William Stokoe

June 28, 2018
Category: Submitted Posts

By: Lindsey Mueller (07/03/17)

Let me begin by stating that, while I understand the importance of keeping chapters at a manageable length I feel this one may have indeed been too short. I appreciate the concise summary of Deaf culture and as a hearing person I must say that I found this chapter absolutely fascinating. It only piqued my curiosity and now I find myself wanting to learn more, so I will probably begin investigating the suggested reading materials at the end of the chapter.

That all being said, I found myself rather inspired by what I read about William Stokoe. Of course, it would be difficult to write 500 words about someone of whom I only have read one short paragraph, but his call to action is quite moving. In an era when Deaf people were being forced out of their comfort zone by conforming to oralism, this man was dedicated enough to research the topic intently. As a hearing person, he was in a position of power, if you will – or at least he was in a respected position in which he could serve as a strong advocate. As a professor at a Deaf college he cared enough to use his position to advance the education of (and the education about) Deaf people. He went above and beyond to prove that ASL was not a mere “translation of English”, which I’m sure was a common belief at the time, but rather that it was a unique language of its own – something that must have been difficult to prove factually (because I also assume that until this time there hadn’t been much research done on ASL yet). I would be quite interested to delve more deeply into his research, his findings, and ultimately his position papers.

This man is credited for advocating for Deaf people in a way that no one else could at the time, and he educated the public about Deaf people in the meantime. Due to his efforts, I would hope that the public was able to shift from seeing ASL as an interpretive dance of sorts to what it is – a functional and beautiful language and a deeply rooted and respectable culture.

As a hearing person I cannot claim to have any experience of my own, however I do feel that the movement to include Total Communication in 1970 was paramount to the progression of the education of the Deaf community. By allowing Deaf people to utilize whatever means of communication by which they personally learn best, this movement allowed for the advancement of Deaf students –no longer would they be limited by the educational standards put onto them by the general public; now they could pursue education by whatever means made the most sense to them personally, thereby giving them the opportunity to tap into their full potential in terms of their own education. Suddenly the Deaf community was ‘allowed’ to become highly educated; no longer would “deaf” mean “uneducated” to the public eye – that stereotype now would have no legitimate basis. This movement (and ultimately the passing of Public Law 94-142) also indicates another important step in Deaf history: that of inclusion. Especially in today’s society, children of all educational backgrounds and preferences are accepted into public education and accommodations are made to allow them to learn via their own preferences – and now the Deaf population is able to do the same.