By: Jennifer Spain Greene (06/05/17)
William C. Stokoe is my favorite Historical Deaf Figure, because he saw deaf people as special and unique, and recognized the signs of a language being formed when other educators wrote off sign language as a “poor substitute for speech” in 1955. In the 1960s Stokoe saw that sign language met all the requirements to be considered its own language, and knew that insisting that students learn how to communicate orally and learn how to read lips wasn’t the best way to learn or teach.But because he didn’t have a background in linguistics, he was scorned and laughed at by his peers. To prove what he believed, Stokoe founded the Linguistics Research Laboratory and, a bit later, the Journal of Sign Language Studies in 1972, to keep the public informed about his unpopular opinion and theories. he also co-wrote The Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles in 1965. Because of his early pioneering, and perseverance the decision that the Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf made in Milan in 1880, that decided that the oralism method of teaching deaf people was proven to not be the best way for the majority of deaf people to learn, would never have been repealed, and those are some of the reasons that William C. Stokoe , “The Father of Linguistics in the Field of American Sign Language”, is my favorite figure in deaf history. because without him, the deaf community would most likely be struggling for rights, wouldn’t have learned a universal language, and many people would be living with no way to communicate. He spent years of his life dedicated to helping thousands of people to build the foundations of today’s ASL language, and help people realize that it is a genuine language with several ways to learn it and with multiple “Dialects” (ways to sign). He made it so children of the future wouldn’t have to go through the difficulty and hardship of using the oralism method that many deaf people of the past were forced to use so often that ASL almost died out completely.