Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Ok, so this is me ranting because I am sure if I were to talk to anyone about this in person, they wouldnt really care or understand.

Here's the topic: American Sign Language (ASL) not being used in University classrooms to teach deaf education majors.

I am a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and am currently enrolled in some of my final Deaf education (DE) classes. Here's the problem I have: because UTK is all about saving money and squeezing us through majors that arent necessarily realistically fit to the real world, I am in (and have been in 2 other) 400 level classes where the professors DONT SIGN!

Maybe some of you dont understand the gravity of the situation, so please, allow me to explain.
UTK (or just UT) thinks that Audiology, Speech Pathology, and Deaf Education are all "in the same field"...they really couldnt be more wrong. I am all about philosophies behind each of these 3 very different majors. I am proficient in ASL (not fluent...never will be because I'm not Deaf nor a CODA [child of Deaf adult], but I'm pretty good).

I have taken one audiology class and one speech pathology class, so yes, I do know a LITTLE about these professions/majors. However, I am not claiming any type of "real life" knowledge outside of the classroom and my 25 hour internship at a speech and hearing center (basically "speech therapy").

In my opinion, UT (and ALL universities that offer Deaf Education) should require their students to take an ASL proficiency exam before they enter specific, deaf education major classes.

Back to the philosophic differences- audiologists and speech pathologists believe deaf/Deaf children should speak. Most deaf educators think that deaf (and certainly Deaf) kids should sign. My philosophy? Use the technology that is available (which, amazingly, is becoming more and more advanced) in order to help any type of hearing that a D/HH person may have. However, use hearing aids and cochlear implants as just what they are- aids. People who hold the philosophy that "all deaf/Deaf kids should speak/hear" are called auralists/oralists. Why is it that we give people who are 75% blind glasses, yet still teach them braille? Its because they cannot see, but are not completely blind, so they can use the 25% of what they can see to look at people/enviromental sights, and yet not have to loose the priviledge of not being able to read just because they have a visual impairment. Deafness is the same way! Give the kid a cochlear implant so that he CAN enjoy music and he CAN hear the voices of those who love him the most, but when it comes to having the ability to converse and communicate with the majority of people in his world, let him use sign language.

There have been so many studies about Deaf people in remote countries who do not have a signed language. These studies show (I know I am being super vague here, but cannot think of one in particular at the moment...) that these Deaf people/kids make up their own signs and gestures. Signing is a natural, complete language that Deaf people love to use!

(If you have never heard of this "mode of communication" disagreement, please read this for more information:

But back to UT: The administrative folks who create the course catalogues and majors do not understand this HUGE philosophical disagreement that literally controls the Deaf world. That being the case, they say "Oh, communication disorders. Yeah, A and SP and DE and Interpreters, you all work with D/HH people. We'll just require that you all take some of the same classes." My question? WHY?!! You could not be more wrong to place someone like me in an audiology class where the professors and guest lecturers rave on and on about how all they want for deaf kids is for them to be "normal" and for them to be put in "normal" classrooms. Oh please. Show me a kid without any complex language abilities and you tell me that is normal? No.

You see, its not anyone of the student's "fault" that we are placed in classes where we dont belong; that lies on the administration and people who create our majors. The issue happens when you get DE students (many of whom are actually deaf/Deaf themselves...and only sign...) in a DE class and then require the poor ASP (Audio and speech path.) students to jump into these classes. By the time you get to a 400 level class all the singers are like "Yeah! Give it to us! We communicate at school with each other using sign. We work jobs and have internships where we sign. We sign in our dorms and across the halls to each other. ASL! ASL! ASL!"
The professor walks in and starts signing. You see and hear all the ASP kids shift around in their seats like "you've gotta be kidding me! Is he deaf? Is he going to teach the class like this the entire semester?" and freaking out. All the DE and Interpreting kids are laughing and introducing themselves to the professor and thinking "yes! this is what I've been waiting for!" Then- dreadful- one brave soul raises his and and says "uhh are you deaf? I dont know sign language..."
Dude, you're in a DE class! What did you expect? I think I should say, dude, administration, what were you thinking to put these poor kids in our class!

For me? Its like someone interested in Japanese business relations. They sign up for the class, have been practicing their Japanese, are all set and ready to go, see the professor and know he speaks great Japanese, and find out you have 6 international business students in your class who dont know a thing about Japanese, let ALONE Japanese culture. How is that not frustrating? How is that not different from what I am talking about here with DE classes?

Today, sitting in class, I was next to a guy who was a special education major. Not DE, just SE. The professor is talking about the Bi-Bi (bilingual/bicultural) philosophy that is a dominating part of today's DE world. The kid leans over and says "what's Bi-Bi?" I wanted to slug him! I was so frustrated (and believe me, I KNOW he was too...) because we are coming to this class that should be SUPER specialized and this poor guy doesnt even know the first thing about Deaf people.

Ughh. I'm so sick of fighting this battle myself. You better believe that I am taking this issue to the deans of the DE department because honestly, its not fair. Its not fair for the ASP kids, its not fair for the DE kids, its not fair for the Interpreter kids, and its not fair to the Deaf community and to the peoples we will be later interacting with.

How would you like it if your kid was deaf/Deaf, you send them to a school for the Deaf, and their 5th grade teacher can hardly sign? Well, if you are Hearing, you honestly might not even know that your kid's teacher cant sign very well, but if you are Deaf and have a Deaf kid, you FOR SURE will be disappointed that your kid's teacher cannot use the primary language that is taught at the school.

From an employers standpoint: why would you want to hire a teacher to work at your school who has just mediocre language skills? I mean, the whole point of going into DE is to teach kids who are deaf/Deaf. Who use sign language. Yeah, sorry if that's a wake up call, but there ARE still people out there who want their kids to sign. They want their kid's teachers to actually be good at what they are doing (no duhh).

Totally sick of not having anyone understand where I am coming from. People- this IS a big deal! Whether you think so or not, you need to think of it as a big deal. Because of UT's program for deaf educators, and because (more specifically) they are not promoting and teaching and using ASL in the classrooms, they are basically crippling the future Deaf population who will be learning from us. Now THAT is a big deal!

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