Zippy- YEP! Our closest rellies (chimps, bonobos) use their *own* signs/gestures, as well as sounds (and some smells): these communications are engrained in us as hominoids-that's a really wellworthwhile idea to be taken up by - medical communicators?
Rachel McKee edited a lovely book called People of the Eye. She transcribed the signed stories of a variety of Deaf kiwis, from teenagers to people old enough to have been taught by Gerrit van Asch - a man with a big bushy beard who insisted deaf children learn to lip-read and forbade signing. It shows just how much things have changed.
My great-aunt was at van Asch in the thirties, the result of a childhood bout of scarlet fever.
As a teacher this reaction from teachers and schools annoys me. It's like they are putting the school first and the child second.
The resistence to the FM was much worse back in the days of the Madonna mike. The teachers really didn't want to wear the headset. They would complain it was uncomfortable, and then forget to take it off when they, say, talked to other teachers or went to the toilet.
I got my sign name confirmed today. I am 'goat'.
My daughter's name sign is 'book', three times. It was given to her by her itinerant, a wonderful woman who made sure her whole class got some exposure to NZSL. My daughter's class performed a song at assembly after NZSL got official language status - in English, Maori and Sign.
O glory be! Songs in sign & other languages all at once!
A long time ago, I invented the kind of people I wish we (some of us anyway) could become- people who held kindliness, strong pacifism*, deep intelligence allied with wisdom, knowledge & understanding, who live in & by the sea (no! I'm not talking about bloody cetaceans!) and who
think the purpose of life is to create & love & enjoy & help- in every which good & enjoyable way. Not all of them talk: not all of them talk the same language: not all of them talk with their tongues or hands.
Your daughter sounds a paid-up citizen - and yourself-
*they have bloody good & emphatic mindbombs for the - others-
Emma your post is frank and fascinating as always.
I have been to the end year concerts put on by the Auckland Primary Schools in the town hall, a different selection every night. Some of the most heart warming performances, are those by the children from the Kelston School for the Deaf, who sign to some of the songs. It's really great to see how inclusive this sort of event can be.
I hope to be reincarnated as a bonobo.
I'd have thought that as bonobos are matriarchal it wouldn't be quite so good for a bloke in that setting. Unless of course you were going to come back as a female .
Rachel and David McKee run a great course at Vic Uni. DEAF 101 opened my eyes to a world I didn't know about. And Book is an excellent sign name!
Bonobo males are definite personalities & good people - I've met 4 of them (including, handshake &hand kiss only, Kanzi)- and polite. Bonobo females are sooo - themselves! And not polite! They seem to pick up I'm a neither/ nor v. quickly, but cease dominance tactics equally quickly
even in zoo settings! (I'd seriously love to meet them in home territories
but that's never going to be a possibility.}
I've also met a lot of chimps (only in zoo/game park settings.)
I've been fascinated by our hominoid cuzzies since I was a wee small kid because I could read their behaviours before I could read & understand those of our species.
There are some real horror stories from the old days. I watched people recount stories of corporal punishment for signing, having to sit on their hands in class or stand in the corner, basically shutting down all input. The focus on lipreading at the expense of general learning confined many Deaf to a life of unskilled labour if they were lucky.
Things have certainly improved. Not great, but much better.
Anybody ever done studies on late1960's/early1970s Deaf employment areas?
I worked in woollen mills & carpet factories then, and there were an astonishing number (to me) Deaf employed then & there. They kept to themselves...
Emma, it's too late right now to go exploring all the things you've said, but it doesn't take long to say this: you're a sensational prose writer.
Emma, your take on "handicapping" recalls to mind Vonnegut's short story Harrison Bergeron -- the one with the Handicapper General, whose job is to ensure "equality" by, e.g. giving people masks (for beauty), weights (for fitness), or distracting sounds (for intelligence)...
I used to live around the corner from The American Sign Language & English Secondary School. One of my strongest memories of that area is the long lines of teenagers surging up 23rd in the afternoons, concave for line-of-sight, engrossed in conversation.
.Funny you mention Milan, Giovanni. From Languages of New Zealand (VUP):
I didn't know that, very interesting. The school did teach sign at the time I was at intermediate though. Later I did briefly have the experience of looking after a deaf man in his early twenties who was assigned to a halfway house for the mentally ill where I worked. It was absolutely tragic, here was a person whose brain had not been allowed to develop because he had been raised in a small village with no contact with other deaf kids by parents who were not (and had not been) culturally equipped for the task.
It would be easy to incorporate NZSL into the primary school classroom as it is such kinetic learning, involving the upper body and face. Just needs the political will and the teachers. Then kids could teach their hearing impaired grandparents, or baby siblngs.
I would recommend anyone having a go at learning NZSL. There are classes through university extension courses and night classes at secondary schools. I did a beginners course a couple of years ago taken by a brilliant Deaf teacher. Although I was pretty hopeless at it (old rigid brain) it was a great insight into Deaf protocol and culture. And over the weeks the tutor gave everyone their own sign name.
Crossposted from Mediocrity Watch:
Don't know if this has already been posted, but I heard Paula Bennett on NatRad's One in Five last night, speaking as the new Minister for Disability Issues.
Thoughts? I wasn't particularly impressed myself - Bennett was certainly on-message but specifics seemed to be a long way off (except maybe an awareness campaign of some sort).
My girl gets ropey if you use any word to describe her that isn't her name.
On the level of the individual your name is your name. You aren't "tall guy" "blonde girl" "girl with tattoo", you have a name, it's yours and people should use it.
Same goes for hard names, like Bart, people just have to suck it up and learn to say it properly.
I would like it to be a compulsory school subject from 5 years old for all children...
Why don't we teach languages at age 3-5 when the kids brains are actually wired up to learn language?
From what I've read from about 2.5 yrs till 8-9 the brain absorbs language much easier. Past that it's just plain hard work.
Sam - I've replied over at Mediocrity watch too. It did not fill me with optimism.
Regarding Bonobo and chimps (and babies?). It looks as though the development of speech might be one of the major differences between humans and apes at the genetic level.
Humans have a version of a gene called FOXP2 that seems to allow for the muscular control needed to speak. It's almost certainly more complicated than just one gene but it's certainly an important gene.
What is really interesting is the gene appears to have nothing to do with intelligence. That means the selective advantage that the gene gave humans was the ability to communicate and NOT the ability to think.
So it should be no real surprise to find that chimps etc when given a tool to communicate (sign language) prove to be quite intelligent.
It also emphasizes the importance of teaching hearing impaired children. They struggle with communication because the rest of the world expects them to hear, yet their intellect is unaffected.
I think NZSL has a lot to offer stroke victims.
Also DS kids, who will typically develop spoken language a lot later, so often learn sign language from one year old. I've seen my niece do the sign for 'crackers' umpteen times :)
Interesting thought re "having it too easy makes for shallowness." Think of those beautiful children who have a private school background and mix with the right people and get the best of material stuff. Parents believe that they are giving these kids the best start that they can. Adversity sharpens the awareness.
I am anti-religion but read things that are spiritual in what Emma writes, in the nicest possible way.
Given that Deaf tend to read books more than the average contemporary hearing person, is there sufficient numbers to sustain an NZ Deaf tertiary institution? The US has Gallaudet University, for example.
Beautiful post Emma, it's truly moving. It filled me with the deepest respect for you and your family, and strong sense of regret for some of those flippant comments I ignorantly made about their education. I also feel a renewed sense of appreciation of the sounds I can hear. thank you. I'd love to have seen that production of Oliver Twist.
I want to say a general big thank you for all the lovely things that have been said, both in comments and via email. I find myself all choked up and inarticulate, so I can only hope my silence is correctly interpreted.
I've had said daughter home sick from school all week. She certainly seems to find the prospect of a week on the couch watching old Buffy and Red Dwarf episodes preferable to going to school. She was made head librarian there last week (school, not the couch) and she's very proud of that, even though it appears to be because she's 'detail oriented' and doesn't mind telling other kids off. She's doing Kapa Haka again this year, which she really enjoyed last year - it's loud, a little larger than life, and everyone has to put effort into learning the words for the songs.
She's not perfect, mind. She's been bullied quite a bit at school and prefers not to interact with people her own age. She struggles to understand irony and sarcasm, which makes her home life difficult. She gets as stroppy and difficult as any pubescent girl can. Sometimes she uses her hearing as an excuse to avoid things she doesn't want to do.
I wouldn't trade her, but no-one would take her anyway. If we'd been going to sell her, we should have done it when she was little and blonde and cute.