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The Questioning of ‘Safe Haven’ in Classrooms

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Every time I see David Call’s artworks–and gives me a lot of ideas to write!

As alumni for Gallaudet University and a scholar recipient for a graduate program in Deaf Studies, every vote counts. It is the key idea in the Deaf community we live in America, a belief that is easily forgotten about ourselves. The sizable chunk of the electorate does not put the vote in the ballot to heal Deaf citizens with prescriptions every day. That is the power, regardless of the wishes of the voters as a whole.

Like I wrote in my previous blog,

“the Deaf (with capital d) is an archetype within the conscious of all the Deaf that contains our awareness of being Deaf. It is the psychological component that we still think and react to our society like Deaf people, and it is the same component that we are fully aware that the society continues to keep from being able to embrace American Sign Language (ASL).

Of all the betrayals that we the Deaf suffer, perhaps the most poignant of all is the betrayal of ourselves. No example of this is more striking than we remain committed to our being Deaf, that archetypical force which will hinder us from becoming fully empowered users of ASL.

To better understand why we the Deaf betray ourselves, let me present the common patterns of this archetype found within the Deaf community. These patterns include behaviors, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes of the Deaf. This exploration is intended to help us identify how this archetype force is still in control, and to understand how the Deaf adversely affects our daily lives. They keep us struck, disempowered, and isolated.”  @ Jason “JT” Tozier, 2015

This force can be incredibly powerful, such as depicted by the biblical story in which a word make a Deaf man hear: EPHPHATHA. Gallaudet University has this Christian word in its official seal. The idea is that it “contacts” the Almighty. Very powerful, indeed! It is very discriminating! I, myself, could never associate myself with this word in the university seal.

In 1971, Frederick Schreiber, an executive director for National Association of the Deaf (NAD) coined ‘Deaf Studies’ in his quote, If Deaf people are to get ahead in our time, they must have a better image of themselves and their capabilities. They need concrete examples of what Deaf people have already done so they can project for themselves a brighter future. If we can have Black studies, Jewish studies, why not Deaf studies?” (Note: Quoted in Charles Katz, “A Partial History of Deaf Studies, in Deaf Studies VI Conference Proceedings: Making the Connection (Washington, D.C.; College for Continuing Education, Gallaudet University, 1999. 120.

National Deaf-Mute College was founded in 1864—known as Gallaudet University today. Exactly 130 years later, Deaf Studies program switched the lights on and invited students in to study and research. That was when I was a senior in high school when it was founded. However, there was resistance involved with the idea of the program, “This is partially due to the fact that Deaf Studies was already taught across the curriculum at Gallaudet University and partially due to resistance within Gallaudet University, for fear that such a program would foment resistance and activism. In any event, the solidification of a department was an important moment in the field’s history, as was the formation of its graduate program in 2002” (the undergraduate program was founded by Dr. Yerker Andersson and the graduate program by Drs. Ben Bahan, MJ Bienvenu and H-Dirksen Bauman)

I am perpetually honored and humbled to serve as the only hearing member of the Deaf Studies program at the world’s only liberal arts university for Deaf and hard-of hearing students.” H-Dirksen Bauman

That is where the danger begins. That is a big hearing privilege.

Four years after the coinage of ‘Deaf Studies’, Tom Humphries coined the term, Audism, based on the Latin audire, meaning, “to hear”. In his original article, Humphries defined Audism as “the notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears”–Tom Humphries, Audism: The Making of a Word, unpublished, 1975.

Words have such power that they can bring respect or they can bring disrespect, as is shown by current Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA) president, Alyce Slater Reynolds and its association/board. They have had nothing to protest the word, EPHPHATHA today. They had alienated Deaf people, and their words could never help us to concentrate on our own nature. Their words are associated with the charging of ongoing oppression.

There is another crucial point to make about words, which we do not wish to talk about. However, we need to talk about our nature. What is wrong with it?

Paddy Ladd writes a powerful chapter, Colonialism and Resistance: A Brief History of Deafhood—-that questions why EPHPHATHA is not being discussed in Deaf Studies, We now face the challenge of bringing about the second phase, to search for more explicit Deaf epistemologies and ontologies that can frame these developments in a more holistic way, so that Deaf Studies can become a more conscious model for Deaf-centered praxis

That is exactly why EPHPHATHA should be more conscious model to discuss in classrooms—and one of the reasons we may find nature of the Deaf hard to believe in—even when it has been demonstrated to us—is that we have lost our connection to nature. The lack of action from GUAA would be unlikely to hold true for most Deaf people today, for the way we think of nature has changed.

Flash: Bauman, the only hearing member writes in his own words, “Even within the field of Deaf Studies, perspectives of Deaf people are often not valued. Many programs call themselves Deaf Studies but are actually based on an audiological model…”

EPHPHATHA is an audiologically model that will not allow to discuss in classrooms or you get in trouble. Bauman has the power as a department chair that will not allow discussions about this at all. You know what will happen next? TROUBLE. For example, in 1972, there was a tragic day in my motherland, Ireland, dealt with ‘Bloody Sunday’ and within a year before; ‘Deaf Studies’ was created.

‘Bloody Sunday’ was a national tragic day for Ireland. British soldiers shot 26 unharmed Irish people during a protest march. The same idea that ‘Deaf Studies’ applies to oppression, hegemony, language racism, and language bigotry what was going on in Ireland.

A better course for Deaf Studies would be to examine the situation in identity politics now, learn from the past, think about the beyond-identity issues floating in the public sphere, come up with flexible and nonhierarchical models of being, and lead the way out of the dead end of identity thinking”Lennard Davis

13 yeas later after the graduate program was created, Bauman is in charge today. Think about it. Remember, resistance and activism.

Yet, Bauman writes, From Desloges to Veditz to the formation of Deaf Studies, Deaf people have been defending the right to use sign language, the right to intermarry, and the right not to be subjected to medical and religious cures, the right simply to be left alone…while Deaf Studies has proven the existence of Deaf Culture, the cultural argument is often not enough to convince hearing doctors and parents to cease their endless search for a cure.”

Why should society want to keep and promote Deaf people? What good are Deaf people to society? What good are Deaf children to a family? These difficult questions must now be explored if the Deaf world is to continue in the face of biopower institutions intent on the eradication of the Deaf community.”

As Gallaudet alumni, nature is considered part of the family. I recognize that every alumnus and alumni, they do not talk about it to hearing people, they do have their own guiding spirit. Isn’t that part of our nature of being Deaf?

In terms of language, let’s start by defining EPHPHATHA. The English language has a very strange inference of curing ears, and the speakers of English assume from their own inference that being Deaf is pathological. The English language dictionary defines EPHPHATHA: the Greek form of a Syro-Chaldaic or Aramaic word, meaning “Be opened,” uttered by Christ when healing the man who was deaf and dumb (Mark 7:34). It is one of the characteristics of Mark that he uses the very Aramaic words which fell from our Lord’s lips. (See 3:17; 5:41; 7:11; 14:36; 15:34.)

Once again, Bauman writes, “How would the world be affected negatively by the loss of Deaf communities?” The speakers of English are very comfortable applying the word at Gallaudet University. It is a loss that affects Deaf community. Why not Bauman enforce and allow EPHPHATHA in the classrooms to be part of academic discussion? Remember Bloody Sunday 1972.

After all, EPHPHATHA is a Bloody Sunday.

-JT

Copyright © 2015 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirety only, including this copyright message.

References:

“Ephphatha.” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary. 13 Mar. 2015. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ephphatha>.

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3 responses

  1. An interesting article you wrote. I really appreciate you for bringing up the term of Ephphatha and challenging us. I hope people will question and challenge the term of Ephphatha, as well as your argument. Not only did I learn but also question your argument. In my opinion, your Ephphatha interpretation is good. Your approach towards it is the one I want to question. How can you convince people to support your argument? What action plan do you propose? Perhaps you should consider to share your thoughts with some people whom you feel would help replace Ephphatha with a new term. Do you have any new term in your mind?

    David

    1. As much as questioning my argument all you want, I stand by the political grid that people shall not be colonized by its myth that it shall restore their hearing–it is a hate speech at the broadest sense of humanity. The action plan should bring it up to the board meeting and remind that the discourse is important to recognize the oppression in literature.

      People had asked me which term it should be replaced through academic delivery. Again, the United States Congress has the power since they pay Gallaudet University through appropriations and the president has the only power to replace the term.

      Good questions coming from you, David!

  2. Reblogged this on I Think I Am a Better Ghost Than I Am a Human Being and commented:

    The old post was published two years ago today challenging the classrooms and why it is not allowed to discuss EPHPHATHA, a form of cultural genocide in ASL/Deaf Studies department.

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