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November 18, 1987 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-11-18

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called English Natural Form Instruction
in which the teacher and students commu-
nicate via computers, simulating conversa-
tional English through the use of writtten
English sent over a computer network. Be-
cause English is, in effect, a second lan-
guage for the deaf, all students are required
to pass proficiency exams before they can
enter the freshman class. Those with seri-
ous deficiencies can remedy them in the
prefreshman year at Gallaudet's School of
Preparatory Studies.
Like the secondary school in the movie
"Children of a Lesser God," Gallaudet can
sometimes be a communications battle-
ground. Students use several sign lan-
guages: American Sign Language (ASL),
which has its own rules of grammar; literal
finger spelling of every English word, and
sign language, which simply means using
the hands, arms and face to communicate
words, ideas and feelings. In addition,
many prefer to use their voices and read
lips. Others, like actress Marlee Matlin's
character in the movie, are passionately
opposed to the school of thought that says
deaf people who want to fit into society
should learn to speak. The debate is espe-
cially apparent in the dining hall, where,
without exception, students divide into
cliques according to the preferred manner
of communication-oral-speech users and
lip readers in the center, ASL users to one
side and finger spellers in the back.
As an official policy, Gallaudet advo-
cates total communication-which in prac-
tice means every system that works. Teach-

ers who can are required to use oral speech
(or move their lips) and sign language si-
multaneously. To facilitate classroom dis-
cussion, students tend to sit in a semicircle
so that everyone can see each other. Those
with questions command the professor's
attention by banging on their desks, letting
out a scream or waving their arms.
Failure to communicate: For all of Gallau-
det's peerless expertise, however, teaching
the deaf can still be problematic. Lee says
his policy toward the faculty, for instance,
is first to hire the most qualified instruc-
tors with a Ph.D. in their field and then to
teach them sign language. Partly because
there are so few deaf people with doctor-
ates, however, only 30 percent of the
school's faculty is deaf. And when hearing
teachers are slow in learning to sign, com-
munication in the classroom can suffer.
"Last semester I argued endlessly with my
sociology teacher because the teacher
couldn't sign well and I couldn't under-
stand," signs junior Melissa Keast. When
she tried to discuss the problem after class,
the intructor's response was that Keast
should ask someone else what was said in
class. "After that," signs Keast, "I didn't
attend class. I would just take the tests."
The school now requires all new teachers to
pass a sign-language proficiency test. Be-
tween that and a host of other daily com-
promises, students insist they learn more
and can participate more fully in Gallau-
det's classes than those at even the most
prestigious hearing colleges.
Still, the Gallaudet curriculum does not

shelter students from the realities of the
hearing world. All freshmen must attend
an eight-week career-development course
that also teaches them how to set up inter-
views and how to persuade a manager to
hire a deaf person. For job experience, 60
percent of all Gallaudet students get in-
ternships through the school's Experien-
tial Programs Off Campus (EPOC) office,
which places students with companies
throughout the country.
To further bridge the gap between the
deaf and hearing worlds, EPOC and the
audiologists at Gallaudet's Assistive De-
vices Center sponsor well-attended work-
shops for corporate managers. who may
want to hire deaf employees-or need to be
persuaded that they do. Among other
things, the audiology center shows off
its state-of-the-art communications equip-
ment that the deaf can use on the job, such
as the lastest Teletypewriters, which dis-
play verbal telephone messages on the
unit's readout panel. To measure career
progress, Gallaudet carefully tracks its
10,000 alumni. More than half who are
employed work for educational institu-
tions, a quarter are in gdvernment and
about 14 percent are with private compa-
nies. Two-thirds of each graduating class
goes on to graduate school-well above the
average for hearing schools.
No matter what satisfactions some alums
may achieve, they often say they will never
find another "deaf utopia" like Gallaudet.
Did you know, campus tour guides like to
point out, that Gallaudet invented the foot-
ball huddle in the 1890s because
hearing teams would watch the
squad signing instructions and
steal their plays? And it is hard
to imagine any other college
with a campus so well equipped
with ramps and other devices
that it is accessible to just about
any mobile handicapped per-
son. Between classes, one blind
student is leading a new blind
student across the campus (8
percent of the undergraduates
have multiple handicaps). They
collide with a group of students
who are standing in the walk-
way signing to each other in ca-
sual conversation-and who
cannot hear the blind students
signal their approach by tap-
ping their canes. To reorient the
two who cannot see, one of the
deaf students reaches out and
signs directions with his fingers
on a blind student's forearm.
The two head off briskly in the
right direction-with the same
kind of confident bearing that
Gallaudet tries so hard to instill
-NEWS EEK in every student.
us tour CONNIE LESLIE in Washington

Sights to show off: Guide regales audience with sign-language anecdotes during camp



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