressed, in addition to my theory of how to free yourself from the Matrixes.