A few weeks back, I sat at my desk in my Introduction to Exceptional Individual’s class, or, as it should be called from what I have learned: My Intro. to Individuals with Exceptionalities, class… And I was struck by some of the things I watched and heard within the class.
The film we were watching was called “Sound and the Fury 2.” The film focused on a family that was struggling to gain acceptance for being a deaf family. Some of the other parts of their family supported them while others attempted to convince them to try and get their kids Cochlear implants. This implant essentially enables those who are deaf by “directly stimulating any functioning auditory nerves inside the cochlea with electric field stimulated through an electric impulse.” (I used Wikipedia – sue me.)
The film elaborates on the plight of a married couple who are deaf, trying to sway their father and mother in laws views of getting a Cochlear implant as a negative thing. The father stressed that this is what was chosen for them and that he was “proud to be deaf and part of the deaf community.” The wife also explained that she was part of a group of people who were just like her and who would understand her. While the father- and mother-in-law pushed the couple more and more, attempting to convince them to let their children get these implants so they would have a chance to hear and go farther in the world in comparison to just using sign language. The oldest daughter of the family is interested in the idea and wishes to go ahead with it but she is stopped by her parents. The father was upset that he may lose some of his family in a way if he lets his children get these implants. He is not the only one who has had these troubles.
This is where the controversy begins however. My professor informed us that some in the Deaf Community are up in arms because of this implant. These members of the community view it as an infringement on their way of life and that it is not natural to have this implant. So they protest and snap at those parents who choose to get these implants for their children. Here is where I started to get very angry.
Now I do understand the reasoning behind the Deaf Community’s thinking behind their actions. I do understand that they have been segregated and not treated fairly because of the fact that they are deaf. But some of the people who are deaf and part of this community have taken such an aggressive stance towards the rest of the world that they apparently feel they can choose what a mother or father chooses for their infant? I realize they are all scared, but what gives them the right to do such a thing? What makes these people any better or worse than any other person? I take each individual I meet and take them as a person, no matter what is different about them. And if these individuals view the fact that it is an unnatural thing to have these implants, then let’s just get rid of everything that we use that is “unnatural.” If you wear glasses, take medication, use a wheel chair, had surgery, ect… You might as well just get rid of them because that’s what is being implied.
As my anger increased slowly, I gripped my pen and broke off the top of it, accidentallyof course. But I still listened intently and took the time to understand why these members of the Deaf Community were acting as they were. They are scared and wish to preserve their way of life. And I have not a single problem against that whatsoever, it takes a lot of courage and strength to do what they are doing. But they must not, then, infringe upon anyone else’s rights as well. For then they are committing the same act they wished to protect themselves from.
The film continued to the point where the father came to a realization that his parents were right. He explained that although he didn’t choose this path, he had to give his children every opportunity to live a better life then he did. And as his parents explained if the children have the ability to use American Sign Language or ASL, as well as hear and speak, then they are part of both worlds rather then the one in which they would segregate themselves into.
Now, all of the family has these implants besides the father, and they are apparently doing very well. At the same time if they perhaps choose to just use ASL, then there is no problem with this whatsoever. But again, they had their choice, they must let others make their own choices as well.
There was also something else that my professor explained to me that upset me greatly. We were talking about Gallaudet University’s struggle to receive a deaf sign language speaking President during the “Deaf President Now” protest in 1988 and how they finally got what they wished for, and King Jordan became the first deaf President of Gallaudet University. I was happy for them and I agreed with the idea that you should have someone lead you who understands you best because they are one of you.
However I then became upset to hear about the issue after Jordan finally left office and was replaced with a Dr. Jane K. Fernandes. Dr. Fernandes was deaf, but apparently “she is not deaf enough.” Are you kidding?
Although there were allocations that she was not one-hundred percent fluent in ASL, why would you go after someone who still goes through the same things you do? I simply do not understand it. I can see why as a student there, I would want someone who is fluent in ASL, but at the same time I would show enough respect at the fact that there must be some sort of middle ground as to the reasoning behind the selection of this President. And if your former President, King Jordan, says: “I am convinced that the board made a serious error in acceding to the demands of the protesters by terminating Fernandes’s presidency before it began,” then perhaps something is wrong.
I took a lot out of the subject and I was heavily cautioned about writing an article on this somewhat of a taboo subject. But none the less I will not hide my views about something that seems kind of one sided. At the same time I also respect and understand, to an extent, what the members of the Deaf Community must go through every day. Members of this community at times become upset from someone who is not deaf saying that they are as such; then what is the point to being part of this community, if you praise calling yourself deaf, but denounce anyone else who calls you what you rightfully are. We must learn to judge each other as people, not by what we are or are not. Otherwise this struggle will continue to be just that, rather then turning itself into some form of a solution.
Mike Graziano is the Editor in Chief for The Voice. He is a senior history and secondary education major.