SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 63

Audism Humphries Audism Tom Humphries University of California, San Diego Audism: 1975-2019 It has been over 40 years since I included in my unpublished dissertation a discussion of a term new to me, ‘audism.’ The context for the emergence of this term in my work at that period of time, 1975-1977, was both a personal and a professional one. Personal, because in the 70’s many of us were actively involved in creating a new discourse of culture, and struggling for language that both expressed the pressure on our identities and that redefined our relationship with the “other,” the hearing people among who we live. Professional, because I was in the middle of trying to find some theoretical explanations for a chronic problem of education that is still with us today, the learning of English among Deaf students. ‘Audism’ was to become a way for me to identify in one word, the underlying assumptions that contributed to the design and continuing use of a failed pedagogical paradigm. I will explain how “audism” came to appear in my dissertation and embed the original text for those who have not seen it. It has circulated, not as a published piece but as a document kept alive by sharing. Others have since the 70’s, published various theories about “audism” and there have been an abundance of electronic discussions and videos on the internet. The word has entered popular culture via t-shirts, buttons, and waistbands. It long ago ceased to be just a word in my dissertation and has taken on a life of its own these last 40 plus years. When I was beginning my career and working on my doctoral degree the deaf education pedagogy was very traditional. At that time, I was challenged by what I thought was an interesting approach to teaching English to deaf students, particularly older deaf students. Some few people in the early 70’s were recognizing that if American Sign Language (ASL) was, indeed, a language, then English could well be a second language for deaf students. I viewed the application of an English as a Second Language (ESL) approach to teaching deaf students as exciting because it framed deaf students as English language learners rather than remedial English students. The difference was important; with ASL as a first language, the view of deaf students as language deficient if they were not fluent in English could not be sustained. This ESL approach involved practices that used such then popular exercises as transformation drills in English and repetitive English sentence pattern practice. Many deaf students found it tedious because a strict application of ESL as it is done with speaker of other languages, proved not very creative or motivating. By 1975, there was already movement towards bilingual education, a theoretical frame that offered a more varied and motivating set of teaching practices. Bilingual education became the subject of my study and my dissertation. I and my colleagues spent hours discussing what a bilingual classroom would look like. In 1975, we implemented an experimental language learning classroom with our version of bilingual pedagogy. One of our reasons for doing so was that a bilingual paradigm was closest to the type of pedagogy that allowed for equal treatment of languages. Another reason was that we wanted a clean break from past English-only pedagogy. And a third reason was that the burden of negativity regarding the learning of English by deaf people had become self-fulfilling; the narrative of deaf SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 63