AG Bell’s Pervasive Ideology : An Example


Someone brought to my attention to this specific blog, called “Arguing With Myths?” written by Anonymous, persumably by an honor high school student and a varsity athlete with two cochlear implants.

Here is the link here.

In this blog, it started with a disclaimer stating :

I have nothing against ASL or the deaf community, I am simply arguing that information and facts brought up by deaf people regarding cochlear implants and oralism is wrong.

Then this writer presented several points about what had happened in the past is not the same for the present and future. This writer believes that today’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing children using today’s technology and early intervention had succeeded far much better than people in the past.

First of all,

I am happy that she is doing very well. I wish her all of the best with her future endeavors.

There is one thing that I am not happy about… is IDEOLOGY.

The definition of ideology from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

Full Definition of ideology

1: visionary theorizing

2 a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture
c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

This is an ideology that I used to have when I was in high school before I was exposed to sign language. I recognize the tone in this letter, and it reminded me how my parents and teachers have instilled me with their beliefs while growing up. They convinced me that I am Hard of Hearing, even though audiologically, my hearing level is within the profound range. They kept telling me if I try harder to listen and practice my speech more, then I will do very well in the “hearing world”. Often times, my parents would frown on my friends who use poorer speech or use sign language, and they would tell me that my speech was superior than them. That was how they tried to help with my self-esteem by comparing my skills with others.

What kind of systems or theories had influenced this young writer and ME?

It is called Phonocentrism.

Phonocentrism is defined as the belief that sounds and speech are inherently superior to, or more primary than, written language. Those who espouse phonocentric views maintain that spoken language is the primary and most fundamental method of communication whereas writing is merely a derived method of capturing speech.

And… Audism.

Audism is defined as the notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or to behave in the manner of one who hears, or that life without hearing is futile and miserable, or an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.

So, I grew up with an ideology based on phonocentrism and audism. They told me that the “hearing world” values listening auditorily and speaking verbally, and they are much superior than listening visually and speaking manually.

This kind of ideology is so pervasive that it affected us so deeply that you may not able to fathom. It divides community and families. This ideology prevented a natural identity formation process, and this does not allow an individual to embrace their own differences (i.e. hearing levels), and continue self-denial of their own true identity.

Alexander Graham Bell once said,

“We should try ourselves to forget that they are deaf. We should teach them to forget that they are deaf.”  (Bell, 1884)

That is the ideology which AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing been promoting for a very long time, and they are quite very good at this.

I made a tweet not long ago,

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 12.39.44 AM

Readers, there are so many Ellens out there. We need to embrace them.

To summarize, no child should deny their own identity. It is not up to us to teach them to forget that they are deaf. Embrace them and let them celebrate their own identities.

We are amazing and the most diverse community ever. When this writer wishes to meet with us, she/he will always be welcome to our community.

Amy Cohen Efron

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2 comments on “AG Bell’s Pervasive Ideology : An Example

Dear CI Anonymous,

It was my decision to decide whether to be monolingual or bilingual Deaf person, I was born deaf to two wonderful hearing parents devoting many years to teach me to achieve speech but it wasn’t easy. I enjoyed my childhood life among my hearing friends one way or another. Sure, some idiots make fun of me as an oralist, we must understand hardship and continue on strong and proud of to be an oralist which I am still today because I speak like a hearing person among the hearing society 80% of the time.

When I decided to learn American Sign Language (not Sign Exact English or signing in English order) at Gallaudet University to be a bilingual Deaf person to have no limitation to interact with the hearing people or Deaf people. This decision I made at Gallaudet to learn ASL has made me more of a normal bilingual deaf person one way or another in case my hearing aid become disabled as much as anyone else’s CIs being disabled.

To this monolingual anonymous, I was once naïvely lost, But with ASL, now I am found.

You are not there yet.

I am profoundly deaf since birth. I am happy that I am deaf. I am 69 years old. I thank to my parents for sending me to deaf school when I was 16 years old. I learned ASL there. ASL helped me enriched my education at deaf school. I graduated from Gallauted University in1971. ASL is the BEST!

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