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ASLI3 was hoping to be able to be an official ASL Interpreting student by now, but no such luck.  California State budget cuts have made my life incredibly difficult right now.  I started at a new school this semester, because the old one had ASL classes, but not an interpreting program.  My registration date dropped dramatically because of this and all the classes that I wanted to take were completely full by the time I was allowed to ask for them.  Boo!!

I go to a Community College in California, and the beauty of the Community Colleges is that they accept everyone… no matter what your past school performance was or whether you’ve even completed high school, they will let you take classes.  The other beautiful part (and the reason I’m going) is that they only charge $26 per credit.  The bad part about all of this is that every class is usually jam-packed full.  That was before the California State Budget  crisis.  This semester the Community Colleges are offering 1/3 less classes and a vast population of students haven’t been able to register the regular way.  Me being one of them. 

I’ve tried to be pro-active.  I e-mailed all my professors and asked them to add me if they have space, and several of them wrote me nice but non-commital e-mails back.  School starts Monday, so keep your fingers crossed for me.  I’ve gone a little crazy this summer, not being in school, and I hope I don’t have to suffer through another semester of that.   I shake my fist at the dysfunctional state constitution.


Thank God he gave the unto us

To free us from our woe

And put the key into thy hand

One hundred years ago

200px-Searing LauraRedden2 Laura Redden Searing

ASLLaura Catherine Redden was born in 1839 in Somerset County, Maryland.  Her family soon moved to Missouri, where Laura contracted Meningitis at the age of 11 and became deaf from the medicine used to treat her illness.  Laura’s family decided to send her to the Missouri School for the Deaf so she could continue her education, as she could no longer attend the school she had been going to.  After she graduated, she was offered a teaching position at the school but declined.  Instead, she started publishing poems and was offered a position as editor for a St. Louis religious paper named the Presbyterian.  She was only 19.  Soon, she was writing for the St. Louis Republican as well.  It was at the Republican that she started using her pen name, Howard Glyndon.  It was no secret that this name was fake, as her real name frequently appeared underneath in small letters.  At that time, many women wrote under male pseudonyms as women were expected to marry, raise a family, and dedicate their lives to the home.  Using a pen name meant that they could be taken seriously in the literary world.  Laura used this pen name for the rest of her writing career.

When the American Civil War broke out in 1860, Laura was sent by the St. Louis Republican to cover the war in Washington DC.  She was strongly pro-Union, and wrote lots of patriotic poetry that was published in the papers in addition to her more serious articles.  During this time, she interviewed President Lincoln and became personal friends of both Lincoln and General Grant, among other influential people in Washington.  Laura also toured the battlefields with General Grant, a place in which women usually weren’t allowed.  Her first book of poems, Idylls of Battle, was published during this time as well as the book Notable Men in The House of Representatives.

In 1865, Laura traveled to Europe to study languages.  She continued to write stories about France and Italy for the Republican, and also started writing for the New York Times,  and the New York Sun, as well as several well know magazines such as Harpers.  She also collected information for the US Government on the silkworm and orange trades in Europe.  Laura met Michael Brennan, an artist, in Italy.  They quickly fell in love and became engaged, but they were never to be married.  Michael died of an aneurysm shortly after Laura returned to New York.

Upon her return, Laura enrolled herself in the Clark Institution to study speech and lip reading.  After a 2 year course, she then studied under Alexander Graham Bell for a year.  She gained the ability to speak, but she never really learned how to lip read  consistently.  Although the process had only been partially successful for her, Laura felt very strongly that lip reading and speech were very important, and used her ability as a writer to advocate the teaching of speech and lip reading in all schools for the Deaf.  Even though Laura placed great importance on Oralism, she also clearly believed in the benefits of Sign Language, as shown in her poem signed at the dedication of a statue of Gallaudet in 1889 on the Gallaudet University campus.

After a tour of Cuba, New Orleans, and the American West, Laura returned to New York and married Edward Searing, a prominent attorney, in 1876.  They had one daughter named Elsa in 1880.  Unfortunately, Laura’s marriage and her health both suffered in New York.  She and Elsa moved to Santa Cruz, California, without Edward, and several years afterward the two divorced.  Elsa soon grew up and got married herself, to another lawyer named John McGinn.  Laura decided to live with her daughter’s family, first in Fairbanks, Alaska, then in San Mateo, California.  Laura loved being near her two grandchildren, John Jr. and Laura, and wrote a lot of poetry about Santa Cruz and California in general during these years.  She died in Elsa’s house in 1923 and is buried in Colima, California. 

Laura C. Redden Searing was a woman full of courage.  She didn’t let the stereotypes of the age dictate what she could and couldn’t accomplish, both as a woman and as a Deaf woman.  She has left a lasting contribution to the world with her beautiful poetry, her insightful articles, and the knowledge that anyone can achieve greatness by ignoring negative expectations. 


expressing myself

ASLMy Dad became an Administrator the other day, that dirty word of the Deaf community.  He got a new job in charge of Special Education for his district, including several children currently attending the local Deaf School.  It’s been a little odd for me, because our experiences with Deaf people have been so different.  Sometimes I feel like we’re on opposing sides, because all of my experiences have been so positive and all of his have been so negative. 

“Hey, do Deaf people shake hands?  Or is it some sort of a Culture thing that they don’t?”  He asked me one day at lunch.

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “Why?”

“I had a meeting at the Deaf school today, and when I was done speaking, everyone came up to shake my hand except the Deaf people who were there.  I just wondered if it was some sort of a thing.”  He told me.

I knew instantly what had happened.  My Dad was just another in a long line of Administrators knowing nothing about Deaf Culture to them.  In their eyes he was the enemy, of the same breed that tried to take Sign Language away from them 100 years ago.  It wouldn’t have mattered what he said.  They would already have made their minds up about him.

“That’s funny.”  I said to him non-commitally.  I didn’t want to tell him that they hated his guts on sight.  I didn’t want my Dad to hate them too.  I thought if he didn’t know how much they automatically disliked him, then he could be nice without strain… and then maybe the cycle of “them” vs. “us” could be broken. 

I needn’t have tried.  The Deaf at the school had no problems at all in showing my Dad just how much they disliked him.  They made it abundantly clear several times how they really felt, and they were not tactful about it at all.  The dislike for everything the other group stands for now flows in both directions. 

I haven’t really known what to do about this.  My Dad and I don’t fight about it or anything, but at the same time I feel as though my love affair with ASL has placed us on the opposite side of each other.  I consider the behavior of the Deaf school further proof that Deaf people are just like hearing people:  they have their jackasses and their hard heads just like they have their friendly welcomers and their comedians… just like hearing people do.  My Dad’s only experiences with Deaf people have been with the jackasses and hard heads, and that’s sadly all he can see.  It’s impossible to blame him for hating to have to deal with that.  At the same time, I wish with all my heart that he had better experiences. 

My experinces have been so amazing.  Deaf people have been incredibly welcoming to me and so patient with my limited ability to sign.  They’ve been inclusive, and hanging out with them makes me feel vibrant and full of life.  I love the jokes and the games and the festival atmosphere that surrounds even the simplest Deaf Event.  The culture is amazing, too, and I can’t believe I’ve lived my whole life without knowing who Laurent Clerc or Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet were.  Learning American Sign Language has been such a life changing experience for me. 

I don’t know what to tell my Dad.  In some ways, I’d like to tell him how neat Deaf Culture really is.  I’d like to talk with him about the issues in Deaf education that I’ve been reading about and show him that, in the whole picture, most of it is really great.  I wish I could do that without taking a side, without standing against my Dad on the side of Deafness.  Because in truth, I’m on his side too.

ASLI went to Orientation at my school yesterday.  I was extremely cranky that they made transfer students attend, and even more cranky when I realized that I had to sit through two hours of information I already knew.  At least the counselor leading it was entertaining.   They gave us a bunch of cool stuff, too.  One of those neat little booklets is labeled “Student Handbook and Calendar”.  Inside, it includes a number of useful things, like a list of commonly misspelled words, the periodic table of elements, and a map of the human skeleton.  It also has a little segment on ASL.  I thought the things they chose to include were quite hilarious. 

Of course the manual alphabet is there, and there is also useful information about eye contact, signing space, and time indicators.  They also include the signs for “Mother” and “Father”, because I’m going to need those two signs desperately when trying to communicate with Deaf people… or not really.  In truth, wouldn’t “Name” and “Nice to meet you” be better?  I use those two every time I meet someone new, and it would be spreading politeness.  Another thing I didn’t like was their information on classifiers is all wrong.  They tell me that the classifier for “car” really means “3 cars”.  I’d like to smack a y-handshape to my chin to them for that, because they’re definitely wrong. 

I would also like to quote the “What is ASL” segment from the handbook.  They try to be diplomatic and give a short history of ASL, but a history without Laurent Clerc and Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet is horribly ridden with holes at best, and this comes off as just really confusing:

Throughout history, the Deaf have been persecuted for being different.  For centuries the Deaf struggled to form a visual language, and even then they were not always allowed to use it.  This has changed in the recent past.  In the 1800s, American schools were developed to allow the Deaf to pursue and education and participate in society.  One important figure in this effort, Edward Gallaudet, became principal of a Washington, DC, school for the Deaf, now know as Gallaudet University.  In the 1950s, William Stokoe was hired by Gallaudet University to teach English Literature, and by teaching the Deaf, he discovered and proved that ASL is its own language.  In 1960 he published American Sign Language Structure, and in 1965 the Dictionary of American Sign Language.  His work has been important in restoring and affirming the existence of Deaf Culture.  Today, ASL is the fourth most commonly used language in the United States and Canada. 

This paragraph makes it sound like Deaf people pulled ASL out of their nether regions, and suddenly everyone started using it.  I would even go so far as to say it accidentally perpetuates the myths that ASL is universal and based on pantomime.  Well… at least they’re trying, right? (sigh)

I may sound judgemental about this whole little ASL segment, but really I’m just laughing.  I feel like this isn’t so bad that it’s insulting or damaging in some way, I just feel like their mistakes are so hopelessly silly.  Ah the bastardizations that arise when people have little idea what they’re talking about…


ASLManners are different in Deaf Culture than they are  in the Hearing world, although many things are also the same.   Here are some of the differences I’ve noticed while out in the Deaf community: 

When you arrive, say Hi to everyone.  Be prepared to tell them your name, your teacher’s name, and where you are learning ASL.  Many people will also want to know why you are studying ASL in the first place. 

When you’re talking with someone, try to remember as much about them as possible, even if you feel it’s a casual conversation.  Most Deaf people retain information like a sponge and will remember you completely the next time you meet.  You’ll look really rude when they come up to you and want to talk about that hobby you mentioned last time and you think ‘who is this?’

Deaf people are really friendly.  It’s not uncommon for them to give you a huge smile and a warm hug, even if you’ve only met them once before.  They’re not being overly touchy-feely, they’re just welcoming you back.

If for some reason the telephone rings or there’s a knock at the door, don’t just leave to answer it.  Say “excuse me” then indicate that there’s a knock at the door, or a telephone call, and you’ll be right back.  That way the person you’re talking to doesn’t think you just up and walked away because you didn’t like them.

If you’re late for class (or other events), don’t just sneak in quietly and sit down.  In a visual environment like an ASL class, you’ve already disturbed everyone as much as if you’d blown a trumpet as you walked in.  Briefly let everyone know why you were late, and then quickly take your seat so class can resume.

If there’s an ASL signer around it’s incredibly rude to speak English in their presence, even if they aren’t a part of your group.  It leaves them completely out of the conversation, and they feel frustrated.

When you are leaving, tell several people that you’re going.  That way when someone asks where you are, others can tell them.  Never just up and leave without saying anything.

Remember the golden rule of manners:  If you aren’t sure what would be most polite, just think about those around you and what would be nicest for them.

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