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An argument for sign language classes at Flint Hill

Photo Credit: Life Print

Photo Credit: Life Print

By Henry Jeanneret, Staff Writer

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Allow me to preface this article by saying that I am hearing and while I have done a lot of research on the deaf community, it is not a community that I am part of, and consequently, not one that I cannot fully understand and/or empathize with the experiences of a deaf or hard of hearing individual.

Deaf people have existed just as long as hearing (non-deaf) people, yet very few hearing people know sign language, which has created a bridge of divide between the hearing and non-hearing communities. As a community that cherishes the ideals of inclusivity and diversity, it would only be fitting for Flint Hill to have American Sign Language classes as part of the language department.

In recent years, American Sign Language (ASL) classes nationwide have been steadily increasing in popularity in both colleges and high schools alike, according to surveys from the Modern Language Association.

Recent St. Andrew’s alum and current Yale student Ely Sibarium took several semesters of ASL classes at Gallaudet University, a private university for deaf and hard of hearing people. He is currently fighting alongside the ASL Club and Disabilities Club of Yale to have ASL as an accredited language at the University. Among many other points, one of his arguments is that ASL is a practical language, like Spanish.

Sibarium explained that, like Spanish, ASL has a rich culture, but instead of traveling abroad to experience that rich culture, you needn’t look any further than your own community. ASL classes would allow Huskies to reach out and connect with deaf people within our own community, the D.C. metropolitan area, and beyond.

An implementation of ASL courses within our community would allow hearing and neurotypical students to not only communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also with those who have down syndrome, autism, and mutism, who are nonverbal. It also gives students with dyslexia such as myself the opportunity to effectively learn a language.

ASL also has everyday, practical uses for (verbal) hearing people. According to the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, there is benefit for hearing babies to learn ASL, as it is very good for the language development. Infants begin developing an understanding language within the first few months of life, yet they are not able to fully express themselves, as they are unable to verbalize. By teaching babies ASL, they can develop language and communication of that language before they develop speech, which consequently strengthens parent-child bonding, decreases frustration in children, and helps them speak sooner than their non-signing counterparts.

ASL is also very useful for hearing people. It can be very frustrating when you’re in a noisy cafeteria and can’t hear what your friend is saying to you. But with ASL, you can still converse with them–even when your mouth is full!

Moreover, learning ASL benefits all of American society. This language is some Americans’ only way of expressing themselves, so if more hearing people learn ASL, deaf people can further succeed in their careers and contribute their ideas in a much more effective way, benefitting the greater good.

Student Council Association President Leyla Ebrahimi has been fascinated with ASL and deaf culture, learning some signing herself. “There is this entire community; this whole different culture that is separate from the hearing world,” Ebrahimi said. “It’s important that these two cultures communicate, to provoke deaf awareness, and to teach hearing people about the deaf community.”

By adding ASL classes to the Language Department, we as Huskies can learn more about the people around us and make our community more inviting to members of the deaf community.

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The School Newspaper of Flint Hill School
An argument for sign language classes at Flint Hill