Dear LA Teacher,
I’m a 4th grader at Marlton School. I’m hearing, but we have a lot of deaf students at my school. I go because my little sister is deaf. Anyway, this month we are celebrating Deaf History Month. Please explain why we celebrate this.
Dear Confused student,
The National Association of the Deaf recognizes March 13-April 15 as Deaf History Month, which is kind of weird. Why start a celebration in the middle of March and end on the 15th of April? The reason is clear. Deaf History Month celebrates three key moments in American History for the Deaf community.
On March 13, 1988 Gallaudet University, the only university in the world that caters to the deaf and hard of hearing, selected a new president. It was decided that another hearing person would lead the college as its seventh president. The student body, backed by a supportive faculty and alumni, protested. They wanted their president to be Deaf like them. After marches, sit-ins, and a lot of media attention the protest ended when I. King Jordan, a Deaf educator, was appointed as president of Gallaudet University. The issue was important because it showed that deaf people could function as well as hearing people in society. Jordan said, “Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do except hear.”
The second pivotal moment occurred on April 8, 1864 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the charter creating Gallaudet University. Named after Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a deaf educator, Gallaudet University was chartered to educate both deaf and blind children in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital. Over time it became the first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard of hearing in the world. Today Gallaudet University is the only college on the planet where American Sign Language (ASL) is the dominant language on campus.
The culmination of Deaf History Month, April 15 celebrates the establishment of the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in Hartford, Connecticut on April 15, 1817. Founded by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, the ASD became the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States and is the home of ASL. The school still operates today.
The goal of Deaf History Month is to reach out to the deaf community and the community at large to increase awareness of the rich history of the deaf and their contributions to our American dream.
LA Teacher is the author of Goodbye Tchaikovsky, the story of a deaf violinist.