I’m a bit nervous treading into these waters, because what I am going to say is a bit controversial. However, it needs to be said and hopefully there will be some people listening out there. Like everything I say, feel free to take a grain of salt with my words. J
Some of you may wonder why I do not fully immerse myself in the Deaf culture. I grew up in it and my Deaf friends have given me the wonderful gift of perspective. In the Deaf culture, I can meet people from all backgrounds – deafness truly cuts across traditional dividers such as religion, race and socioeconomic classes.
Deaf culture can be wonderful; yet, I choose to only partake in the “Deafhood” occasionally. The reason for this seeming ambiguity is that I just cannot tolerate the rampant anti-intellectualism. You may ask, what is this anti-intellectualism she speaks of? The anti-intellectualism that I’ve seen is the rejection of academic achievement as “hearing-minded” (all of you signers will know what I mean) and the lack of motivation to attain good writing skills. In the Deaf culture, hearing-minded is anything but a compliment. The phrase, “hearing-minded” doesn’t just mean that one wants to be hearing, but also that one has adopted an superior stance, a “snootiness” prevalent in hearing people.
Hopefully my personal anecdote will illustrate the backwardness of the anti-intellectual trend. I remember when I was in my early years of high school, Even though I wasn’t the most diligent student, but I did well and I took honors classes. Whenever my Deaf friends saw me do my homework or reading, they would immediately start mocking me, calling me “hearing-minded.” Luckily, I’m not the sort to give into peer pressure, but if I was, my academic achievements could have crumbled – just to fit in.
Of course, this is not universal. However, I’ve met enough people with similar attitudes for me to see that this anti-intellectualism is pervasive. This trend is deeply troubling. First, it alienates our best and brightest to a point where they might submit to peer pressure and dumb themselves down. Deaf people need more representatives that succeed in the hearing world, not less. Second, even if our brightest children resist the anti-intellectual culture, it only breeds animosity towards Deaf culture, which is exacerbated by the fact that they are our sterling ambassadors to the “smarty-pants” elite.
I do understand that not everyone is able to achieve academic success. However, this is not a license to belittle your more-successful peers. I’m of the mind that everyone has their own contribution to the world, and everyone must respect each other’s place in the world. Every life choice has its own inherent value.
Now, can we hold hands and let’s all get along? (Ha, I wish it could be that easy!)