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American Annals of the Deaf

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I Fill This Small Space: Writings of a Deaf Activist

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Now for the critical part. It was certainly true, as you admitted in your September–October editorial, that the articles seemed to be heavily weighted in favor of the Anaheim-Riverside School for the Deaf area. Frankly, they also seemed heavily weighted toward a more “manual” point of view. Please understand that I don’t object to manual methods (I use fingerspelling as an aid to speech in my own classroom) or to residential schools. I think, however, we ought to make an effort to balance our presentation, more particularly since much more than half of our membership are usually day school (primarily oralist) teachers. Only if we can get them to see one another’s views, clearly and dispassionately presented (if that’s possible) can teachers on both sides of the ancient controversy begin to learn from one another, respect one another’s positions, and maybe even soften up a little on their own views. (That was a heck of a disjointed sentence, but it just came pouring out of my disjointed mind that way.) My main point is that I am afraid that too much of one point of view will only anger a large segment of our teachers. (Solutions!)

I was particularly bothered by the article, “See! See! See! See!” by Lawrence Newman. If you want my honest opinion (which most people don’t really want, and few are stupid enough to give, but I’ll give it to you anyway and hope that we will still remain friends) I’m afraid that if I am going to be subjected to four more of Mr. Newman’s articles, I have grave doubts as to whether I will join C.A.T. next year myself.[2]

It got a very negative reaction from many of my day school friends in this area. When I asked one young new teacher what she thought of it, I remember that she gave me one of those half forced smiles—not wanting to offend—and said, “Well, it was kind of cute.” It struck me that perhaps that trite word, “cute” fits pretty well. The article cut in both dictionary senses of the word: 1. clever and 2. shrewd. It was cleverly written to be sure, but I carried with it—in the text and between the lines—an insidious message.

The message was very clear. It was that all of you teachers who are trying to get your students to “Talk! Talk! Talk! Talk!” (We all recognized the reference to the old Tracy Clinic maxim) and to Learn! Learn! Learn! Learn! without using any manual assistance are engaged in an absurd waste of time akin to trying to teach a blind child to read without the assistance of a tactile aid like Braille.

This allegory could be criticized. No one is asking a deaf child to Hear! Hear! Hear! Hear! and to depend on that method alone for his education. To be a parallel allegory this would have to be the “one-and-only method” akin to asking a blind child to See! See! See! See! and to depend entirely on seeing as the one and only avenue to knowledge.

Well, anyway, the above point is not the important one. Even if the allegory were a good one, I would object to the manner of presentation, (How can I make this clear?)—the subtle undertone of both Newman articles (there was another earlier) which said to me, at least, that I should be ashamed of myself for ding what I am doing to deaf children. If course, this says that I am not a professional; that I just haven’t studied the subject, or just don’t understand the subject well enough to be doing what I am doing, and that consequently I need someone like Mr. Newman, who is very smart—much smarter than I—and who knows all about teaching the deaf, to come along and bang me over the head with his little teacher education messages from time to time. And if I listen very carefully to the Great One, then I will finally get it through my thick head that the only way to teach deaf kids that makes any sense at all is to use all avenues: speech, fingerspelling, sign language, etc. This may very well be true! In fact, I don’t even disagree with this conclusion (although many do). It is not that point I object to; it is the manner of presentation. Well, I think I have belabored that point long enough . . . (emphasis in the original)

2. C.A.T. is shorthand for the California Association of Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (C.A.T.D.H.H.).
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