Did you know there’s a troubling, but rich, history using the term “Deaf-Mute” in America? Janna and I have written a new book “conversation” about that pejorative label released by David Boles Books Writing & Publishing titled — Return of the Deaf-Mute: The Lost Legacy of the Greatest American Deaf Generation — and in our book, we examine the “Deaf-Mute” stereotype in history, its effect on common culture, and the role of human tolerance in society today. How did the “Deaf-Mute” label become such a colloquial monstrosity that it has repressed generations of Deaf people in America — just because it was a convenient, default, categorization that had nothing to do with context or fact of condition?
Last night was supposed to be the premier of the penultimate “American Sign Language Only” episode of ABC Family Channel’s teenage soap opera, “Switched at Birth.” Janna and I urged our ASL students to watch the episode because we believed the hype and the PR that this would be an episode to remember. It was not. The show was a tremendous disappointment and I’ll tell you why.
The one bright spot in the show was this “Deaf Power” banner that struck a long-ago memory in Janna when one of her teachers at the Iowa School for the Deaf said that action was forbidden on campus because it was was rude and disrespectful. For Janna to see one hand covering an ear and the other hand raised in a fist filled her with both terrible regret at believing a repressive Hearing teacher, and terrific pride that, in the end, the Deaf will own their own place in the world.
In the History of Bad Idea the — the worst one, in my humble estimation, is the practice of teaching students of American Sign Language with a stick. Yes, a stick made of wood. In some ASL programs, instructors use a stick during class to manipulate — and intimidate! — their students.