Letters: Deaf Culture in America Listeners comment on the growing crisis at Gallaudet University, the future of deaf education and deaf culture, and the debate over cochlear implants.
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Letters: Deaf Culture in America

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Letters: Deaf Culture in America

Letters: Deaf Culture in America

Letters: Deaf Culture in America

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Listeners comment on the growing crisis at Gallaudet University, the future of deaf education and deaf culture, and the debate over cochlear implants.

NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your e-mails. Last Thursday, amid a growing crisis at Gallaudet University here in Washington, D.C., we talked about the future of deaf education and deaf culture and why Gallaudet, the only liberal arts university in the world dedicated entirely to the deaf and hard of hearing, plays such a role in the deaf community. We planned originally to talk with I. King Jordan, the outgoing president of Gallaudet. But given the protest that shut down the school last week, he cancelled his appearance. The school is back open today after more than 100 students were arrested on Friday, but the protests continue.

Malia Woodard(ph) e-mailed us to explain why Gallaudet and its president are so important. The role that I. King Jordan plays in the deaf community is not limited to university president. He's a role model for deaf individuals and for advocates of deaf education all over the world. Keep in mind that in most parts of the world, deaf education at any level does not exist. That's why this is so important, why the stakes are so high. Students want a strong leader, one who represents the deaf experience.

We also talked about the debate over cochlear implants, technology that allows some deaf people to hear, at least to a degree. The issue divided the deaf community for years.

Allison Anderson(ph) e-mailed to tell us: As a deaf person who was born profoundly deaf, I just got a cochlear implant three months ago. The militant deaf keep saying that the implant is bringing on the destruction of their culture. I don't think it's the cochlear implant that is destroying the culture. I came into a deaf environment eager to learn with an open mind. And as time went by, I got criticized for the way I grew up, for who I was, for talking, for not being deaf enough. It finally got to the point where I walked away from the community.

And as we found out, this is still a divisive issue in the deaf community. Diana Harron(ph), a listener in California, e-mailed to complain. People are obsessed with fitting deaf children into the hearing lifestyle because they say it is reality and in the process deprive many deaf children of the opportunity to learn language and become fully functioning individuals in their own rights. Their parents make decisions based on false information about cochlear implants and how learning to speak and hear would make them normal. What is normal? I don't understand why Americans are terrified about sign language and are obsessed with making us hearing.

We saw a lot of e-mail on this topic and on deaf education in general, more than we could ever read on the program, but this conversation continues online. We've posted a number of your comments at the TALK OF THE NATION page at npr.org. You can also log on to read the full transcript from Thursday's shows.

Finally, John Richardson(ph) wanted to chime in about the Opinion Page segment yesterday. Would it be possible, he asks, for you to do a longer interview with the lady who talked about rap and how to deal with children listening to it? The brief interview was not only informative but dealt with a problem that is utterly immediate for so many people.

Well, he's referring to our discussion with Lonnae O'Neal Parker, a staff writer for The Washington Post. We got quite a response to that conversation. And yes, we're already working on having her back on. If you missed the discussion yesterday on her fallout with hip-hop, it's available at our Web site. You can download it and all of our recent Opinion Pages at npr.org/talk.

If you have comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by e-mail. The address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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