Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

vendredi 13 juillet 2007

Oralism vs ASL: I'm getting irritated

I just got in and am about to go out again, but I just had to take a bit of time to bang out some thoughts on the ongoing two-part saga at DeafDC.com. As of this writing, both entries have 100-plus comments and I've been following them avidly with great interest.

One thing that absolutely *fries* me is that every time someone pro-ASL or pro-bilingualism speaks up, invectives such as "ASL extremist" or "Deaf militant" are heaped upon their heads. Take the original entry, "Oralism vs. ASL: Here We Go Again." The entry was written in response to John Egbert's protest announcement for the upcoming A G Bell Association conference. I understand the concerns about the protest and I have some questions about the protest myself, even though I support the concept of standing up to those who have hurt deaf education. I thought Shane Feldman made some good points. However, the title reinforced a dichotomy; a black-and-white situation. The two first words in the entry were "Oh, brother." The very second sentence reported an attempt to mock the AG Bell organization. While the rest of the entry was more balanced and sought a middle ground between the two extremes, the title and opening established a very negative tone toward a segment of our community. At best, this was not in good judgement, and at worst, it was an irresponsible choice, causing more division. Later in a comment, Shane pointed out that he is pro-ASL and because of this, I believe that he never intended to hurt the community and in fact, he may have thought he was helping us by asking us to examine the situation. He redeemed himself in his second entry by examining ways to effect positive change in organizations. The rest of the original entry, again, was much more balanced and asked us to seek a middle ground; it is just the title and opening that I found in poor taste.

I believe that the choice of title and opening passage paved the way for very negative anti-ASL comments. And boy, did they come! One of the very first exhorted people to stop being so naive, and be deaf, but not dumb. Another gem: "Quite frankly, if someone is going to protest over something as frivolous as this, they are nothing but a whiny ungrateful brat." A sweeping indictment of our world knowledge: "Many Deaf people are being ignorant about what oral approach those day is really like. Even they are ignorant about MANY other things…. That’s even sadder on their part." An assumption: "God forbid they should actually attend the conference and learn something....Go to an AGBell conference and talk to the kids! Except I know you won’t, because you might learn something." And there are more.

Granted, the majority of comments for that entry are reasonable and while there are viewpoints expressed from every single point on the continuum, they are respectfully expressed. This is heartening, because it shows that we, as a whole, are capable of dialogue and attempting to understand each other. Agreed, A Deaf Pundit, Ben M, Shane (in a couple of comments), Barb DiGi, Michele Ketcham, and several others had productive suggestions and/or asked thought-provoking questions. They succeeded in raising the bar for our dialogue and had wonderful ideas about how to go about achieving the same aims that this protest is trying to achieve. I especially loved the one about working with the National Institute of Health, which dictates a lot of public policy in this area. Props to everybody who contributed with ideas and healthy, honest, respectful thoughts!

My beef, however, is that there were far fewer oral-bashing comments than ASL-bashing comments and ASL/Bilingual advocates STILL got painted as extreme and militant. (By the by, I'm not going to tally them up because they would require making judgement calls. Just too subjective - we'd all come up with different numbers.) Agreed (But Not To This Post) put it very, very well:

Rachel, the last thing I want to say tonight… If people really are free to choose another organization that supports some other method, then why is it that Gallaudet gets hammered from every single stinking direction but AGBAD never does? Gallaudet supports ASL and all of a sudden it’s a haven for people who are out of touch with reality, a giant Deaf Club, Deaf Extremists, ASL Extremists, and the list goes on and on. AGBAD, meanwhile, advocates for the use of oral methods, and it can’t be touched? Why not? Why shouldn’t they face the harsh spotlight as well? Why shouldn’t they be forced to account for themselves? Why is their PR about only their successes acceptable, but if we talk about their failures, we’re “angry Deaf people?”

This isn’t meant for you directly but the hypocrisy of many in this community sickens me. Do you know why this is treated as a “war?” Because such people won’t get their heads out of the sand! Show me that you’re willing to acknowledge the failures and weakness of your favored approaches and I’ll open up a dialogue with you any day of the week. But until you do that, and until Deaf people as a whole are no longer bashed for being angry and extremists for daring to take control of their education from K to college and beyond, then you aren’t interested in a dialogue. You’re interested in a scapegoat.

This salient point just FRIES me. It's just so unfair that one side gets all the flak and if they try to criticize the other, the other side throws a hissy fit, raises its arm, and points a finger, crying, "Those big, bad militants and extremists are attacking poor widdle me AGAIN!!!" It'd tick me off if the shoe were on the other foot; that is, ASL proponents were criticizing oral proponents over and over again in the same way, so this has nothing to do with which side I'm on, if I'm on *any* side. Enough already. Let's stop the ASL-bashing and disagree with respect, while continuing this long-term dialogue.


  • At 05:25, Anonymous DE said…


  • At 06:17, Anonymous Katherine said…

    Thank you! I am certain many people, including myself, appreciate what you have to offer in your blog!

  • At 09:19, Blogger Jean Boutcher said…


  • At 09:36, Blogger A Deaf Pundit said…

    Thanks for thinking I helped to elevate the discourse. :) I can see why you think things are cast in a black/white light. That is how many people view the whole thing, unfortunately. I personally think there are grey areas to the issue. I fully support ASL in education. But I'll be honest here: I think we can handle the approach a bit better.

    The thing with DeafDC is that pretty much, people need a thick skin, because others will jump on the flaws in your argument. But that's how we learn, really. We learn the most from *honest* critics, usually.

    And many of us on DeafDC honestly want to know why this protest is happening, and whether people considered alternatives to protesting. Because protesting should be a last resort. So many of us do that by questioning what's happening. It can be uncomfortable at times, but it is effective and keeps people honest.

    Just my 2 little cents here. :)

  • At 10:30, Blogger moi said…

    *smile* Thanks, everyone! Katherine, your comment was wonderful to read.

    A Deaf Pundit,
    You and I are on the same page in general when it comes to DeafDC. I'm a DeafDC regular, though I've barely posted there under my pseudonym.

    I have no quibble with honesty; in fact, people who know me know I'm quite blunt and don't hold back much. My issue is the persistent ASL-bashing on DeafDC and elsewhere in the community as well as the plain *rudeness* of some on DeafDC. Honesty, fine. Rudeness, no.

    I really appreciate the questioning attitude that many of you have there because it exposes me to varying perspectives and forces us to explore issues.

    Thank you for your two cents - I'm glad you threw 'em in. :)

  • At 11:13, Anonymous The One and Only Ridor said…

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I'm always irritated when Deaf individuals decided to get their act together to improve the Deaf Education by instilling bi/bi approach, they are quickly branded as ASL extremists, radicals et al.

    But when AGB and his supporters pushed for oralism in Deaf Education, did anyone calls them extremists? Nah.

    What they fear, they hurl insults.

    The demonstration in DC was to make sure that AgBAD is accountable for what they did to Deaf people in the last 100+ years.

    Deaf Pundit, a thick skin? I think not. DeafDC.com tends to hurl insults on a personal level when I grabbed their balls and trapped them at their corner.



  • At 17:44, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    It is quite obvious Deaf DC fans and the bloggers are not strong ASL supporters, including Shane himself. We can expect this kind of anti-ASL politics on this blog.


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