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From:  Steve/Dianne Parkhurst
Date:  Thu Oct 28, 1999  2:53 pm
Subject:  Why is SignWriting Controversial?

Dear Valerie and list,

Thanks for sending your comments on SW controversy. I'm sure we have all
experienced at least something of what you expressed. Every country is
different and every culture is different and so we will find a lot of
variation as to how this controversy shapes up in each location. Let me
give you an example from Spain:

You wrote:
<<That is why teaching young children in school is the only way to make
social change for the next generation. But the present generation of Deaf
adults did not learn SignWriting as children, and it is hard to teach
adults. I am afraid this will go on for some time.>>

I'm not a good judge of American Deaf culture, but here is Spain perhaps
things are a bit different. As we considered how to begin literacy in SW in
Spain we saw that our best opportunity would be with Deaf adults, not
children. Here are some of the factors that lead us to that decision:

1. There is a highly organized Deaf community. There is a National
Confederation and about 8 Regional Federations and every medium-sized city
has deaf associations. Here in Madrid we have about 17 associations, one
with over 1,000 members, several with 200 to 300 and the rest between 50
and 150. Most active Deaf go to the associations every time the doors are
open if they can. Most go for several hours on week nights and longer on
weekends. The association we attend is small and is open three times a
week. If we miss a day they ask us where we were.

2. It is very common for the associations (and of course the Federations
and Confederation) to offer classes of various sorts. SL for interpreters,
Spanish grammar, computer skills, etc. So, teaching SW in the associations
is very do-able.

3. We have seen many times that a certain sign that the kids learned in
school was replaced with what was being used at the club. We did not want
SW to be just a "school thing" but rather a "Deaf thing".

4. It seemed easier from our point of view to deal with Deaf community
politics than with school administration politics. We assume that once SW
takes off in the adult Deaf community it wil be much easier to convince the
school administration of the value of SW.

5. As linguists we had many more connections with the adult Deaf community
than we did with the Deaf schools. Our training is in linguistics,
sociolinguistics, "mother tongue" (mother hand??) literacy, etc., not
speech therapy, deaf education, etc.

So, here in Spain, it seems that values in the Deaf community are passed
down from one generation to the next through Deaf adults in the Deaf
associations. Given this information, our training and contacts, it made
more sense for us to start with the adult Deaf community rather than with
children and schools.

For what it's worth,
Hasta luego,

Steve :-)


Steve and Dianne Parkhurst

  Replies Author Date
2645 Re: Why is SignWriting Controversial? Valerie Sutton Sat  1/29/2000

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