College Of Arts and Sciences | To Speak or to Sign: A Dilemma
S105 | 0130 | Humes, L.


A debate that has raged (literally) for over a century centers on the
best way for members of the Deaf community to communicate with the
hearing population. Basically, the question is whether the Deaf
should be encouraged and taught to use the communication system of
the hearing world or to use a system that is unique to their own
silent world. Those on one side, often referred to as “auditory/oral”
advocates, argue that the Deaf would be given a greater handicap if
they were not taught the communication system of the hearing world
from a very young age. Those on the other side are typically referred
to as advocates of “manual” or “total” communication.  They argue
that the communication systems of the hearing world, systems that are
based on a spoken-auditory language like English, cannot be learned
by deaf children during the crucial early developmental period in
which fluent language learning occurs.  Rather, visually based
communication systems, such as American Sign Language (ASL), should
be used instead and introduced at a very early age. The parents of
deaf children, the majority of whom are not deaf, have to make a
decision based on fragmented and polarized information - a decision
that can have consequences for the rest of their children's lives.

Students will read selected material supporting arguments in favor of
both the “auditory/oral” and the “manual” communication systems.  The
intention of the reading list, lectures, and discussions will be to
present information used in support of both the “auditory-oral” and
the “manual” view.  Ultimately, the student will be asked to state
their personal views on this issue and, in the course of doing so,
will learn how to support their opinions with factual information
from the literature.  During the course of this seminar, students
will acquire knowledge and basic information about sound, hearing,
speech, language, cognition and development, as well as clinical
information about hearing impairment and prosthetic devices for the
hearing impaired, including hearing aids and cochlear implants.