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Teaching ASL:  Voicing in Class?

In a message dated 3/29/2006 12:52:05 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, a student writes:
Hi Dr. Bill
I just wanted to clear up any misunderstanding about today's class.  I was NOT voicing in class today but I want to know if mouthing words with out voice is also considered rude.  I do catch myself mouthing words alot either before or while fingerspelling. If it is rude I will work hard to break that habit.  I take your class serious as I enjoy it a great deal so I do not want to risk failing based on a behavior I was unaware of as being rude (if it is indeed rude).  Thanks for your time.
Teresa A_______
Hey, GOOD point. 
No, I don't think of you as being rude at all.  You are one of the most dedicated students I've seen.  You and I have just been victims of the "department's" no-voice policy.
I have long thought that the department's policy of "no voice" in class has been an inappropriate policy due to a number of issues.
1. Corollary data from oral deaf schools indicates that the absolute prohibition of a student's native language is nearly impossible to enforce.
What I mean by that is for over a hundred years Hearing people at "oral" schools have tried without success to force Deaf people to stop using sign language in the classroom.  Invariably the deaf students would ignore the ban and sign when the teachers weren't looking.
2.  A prohibition policy leads to a stressful "police state" instead of a emotionally welcoming environment. 
3.  Behavioral scientist Jaana Juvonen in the March 9, 2001 issue of points out that in attempting to control student behavior, "zero tolerance" policies may actually backfire.
4.  Overly strict policies are viewed by students as unreasonable.  Thus they feel justified in breaking such policies.
5.  I have visited many ASL classes here at Sac State.  In each ASL 1 class I have visited, without exception, I have observed student whispering and/or talking--despite the policy. 
6.  It has consistently been shown that there are serious concerns about the effectiveness of zero tolerance policies.
Skiba, R. (2000).  Zero tolerance, zero evidence: An analysis of school disciplinary practice (Policy Research Report #SRS2). Bloomington, IN: Indiana Education Policy Center. (available at: www.
7.  It is nearly impossible for a Deaf instructor to effectively police student voicing because it is impossible to tell whether the student is simply mouthing without voicing.  Mouthing an occasional corresponding English word while signing ASL is very common in the Deaf world.  To outlaw mouthing totally in the classroom would be to require students to sign in a way that is not representative of how communication occurs between average Deaf Americans.

I've got to get home to help out my wife with the kids...but I plan on resuming this discussion later on.
Thanks for clarifying that you weren't voicing.
Dr. Bill


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