Opinion

American Sign Language to fulfill LER?

Sarah Hochberg
Staff Writer

Goucher has an atmosphere where change is welcomed, and new, innovative ideas are championed. College is generally a time to try new things, Goucher’s administration gives us the promise of utilizing their resources to help us do just that.
When I saw ‘foreign language’ as a Liberal Education Requirement, I immediately thought of taking American Sign Language (ASL). It has a close personal connection with me, and there is a large deaf culture across America. It seems like a perfect fit – a language I am interested in that can open doors to a new experience I will carry with me throughout the rest of life.
My family has been intertwined with the deaf culture since since I was born. My twin brother is deaf and requires cochlear implants to hear, while my older brother is hard of hearing and requires hearing aids. I, fortunately, have been blessed with a full range of hearing but I grew up appreciating my ability to hear. I was surrounded by people communicating through their fingers and I never once paused to consider if it was a “real” language. It was just another way of talking. My brothers do not use ASL, but having been raised in such proximity with this community, I’ve always wanted to learn the language and immerse myself in the deaf culture.
Goucher’s stance on not allowing ASL to fulfill an the language LER implies that they don’t believe in deaf culture. Through several emails and a flurry of meetings, I’ve discovered that while ASL is recognized as a language and courses can be taken for an elective credit, it does not fulfill the Foreign Language LER. Meetings with the Department of Languages Chair Flo Martin have confirmed that in her eyes, ASL does not enable us the same gate-way to a cultural experience that other languages do, which is why LER credit is not granted.
I respectfully disagree.  I was raised in deaf culture, my family is immersed in deaf culture, and I think with a well-crafted response anybody could be persuaded to agree. As for the response that it is not compatible with the study abroad focus of Goucher, I say nonsense. Sign Language is prevalent outside of America, and there are courses taught in many universities in other countries to further one’s knowledge in the innumerable international dialects of Sign Language.
Currently, Micah Heaney ‘17 and I are heading a workgroup to get ASL accepted for LER credit. Nearby universities such as Towson and Johns Hopkins offer very accessible courses. If the administration could be persuaded, it would be an available option for interested Goucher students. I’ve found the student support for this cause to be quite astonishing; people from all class years have been coming up to me and asking to get involved, or sharing their personal stories. I’m touched. This is an incredibly important issue, which deserves to be fully heard and recognized. I believe that this is an achievable goal, and that with enough student pressure, anything is possible.
If you would like to be a part of this movement, please contact Sarah Hochberg or Micah Heaney via email. We welcome all support.

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