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Why Deaf Culture Should Gain More Recognition


Geoffrey Smith
English 102
Stephanie Olson
11/20/2016

Why Deaf Culture Should Gain More Recognition

When I was a year and a half old my brother was born and born deaf. I grew up learning a type of sign language that has since evolved into what we know as American Sign Language. Through the years I have come to understand and appreciate deaf culture and the community that surrounds it. Deaf culture is an important part of American history and should no longer be oppressed, suffer from audism, or go unrecognized. The culture has evolved over the years and continues to evolve along with its language, American Sign Language. In many ways Deaf culture is similar to other cultures especially those cultures of color. Throughout history, Deaf people, just like African Americans, were oppressed, suppressed, and segregated. Deaf people too were also put in different school called "Deaf and Dumb" schools, away from the general public. This culture and people continue to fight for justice and rights to this day and throughout its history. What is Deaf culture some may ask? To Mark Drolsbaugh, ""It can be defined, but it's best to experience its essence so that you intrinsically "get it."" (Drolsbaugh) So to grasp a better understanding of Deaf people and the culture that is a part of each deaf individual we must first know where it all began.

There has been century long struggles of discrimination towards deaf people dating all the back to 1000 B.C. when Hebrew law denies Deaf rights. Other recorder right that were taken away from Deaf people were "Does not allow the Deaf to participate fully in the rituals of the Temple. Special laws concerning marriage and property were established for deaf-mutes. Property Rights were denied to Deaf-mutes. Deaf-mutes were not allowed to be witnesses in the courts."(Hunter) This treatment of deaf people continued on throughout the years including the times of Plato who thought that deaf people were incapable of ideas or language because without speech, there was no outward sign of language. Aristotle thought that deaf people could not learn without their hearing. Then in 345-550 A.D., St. Augustine tells early Christians that hard of hearing and deaf kids are an indication of God's outrage at the wrongdoings of their folks. In the interim, Benedictine ministers take promises of silence to better respect God. To convey essential data, they build up their own type of gesture based communication. Later from 476 - 1453 in the middle ages we find that people believed that Deaf "People born deaf could not have faith, could not be saved and were barred from churches" (Hunter) This unwillingness to work with or to understand what it meant to be deaf, and the oppression that came with this unwillingness continued on in the same manner up until American colonial times when a shift happened and treatment and rights slowly started to change in favor of helping the Deaf.

"Martha's Vineyard became one of the earliest stable communities for the hearing and Deaf in America." (Savitt) Although segregated from the hearing world, the Deaf were able create a signed language, get married, start families, voted, held public office, and were equals. They later adopted FSL or French Sign Language and transformed it into what is now ASL American Sign Language. Today there are still signs in ASL that show a FSL influence. During this time in 1817, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet founded the first school for the Deaf and called it Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons which is now Gallaudet University. Deaf schools continued to pop up across the east coast follow suit. Including, 1818 New York School for the Deaf, 1820 Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, 1823 Kentucky School for the Deaf, 1829 Ohio School for the Deaf and, 1839 Virginia School for the Deaf. The rise of the schools for the deaf and others led to what is considered the ""Golden Ages of Deaf Education"" (Hunter).

Although the oppression of deaf people still existed the next 150 years fought to equalize their status in society. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to sign a charter that recognized Gallaudet as an accredited college that could now offer degrees. This era was an historical part to Deaf culture and their fight for the same basic freedoms as what most of may take for granted today. There were quite a few important figure heads that helped to shape deaf culture and give it its interesting history. One of those people is Helen Keller. She is most famous as probably being one of the first known deaf-blind individual to receive an education. Helen Keller went on to obtain a bachelor of arts degree later in her life. Anne Sullivan, the instructor of Helen Keller, lost her eyesight at the age of five but went on to gain her education and began to teach Helen Keller at the age of 20. Another famous figure of deaf culture is Alexander Graham Bell. Alexander Graham Bell began his career as a deaf educator and went on to invent the telephone by accident, when attempting to create a hearing device for deaf people. Mr. Bell however did not go through his career without his own oppression on deaf people. Also know as the father of oralism Bell encouraged a more oral approach when educating the deaf and discouraged sign language. He thought the use of a signed language would isolate deaf people from the rest of society and further promote marriages by two deaf people which in turn would create a larger population of deaf people if those deaf couples were to procreate. " Bell believed that by eliminating these factors, and instead using local oral education schools, Deaf individuals would assimilate into mainstream hearing society, and have more Deaf-hearing marriages, which would decrease the number of Deaf children born."(Benito) Although Graham Bell thought to be a positive icon in Deaf culture, many deaf see him as another oppressing hearing individual trying to assimilate Deaf into a hearing world.

Now into more present day, ASL eventually gets recognized as its own language and also different Acts get implemented into law that help level the playing field for deaf adults and children in society and education. This includes the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Public Law 94- 142, Section 504 gets added to the Rehabilitation Act, Americans with disabilities Act 1988, and in 1993 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The 80's and 90's continued to hold cornerstone moments in history that defined deaf culture. One of those moments was called "Deaf President Now". This happened at Gallaudet University when students and faculty protest the selection of another hearing president. It carried on for one week with marches, protests and press conferences. I King Jordan becomes the first deaf president of the all deaf university, Gallaudet.

Although society has a whole has come a very long way as to accepting, working with, and giving rights to the Deaf, the introduction of the cochlear implant has many in the deaf community very upset. This has been a controversial topic amongst the deaf community for a variety of reasons. Some feel that people who get a cochlear implant are ashamed of their deafness and do not want to be a part of the deaf community. Other may feel this is just another attempt trying to "fix" a deaf person. Deaf people will tell you there is nothing to fix about them. They are the same exact person and can do all the same things anyone else can do except hear. Many hearing parents may be convinced by doctors to implant their deaf child, not only because the doctor is unaware of Deaf culture and all of its greatness, but also because the doctors may be receiving kickbacks from cochlear companies. Doctors have become increasingly better at this surgical procedure but there is always still a chance that something may go wrong and whatever hearing the individual may of had before the surgery could be lost forever. In the end the choice is personal and should be left to the person who has the hearing loss when he or she is old enough to make this conscience decision. For one man it was as easy as, "I wholeheartedly respect those who have a cochlear implant. I just don't want one for myself. Again, I simply don't feel any need for it."(Drolsbaugh) For another man, my brother, Matt, we talked at length about him being hearing impaired. He told me that he is thankful that our parents did not go through with the cochlear implants, allowing him to make the decision when he became old enough to do so. As often as I may disagree with my parents, I have to say when it comes to the situation involving my little brother I believe they did the right thing. Giving Matt the opportunity to become part of the deaf world and showing him the hearing world the best they could with hearing aids and speech therapy. Our parents also enrolled me, my older brother AJ, and themselves in sign language classes, helping us to bridge some gaps with my brother and the Deaf community. Matt says he is proud to be deaf and if given the choice to have his hearing back completely he would happily decline.

Another way that the Deaf suffer a type of prejudice is through a term called audism. Audism is somewhat of a new term meaning, "An attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear; like racism or sexism, audism judges, labels, and limits individuals on the basis of whether a person hears and speaks." (Oberholtzer) There are many factors that can fall under the category of autism. Just like in the previous paragraph, the cochlear implant is considered by some on the deaf community as a tool of cultural genocide. Parents who do not adopt the Deaf world when their child is deaf and instead raise their child in a more hearing world, are considered audists.

Just like other minority groups, Deaf have been subject to audism, oppression and suppression for many years and still to this day. Since the first days of the deaf and when humans actually knew what it meant to be deaf, there has always been these problems. Even now, although we have come a long way there are still issues that need to be addressed by both Deaf and hearing. Even recently there has been numerous accounts of deaf people clashing with authority figures sometimes even being killed because of their inability to communicate with each other. Within the Deaf communities there is also cases of oppression. If you have a cochlear you may be looked down upon. If you have hearing aids you may be looked down upon. If you sign an older outdated sign system like SEE signed exact english, you may be looked down upon, because ASL is the "official" language. If you speak more than sign, you could be looked down upon. If you are first generation deaf with hearing parents, you could be looked down upon, for not being "deaf enough." So until we make ourselves more aware and give more recognition to this culture and to these issues, in all communities, these problems will still arise and could possibly perpetuate into larger problems.

Work Cited Page

Hunter, Evelyn. "Deaf Culture Timeline." Sign Language Interpreters.

Hunter, Evelyn. "Sign Language Co (@SignLanguageCom) | Twitter."

Drolsbaugh, Mark. "Evolution of a Deaf Attitude." Evolution of a Deaf Attitude.

Drolsbaugh, Mark. "Deaf Culture." Deaf Culture.

Savitt, Ari. "Evolution of Sign Language (ASL)." Evolution of Sign Language (ASL).

Lee, Christian L. "Technological Advancements and Their Effect on Deaf Culture:." Technological Advancements and Their Affect on Deaf Culture.

Benito, Shandra. "Alexander Graham Bell and the Deaf Community: A Troubled History." Rooted in Rights.

Oberholtzer, Patrick. "Audism Tags: Deaf, Faq, Research Guide ." What Is Audism? - Audism - LibGuides at Gallaudet University Library.

Dec 3, 2016   #2
Geoffrey, I am not sure if your teacher has told you this but you have not properly presented your thesis statement in this essay. The clarity of the topic is lost because your first sentence doesn't really make much sense. You have to clarify that you were a year and a half when your brother was born deaf. There is a redundancy and lack of clarity in that statement so you should review it for a better presentation. Next, you are never supposed to present a quotation in the thesis statement. That is an academic violation and will result on a large deduction of points in your final grade.

More importantly, the essay has more than 30 percent of quotes. Once this essay is run through a plagiarism checker by your teacher, it will immediately by flagged for plagiarism. You should strive to always paraphrase but never in successive paragraphs or multiple times within the same paragraph.

Your essay loses focus towards the middle. Do you want to discuss deaf discrimination or the right of the deaf to opt for a cochlear implant? I believe that your essay will be better if you present the cochlear implant discussion as part of your thesis statement at the start. That way it becomes part of the reason for the discrimination discussion.

Overall, you have chosen a very interesting and under represented discussion to present in your essay. It is very informative and allows the professor to get to know a personal side of you that would not be visible in class. While the essay has its strengths, it is the weaknesses that I wish to have you focus on because improving those parts will allow you to gain a better grade in this class.
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