[sw-l] Re:

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Sun Jan 23 02:19:07 UTC 2005

I appreciate your comments. Thanks for sharing. It is always refreshing
to see hearing people who understand and support positive change. :)



On Jan 22, 2005, at 19:45, Ruth Kartchner wrote:

> Dear Stuart,
> As a hearing person, that is exactly what I try to combat. My work is
> all in Latin America, and I have been able to see first hand how hard
> it is sometimes to shift paradigms. But I can say that as we kkep
> working at this, we see change. I have seen it. At first, things move
> slowly, but one day they catch momentum, and then people are anxious
> to move forward. Some don't want to see anything that forces them to
> chage, but others see it and get excited. To say ASL cannot be written
> is pure ignorance. It reminds me of people who say the Deaf are only
> capable of concrete thinking. How ridiculous. Why not admit that our
> (the hearing) limiting paradigms, our limited methods, our limited
> school policy, our limited knowledge, etc. has caused the Deaf
> problems in the past.
> Yes, The Deaf have been oppressed for so long that I cannot blame them
> for not trusting hearing people, even those that are "deaf-friendly",
> but I have also experienced total acceptance once they see that I am
> trying to be a "gate opener". Those who have some power should be
> using it to facilitate the creation of more empowering environments
> for those who have less power. At least, that is how I see it. I'm
> sorry, I almost feel like I am interrupting your work with my
> comments. My best wishes to all of you :)
> Ruth
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Stuart Thiessen"
> To: sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
> Subject: Re: [sw-l] Re:
> Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2005 17:31:53 -0600
>> I apologize if my email came across as saying you believed this. I
>> was merely responding to the quote, not to you as a person. My
>> apologies. I hear that so often, and yet, so few deaf people
>> actually tell me they have heard of SW, so I am very skeptical when
>> people say that the deaf community as a whole does not accept
>> SignWriting.
>> I have one person here in Iowa who is an employee of the Deaf
>> Services Commission of Iowa (our Commission for the Deaf/HH) and
>> she insists on saying that ASL cannot be written and that ASL is a
>> conceptual language, etc. in her attempts to point out the unique
>> nature of our language and culture. Despite my showing evidence of
>> written ASL, etc., she stubbornly refuses to change her perspective
>> on this. She is hearing but has deaf family. It is interesting to
>> see how that kind of resistance by "deaf-friendly" hearing people
>> can cause others to not be as receptive to something that can help.
>> Thanks,
>> Stuart
>> On Jan 21, 2005, at 15:28, Ruth Kartchner wrote:
>>> I think we need to be careful with misquoting :) I say it the
>>> best possible way. "I" was quoting when I said
>>> "The Deaf Community as a whole has not accepted ..."
>>> and "I" was questioning that very thing :)
>>> I like your comments, Stuart, about the commonalities you see
>>> between the Deaf and other minorities. I just came back from
>>> Bolivia, and everything you said could be applied to their
>>> situation. Most of their indigenous languages do not have a
>>> written form, and they are working on this as best they can.
>>> Ruth Claros-Kartchner
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: "Stuart Thiessen"
>>> To: sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
>>> Subject: Re: [sw-l] Re:
>>> Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 11:39:58 -0600
>>>> Actually, for our community, we have found that the vast majority
>>>> of deaf people here have no clue that SW even exists. At first,
>>>> there is the natural skepticism, but as they see how SW naturally
>>>> conveys the movements they use in signing, they become more
>>>> interested. Now, I have also observed that those who are
>>>> well-versed in English (or perceive themselves that way) tend to be
>>>> less interested in SW and consider it a waste of time. Those who
>>>> struggle with English tend to see this as a valuable way to express
>>>> themselves. So their level of bi-lingualism and whether they
>>>> accept the American mono-lingual imperative makes a big difference
>>>> in how they respond to SW.
>>>> We have also used Sequoyah's story (to show the value of writing
>>>> systems for minority languages) and explained the history of SW and
>>>> compared it to other hearing imposed systems. Philip and I are
>>>> impressed with Valerie's commitment to respecting deaf culture and
>>>> process while still championing the value of her system. We have
>>>> done our best to communicate that difference. When deaf people
>>>> here learn how written language has benefitted other minority
>>>> language groups that tend to be oppressed in majority language
>>>> settings and when they see how Valerie has done her best to respect
>>>> our language and culture, they tend to put aside the cultural
>>>> issues and focus on the practical issues of "Will this work for me?"
>>>> That is our experience. Another email mentioned "The Deaf
>>>> Community as a whole has not accepted ..." I think that is a bunch
>>>> of nonsense. I think the vast majority of deaf Americans don't
>>>> even know about it or if they did, it was only in passing and that
>>>> initial glance often only catches the "complicated" symbols rather
>>>> than the system behind it. Most of the people who complain that it
>>>> is too complicated tend to take that back after they take the time
>>>> to let me explain how the system works. Of course, if they never
>>>> take the time to look at it, then they continue this misperception
>>>> that SW is too complicated to learn. So, it is just the process of
>>>> getting the word out and showing its benefits.
>>>> Personally, I think for some (not all), it is a matter of felt
>>>> superiority. Some get a feeling of superiority over other deaf
>>>> people by having a better command of English. These same people may
>>>> or may not be as fluent in ASL and theoretically could lose some of
>>>> their "position" in the culture if ASL had its own written form. If
>>>> ASL literacy really took off, then you could have some very
>>>> literate ASL people who may or may not be as literate in English. I
>>>> also think SW will benefit ESL programs for deaf people and I think
>>>> that SW will give an outlet for people who struggle with English to
>>>> develop literacy skills in ASL. Those skills may or may not help
>>>> them with English, but at least they will have an avenue for
>>>> expressing their thoughts, ideas, and dreams in written form. As I
>>>> understand, this kind of situation is somewhat common for minority
>>>> languages which do not have a written system yet.
>>>> Of course, we need hard data on this for SW, but based on writing
>>>> systems for other minority groups, I can't imagine that it would be
>>>> any different for our deaf communities.
>>>> Thanks,
>>>> Stuart
>>>> On Jan 21, 2005, at 8:12, dparvaz at MAC.COM wrote:
>>>>>> Maybe my insight as a Deaf American will help. Deaf in the
>>>>>> community I am in at least don't want a written system from a
>>>>>> hearing person because hearing people have opressed deaf any
>>>>>> times, and some still do ...
>>>>> Granted. And so when a hearing person comes in with something to
>>>>> do with language, or education, or anything, there is initial
>>>>> skepticism: is this one more "cha-head hearing" thing? Were Deaf
>>>>> people involved? What kind of deaf? REAL Deaf or "think-hearing"
>>>>> deaf? And so on. After all, what set the Abbé de l'Épée apart
>>>>> from others isn't that he didn't come up with some nutty
>>>>> pedagogical technique ("methodical" signs) so much as he was
>>>>> humble enough to ask the Deaf to teach him first.
>>>>>> The way for SW to become generally accepted (at least here in
>>>>>> the US) will be for a few Deaf who see why SW would be good and
>>>>>> to show that to the rest of the Deaf.
>>>>> And in this environment is means devising easy methods of writing
>>>>> SW, both with a pencil and with a computer.
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