Lane (Psychology/Northeastern) follows up When the Mind Hears - his
1984 history of the deaf - with an excoriating analysis of the
oppression of the deaf in contemporary society. Hearing people,
Lane says, view deafness as a disability - but the deaf see
themselves as a linguistic minority, feel that they have a richer
social life than hearing people, marry each other, and celebrate
the birth of a deaf child as a precious gift. After developing
these preconception-shattering revelations, Lane reveals the meshes
of paternalistic control exercised by "audism" - that institution
of school administrators, speech therapists, psychologists, and
social workers that authorizes views of the deaf, governs where
they go to school, and exercises authority over their community.
Despite research showing that American Sign Language is a natural
language with its own vocabulary, grammar, and art forms,
professionals persist in viewing it as disabled English and refuse
to learn it. The consequences for the deaf are dire: IQ scores can
be lowered 30 points by examiners resorting to ad hoc pantomime for
test instruction; psychologists administer tests designed for the
hearing and misdiagnose deaf children as learning-disabled; deaf
youth are "mainstreamed" out of special schools to languish in a
heating, English-speaking environment. The audist establishment,
Lane says, has promulgated calling deaf children "hearing-impaired"
- the equivalent, he adds, of calling women "non-men" or gays
"sexually impaired." And economic serf-interest motivates the
audist establishment, Lane argues. The hearing-aid industry, for
example, annually sells $250 million dollars' worth of hearing aids
to deaf children, whose teachers require them. Yet virtually all of
these children went deaf before learning English, making the
hearing aids useless. What is to be done to empower the deaf? Allow
them their language, Lane says, and their history and their
dignity. Essential for anyone with a deaf person in his or her
life, or for anyone who wishes truly to understand two million deaf
fellow Americans. (Kirkus Reviews)
A piercing look at the gulf that separates the Deaf minority from
the hearing world, this passionate classic is essential reading for
people who want to understand the gap between these two cultures.
Critically acclaimed as a breakthrough when first published, the
issues brilliantly brought to the fore by The Mask of Benevolence
are still deeply relevant. This edition, with new information on
the science and ethics of cochlear implants, sheds a forceful light
on the mistreatment of the Deaf minority by a hearing establishment
that resists understanding and awareness.
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