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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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Have you stopped to study the Convention program to be presented by the Association at San Diego, March 8? I will not go into details but here is a program that is truly slanted. Do you recall the workshop at Santa Barbara? The deaf were lumped together in one or two workshops. There was not one deaf workshop leader. The Alexander Graham Bell Association had their convention in San Francisco. Do you think they would have allowed an interpreter to use the sign language there? In our straitjacket of deafness we have been a patient people. We have not rioted or shouted “Burn, hearie, burn.”

Don’t you think that a least we are entitled to a page or two to express our thoughts and feelings?

If an association is so weak that it falls apart because of a few articles then let us go out with a bang and not a whimper.

Enclosed you will find my reply to Mr. Anonymous.

Lawrence Newman

* * *

Dear Mr. Anonymous,
I wish you would reveal your name so that if we meet I could go over, shake your hands and chat with you. Although I feel you are way off base in your statements about my “See! See! See! See!” article I respect your right to speak up and to differ with me.

First, permit me to refer to your criticism of my approach. I used a satirical approach which, in the annals of literature, has been an effective tool in ameliorating or changing adverse social conditions. There was a famous piece on bad child labor conditions in the early part of this century. If I remember correctly the satire was in verse and there were lines such as “While the child toils and sweats all day, the men on the golf course are at play.” Referring to the refusal to serve the Negro people at luncheon counters, satire was used recently by Harry Golden when he said that if we all stood up when being served there would be no problem.

My article was not referring to teachers in particular but to the system as a whole. You realize that today 95% of the deaf school population is prelingually deaf while not too many years ago the postlingually deaf type predominated. A system that permits the same methods to be employed for two diverse deaf population types is absurd. A system that does not make allowance for the increasing number of multiply handicapped deaf children is absurd. A system that is bent on making deaf children pale imitations of hearing children instead of teaching them to accept their deafness and the limitations imposed by it is absurd. A system that represses a deaf child’s natural urge to communicate freely, that considers speech and lipreading more important than language and learning is absurd. I was hoping that by satirizing such absurdities we could be provoked, could laugh at ourselves and could try to come down to more sensible and realistic ways of educating the deaf.

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