Well I finally got to see Through Deaf Eyes this morning (actually half last night and half this morning; it’s been a busy few days). I thoroughly enjoyed watching this. I should note that my perspective on this is as an orally educated deaf person; I have been largely ignorant of deaf culture and history until now.
While I knew the general outlines of the history presented, there were still many details I didn’t know. And I was fascinated by the glimpses offered into that past, especially through the NAD movies made about a hundred years ago (which are, by the way, found in the archives at Gallaudet, to which I’ve linked on the right sidebar). Watching this made me feel like a kid with her nose pressed up against the window to the candy store. It’s a whole other world there.
As for the oral versus deaf educational models presented, it fascinated me to see the bits of deaf schooling, from the small children being filmed looking a little lost, to the woman discussing the differences she saw in signing between black students and white students and how she tried to conform to the “white” model when she went to an integrated school, to all the memories shared by the different people they interviewed. When they showed the oral education clips, I had to laugh. While I didn’t go to an oral deaf school (I was simply mainstreamed into the local public schools) I certainly had much of that damned speech therapy, which is as useless as it looked on the screen! Would it look that way to hearing people or would they see that as what “should” be done? Would they look at that little girl being asked to repeat “airplane” said from behind that piece of paper, and think that was a dirty trick to play on her? I hated it with a passion when my speech therapists would cover up their mouths. I liked how one of the interviewees made it clear how it was such a waste of time — “I could have been learning other things, real things!”
The information on Stokoe also interested me. I had not realized the extent to which his work was pooh-poohed at Gallaudet…that blew me away. I thought he had to work at convincing the hearing world that ASL was a bona fide language, but it turned out he had to convince everyone. I also loved seeing the snippets from the NTD productions, I had no idea. Plus the technical institute and the development of the TTY…all new information to me. Plus, seeing it in the clips and such is much more immediate. The clips from the DPN — wow, what energy! And I was floored at how Zinser apparently did not know any sign language, or at any rate showed no attempts at signing in the clips I saw — having an interpreter present at all times. It didn’t surprise me as much that Gallaudet had hearing presidents in the past; I’m very well aware that hearing people patronize deaf people all the time. But that they wouldn’t sign blew me away. I also found IKJ’s comments interesting, given that the very first time I heard of him was in the October 2006 protests!
I thought the presentations of both Bell and Veditz were a perfect balance of destruction and construction; the one sought to tear down the deaf world, the other constructed it, preserved it an din the end showed us how indestructible it all was. I would have liked to see more specific information about Milan especially how deaf educators were excluded from the discussions and votes.
The present day segments on the various different people, representing different “kinds” of deaf people and their thoughts, I loved that. We are a very large and very diverse group, but in the end, all of us are deaf and all of the people interviewed came back around to that. (Yes, I thought it was very strange that the one boy with the two parents where only the mother signed once in a while and the parents talked mostly, despite knowing how to sign; I got the impression the production had everyone who could speak, speak which makes it difficult to sign at the same time I suppose. I think it would have been more effective to have had them speak at times and sign at others, more of what the mother did, I think.)
The people who discussed their cochlear implants confirmed to me a parallel I’ve made in my mind: CI’s are just today’s modern hearing aids (albeit destructive hearing aids). HA did not drive children away from sign language and deaf culture, and CI will not either. As I’ve said, deaf is deaf, and even the most clueless, orally functioning deaf like myself will eventually realize that. It was a trip to see Gina Oliva of Alone in the Mainstream several times and her DEAF WOW comment is absolutely spot on.
One thing about this movie overall for me — I kept watching all the signing and picking up what I could. It just glued me to the screen picking out what they were signing along with the captions. I’m at the point where I see that the captions for the signing have the same issues as captions for the speaking: things are rephrased and shortened up and so on in both! I can see I’m going to watch this again and again until I understand all the signing 🙂 This movie captured me from the start and didn’t let me go. It may be that for the Deaf, much of this was old hat, and they wanted to see other things, and it may be that for hearing people, it’s long winded and not of that much interest unless they happen to know deaf people, but for people like me, it’s a wonderful tidbit of a world I’m learning about day by day.