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WPSD Graduation 2016: Barking Up The Wrong Tree

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Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Hunger strike at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD) was so important to the Deaf Education it represents academic freedom. It is now becoming a central theme in the history of WPSD. The hunger strike must not be more invoked than deeply understood.

Not everyone will agree with hunger strike, but it is essential for three critical reasons: 1) it is necessary for WPSD hunger strikers; 2) it is necessary for the Deaf community; 3) it is necessary for the quality of higher education for the Deaf. I will discuss each reason here. First, I understood the importance of hunger strike—even though I was not a student at WPSD, but I went through same thing at Tucker Maxon Oral School with similar principles.

Hunger strike becomes necessary. WPSD needs to be the place of the free exchange of ideas in the language and culture of the Deaf. Unless students and faculty are provided liberty to use American Sign Language (ASL) without misunderstanding, no genuine higher learning and teaching is possible at WPSD.

Those hunger strikers represent the best of the Deaf community. WPSD was supposed to be the primary source for dissenting ideas and vibrant debate in ASL. Nowhere else are intense intellectual debates in ASL, a common part of Deaf culture. When ASL is not understood, Deaf Culture is silenced.

Dr. Ronald Stern sent the wrong message for graduating students—talking about hunger strike is not an inspirational speech—it is a belittling message in the higher tone. Those graduating students certainly do not need to see that kind of message from a leader like Dr. Ron Stern. The graduating students put on their academic robe; they are scholars—believe it or not. The world needs to see them in this fashion to understand their struggles at WPSD—a flawed procedure leading to select an inappropriate speech by Dr. Stern.

Academic regalia have a history for more than 800 years. In Medieval Europe, scholars in many universities such as Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, etc.—wore gowns. In America, professors and students wore regalia for high school graduations, college graduations, and university graduations. In the past, these academic regalia symbolized scholarship. It is still an open question as to whether academic robe finds its sources chiefly in ecclesiastical or in civilian dress code.

Dr. Stern is a scholar and chooses this presentation in a very misleading and non-symbolic message.

WPSD hunger strikers delineates the quality of higher learning and teaching to attract the graduating students to the academy where ASL was supposed to be their human right. I support WPSD hunger strike from day one.

The deliverance of reasons for the graduation at WPSD does not seem reasonable at all. When asked how the students felt, for example, most of us imagine something about being neutral is a good thing to be. A little democracy reveals, however, that such neutrality would be as bad as the known oppression.

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-JT

Copyright © 2016 Jason Tozier

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

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