Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I went to an education conference over the weekend. It was there that I observed one rather esteemed professor/researcher make the following generalization:

"Deaf people learn differently than hearing people."

Now waitjustaminute you mean to tell me, Mr. Professor, that ALL deaf people learn alike? And that ALL hearing people learn alike? And therefore, ALL deaf people learn differently than hearing people.

Wow. How Kantian.

Dear Mr. Professor,

I take offense to your generalization. Implying that all deaf people think the same is tantamount to saying that all white people are the same, and that all black people are the same. Are all women the same? Are men? I think not. I hope you would agree, too.

While many deaf people do learn through visual means, there are plenty out there who can and do utilize auditory input for learning. And there are hearing people who learn differently. Just walk into any bookstore and look at either the education/reading or disabilities section(s). I know that you know this, being such an esteemed researcher and all, but why did you have to lump deaf people into all one category?

I am not a "typical" person. For that matter, what IS normal? (See Blog title above.) Every group has their oddballs, their outliers, their abnormalities, their quirky people, and yes, their norms. When you have "norms" you also have standard deviation.

The only thing that every single person on this planet has in common is this: we are all unique.

Now, I don't mind if you say N=100 and that of those 100, 50 say they prefer to learn by seeing (watching interpreters or teachers signing), 25 say they prefer to learn by reading, and the other 25 saying they prefer to learn by osmosis. But don't simply say "[all] deaf people....."

Thank you for your time.


DC Deafie


Ben Vess said...

Hello there,

you have to understand Mr. Professor is not wrong here. My ex did a lot of research about this and scientifically this has been proven to be true. The spoken language is stored and processed in a different half of the brain than American Sign Language and visual gestures.

My ex thinks this explains why it is nearly impossible for a hearing person to attain perfect ASL fluency like a Deaf person. Let's be honest here, we identify a person's deafness by their signing. And he also thinks this explains why English is very difficult for many Deaf people.

In psychology, this has a major impact on language development and cognitive thinking. At a critical period during infancy, your brain grows into adult size within months if not a year. the language/learning section gets hardwired. If one has a hearing loss then it is highly likely that the brain, by default, hardwire its dependency on the other hemisphere--the visual one. Rendering the baby with difficulty learning a language that depends on the opposite hemisphere without strong foundation (ASL) in the hardwired visual hemisphere.

This is from memory--i'd have to look up more to be able to provide exact details, etc..

Der Sankt

Dianrez said...

Ben...all respect to your sources and their data...but we only have to look at CODAs and hearing friends who have learned sign well enough to pass for Deaf to know that they are indeed overgeneralizing. To say the least. Look at Austin Andrews and his "Deaf Ninja" vlog.

DC Deafie said...

Ben, you're correct that visual and auditory processing occur in different parts of the brain. HOWEVER, please remember that not all deaf people sign. There are many, many deaf people out there who are oral, deafies who lost their hearing after they had acquired spoken language (post-lingual deafness), and then, of course, you have the hearing CODAs (as dianrez pointed out), who grow up in Deaf families where ASL is the primary language--and therefore learn spoken English after they've learned ASL.

My point here is that we should not be lumping individuals together as a group just because it's easy. We need to remember and respect the diversity that exists within the Deaf community, not just in terms of language choice, but communication preferences, educational backgrounds, race/ethnicity, gay/straight, relationships with others (deaf marriages versus deaf/hearing marriages). Further, there are Deaf ASLians out there who have very strong English, better than many hearing people.