Discuss “Through Deaf Eyes”

You’ll find lots of good info at the PBS site including a transcript and discussion guide .

To help guide the discussion, consider these questions:

1. Did your perceptions of deafness change watching this story?

2. What segments did you like best? Feel free to use the transcript to help you remember them.

3. Were you surprised that the deaf students took over the school? That they hotwired the buses?

Feel free to include anything else that interested or challenged you.

20 Responses to “Discuss “Through Deaf Eyes””

  1. Shelby Says:

    Though my perceptions of deafness changed during the film “Sound and Fury”, my perceptions on deafness did not change as I watched “Through Deaf Eyes”. Of course I learned a lot about deafness, especially in its history, but I didn’t see it any differently than I did before viewing this film.
    My favorite part of the film was the segment on when the students of Gallaudet took over the campus in protest of the newly elected, hearing president. I really enjoyed this segment because I have learned of many protests in history, but they were all either civil rights protests, or anti-war protests. It was really interesting to learn about a protest lead by deaf people. I really admired how they refused to back down until their demands were met. Another great part of the protest was the amount of support they received from various other organizations, including the president of the United States!
    I liked the production of the film too. It was cool how in between segments with interviews and historical clips, there were films by deaf film makers.

  2. Alyssa Says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily say that my perceptions changed however, I definitely feel I was given many more examples that would help me understand the deaf world any more. As Shelby said most of our perception of the deaf world came from the movie Sound and Fury that we watched last week. I do not feel like we learned much more about deaf culture which would in return change our perspective. We did however learn a great sum of information and interesting information on the history of the deaf culture, and some of the turning points of a historical deaf lifestyle.

    I would have to agree with Shelby on the segment that was my favorite. When the students took over the Galladeut school I was really intrigued. It was amazing to see how hard they stood up for something that they believed in. They were so aggressive on the matter that they managed to shut the school down for the day. I can’t think of another example that I have ever heard of where the school was shut down for a week, because of a protest by the students. It was amazing also to see, that the students were prepared to do anything and everything they could to stand for their position and were not going to loosen up until they got what they wanted.
    It did take me by a little bit of surprise that the deaf students took over the school. I don’t think I was surprised by the fact that they did it, as much as I was shocked at how long they stuck with it, and how many people they got involved. They fought so hard on something they believed in and because of them, there were many other changes happening in result.

    The other aspect to the movie that was really interesting and I found interesting was all of the short films that were added in almost like commercials in between the segments. They were really neat and helped to put into visual aid some of the topics they had been talking about. I think they worked as a neat transition and helped with the flow of the film.

  3. Michele Says:

    I think that after watching Sound and Fury, though I thought that people in the deaf world could be successful and independent, I was left feeling that at in any case I would implant a deaf person. However, I think this movie showed a similar perspective, but also emphasized that the cochlear implant was not necessary for complete immersion into the hearing world. My perceptions did not change, they were only supported further when I saw how influential many people with hearing loss had been in various situations.
    I thought the part where Marlee Matlin spoke about her experience with the Oscars was really interesting. It made me mad to see that some people thought the only reason she won was because of her disability. I thought it was awesome that she stood up and spoke the nominees names the following year. Originally, I thought that would prove to the world the great abilities the deaf culture has. I was a little surprised when the deaf community found her performance on stage insulting. This incident just shows the delicacy that exists between the two cultures and the difficulty that lies in their unification.
    I also thought the way the movie ended was so perfect. The ending expression from CJ Jones captured the passion deaf people have about their culture and their abilities. My favorite part was when he said, “It’s about the heart. It’s about abilities, about doing something you want and getting what you want out of life…That’s the power of the universe; the force, knowledge, not hearing. So thank you very much. The End. Roll credits.”
    I was impressed how the students took over the school, and how successful they were. When I watched the part about hotwiring the buses, my original reaction was something to the sort of, well of course they can hotwire, they are people, they just can’t hear. But now thinking back, I can see where a lot of people would be surprised by this action, because many hearing people have given deaf people the stereotype of being ignorant and uneducated often times, which is clearly untrue. I think that the protest is such a great model to show people that deaf people are people first, and can accomplish almost anything that hearing people could if they work hard. I am glad that they were able to accomplish what they wanted. I actually felt a little proud watching the movie as the people were notified of the president’s decision to back down.

  4. alexkas12 Says:

    As many people have already said, the movie did not change my perception of deaf culture that much. My eyes were opened when we watched Sound and Fury. I did like this movie a lot though. It helps hearing people better understand the deaf. I just don’t like how we have to have two different worlds at all. I wish we could all just be one, deaf or not.
    Although I feel we should be one, I enjoyed the feeling of unity that they had in the movie. Every deaf person in the deaf community felt a strong hold toward it. I really admire that, because you don’t get to feel that connected to something too often in one lifetime. And though I can’t empathize with their belief that deafness is not a disability, I can understand their perspective and respect it.
    I also enjoyed the college scene. The Gallaudet ordeal was a very progressive time for the deaf. For the first time, a group of deaf people were coming together to fight for what they believed in. It was a historic moment for the deaf, and turning point. It allowed for the deaf people to join the progressive civil rights movement and move toward full equality. It seemed to be a build up of years and years of frustration. I can completely legitimize their perspective.

  5. Taylor Says:

    My perception of Deaf culture did not change all that much while watching Through Deaf Eyes. I thought that the movie was very interesting. I did have a little trouble following some of the movie, just because it was a compilation of lots of small stories. Some of the segments were a lot more interesting than some others.
    My favorite part of the film was definitely the students at Gallaudet university protesting the choice of a non deaf president when the two other nominees were deaf. They saw this as some sort of bias against them, so it intriguing to see how people who have a disability come together and organize just like other people do.
    The college scene was indeed really interesting. It allowed them to voice their opinions and really get deaf culture out in the open.

  6. Stephen Says:

    My perception of the deaf didn’t change much by watching the film; I think this has attributed from watching other films about the death. This film was very informational, but was more informative than it was taking a position. The film gave a very descriptive background on how deaf culture and history has changed over time. It was very interesting, and I did learn a lot about how deaf people have had to struggle in the U.S. over many centuries.

    The segment that I liked best was the struggle of Gallautin University to get a deaf president. I thought it was very interesting that these people thought it was necessary to have a deaf person as their president. Now, I understand that it is nice to have someone like them as the president, but I think it may be helpful to have people at the school that are hearing that can bring the deaf and hearing world together. yes, the students did have a strong voice, and it is important for them to voice their concerns. However, I thought the protests maybe a little reckless and unnecessary. I’m confused on the message of the deaf culture: do they want to be separate or do they want to be included in the main stream hearing culture? I know it’s impossible for me to understand their struggle, I’m just confused on their position.

    I wasn’t really surprised that the students were able to take over the school. I have a deaf cousin, so I know that these people have the same mental functions as any hearing person. The students were able to take control, but they still did it through communication. Even though they’re deaf, they can still communicate! This is a hard concept for many to understand, but it is possible. These students took a stance, and hot wired some buses. Yes, they are normal kids. People need to understand there is no difference between deaf and hearing.

  7. john Says:

    I always assumed that sign language only used hand gestures to communicate thoughts. I had no idea that facial expressions were part of the language. Those deaf films were very strange to me. I felt like the acting was a little over-done and melodramtic. Those are the kinds of movies that I wouldn’t want to see even if they included sound. The movie about the guy waking up from a nightmare and then reliving that nightmare in the real world, was especially obscure and awkward. I got the feeling that I was watching a Holiday Inn commercial when he was over-exaggerating his stretching as he was waking-up. I felt like the deaf people speaking was somewhat peculiar as well. It was almost like a paradox in a way. These people all proclaimed how proud they were to be deaf, but seemed to almost prefer spoken-language to sign language. Most of them could have probably communicated better with sign language, but chose to speak almost as if they were bragging about it. I suppose the point I am really trying to make is: why do are they so against the coclear implant, if they love speaking so much?

  8. john Says:

    I have one more thought to add that I just remembered. I have no idea why those deaf people felt they needed a deaf president of their university. I understand the need to feel like your group has something of their own, but I also feel like the most qualified person for the job should get the job. It was wrong for the school to have an “un-written policy” of having hearing presidents, but I also feel only having deaf presidents is just as bad. It is nothing more than blatant discrimination. It is no different than only having white presidents at an essentally all-white private school. I think in an effort to correct the discrimination that they have suffered as deaf people, they fail to realize that they are being hypocrites and doing the same thing to hearing people.

  9. Sean Margison Says:

    As far as perception is, the video did not do much to change my own. I knew that deaf people had many problems and troubles when trying to adjust or work in society…although I did not know to the extent at which they were wrongfully discriminated against. It helps to explain why there is so much pride and excitement amongst the deaf community…they had to work hard to be able to earn what they have accomplished today. I did find it interesting how after having been previewed to discrimination themselves, how the deaf community turned away the first black applicants to their school. It is hard to think that racism was being taught through ASL along with their own troubles. I personally think that the riot and takeover of the deaf school was awesome! The fact that they were able to get together and coordinate such an attack without uttering a word is amazing, and the fact that the school board gave in the ALL their demands was equally impressive. It makes me wonder how arguments are in ASL, I mean, it even looks better! Anyway, the fact that the riot was being shouldered upon the civil rights movement adds to the strange fact that they themselves were still biased, yet they were willing to use the momentum of the people they turned away in order to promote their own cause. I was not shocked to find out that they could hot wire the buses, and was not sure why people thought it was such a big deal. First off, they are people with equally great, and probably greater, dexterity and movement and should be able to hot wire a bus if they knew how…and second…the access panels back then would have been much easier to access and a lot less complicated to bypass!

    To John, it is completely understandable why they would want a deaf president. To them it isn’t a fact of what the president can accomplish, because they believe any person with the same education is equally qualified…its what the president can do to help them and their needs. Who better to do that than someone who has experienced it all and knows exactly what the students are going through? It would be the same as if a natively born Hispanic, European, African, Australian, (it doesn’t matter), tried to run for president of the United States. It just doesn’t make sense, not to mention there are laws against that. The person would have no idea what United States culture, society, goals, and customs are…and even if they could learn some of those things, they would not fully be able to support the United States as they have other loyalties, ideas and morals. Its the same with the school president…a deaf president is the best representative and supporter for a deaf school in order to get the school what it needs for its students.

  10. Emma Says:

    I agree that Sound and Fury did more to change my perception of deaf culture than Through Deaf Eyes, but it was a very good source of information and history about the formation of deaf culture and the struggles that reside within it.
    Like Michelle, I was very surprised by the segment involving Marlee Matlin’s Oscar speech. She did speak the names of the nominees, but she signed her introduction about the category. I can’t relate to the deaf culture’s disappointment with her decision to speak, but from my perspective Marlee was showing the link between the deaf and hearing worlds by choosing to speak some and sign some. I like what she said herself about the issue. She said she didn’t get up to present at the Oscars with the intent of showing off her deafness, but rather she got up with the intent of being a regular person. It’s sad that the deaf community was offended, but I think from the perspective of the hearing world she succeeded in showing that just because she is deaf does not mean she is different or “handicapped”.
    I really enjoyed the deaf films. And, in response to John’s comment, I don’t think they were overdramatic, I think they were appropriately expressing one of the most important forms of communication, both in the hearing and non-hearing world: facial expressions. Also, I think it’s hasty to assume that they love speaking, in the sense that they want to do it all the time, just because they used it in their films. I think they realize it is just another form of communication, like facial and bodily expressions and sign language. I don’t think the use of speech says they want to get out of the deaf world, I think it is their effort to bridge the gap between the two worlds.

  11. maria Says:

    Through Deaf Eyes did not change my perception about the deaf culture as much as Sound and Fury did. Through Deaf Eyes was an interesting movie though that helped me understand the history and background of the deaf. I enjoyed seeing the protest at the shool because these people fought so hard for what they believed in and for what they wanted, although I wish the deaf community would be more open to ideas of speaking people. Deaf people do speak by lip reading and signing and even though they are not exactly like speaking people, we should be able to funtion in the world equally, neither culture inferior to the other.

  12. Kelly Says:

    “Through Deaf Eyes” is a chilling history of deaf culture. After seeing “Sound and Fury” it was obvious that deaf community had experienced considerable harassment from the hearing world—the way the deaf so adamantly opposed cochlear implants was clear evidence of this. But where “Sound and Fury” fell short, perhaps intentionally, was in revealing these injustices. This is where “Through Deaf Eyes” picks up.

    The title itself immediately gives a different perspective. Deafness could not be any less related to seeing, and yet the producers cleverly crafted a title correlating the two. It is this different perspective that really opened my eyes. From the very beginning, with CJ Jones displaying acting abilities lacking in nearly everyone, hearing or not, “Through Deaf Eyes” chronicles the ups and downs of deaf history. It was really interesting to hear that even some deaf advocates, like Alexander Graham Bell, were viewed as “the boogie man.” Despite his contributions to the deaf, Alexander Graham Bell was shed in poor light largely because he rejected signing. This shows just how integral signing is in deaf culture. “Sound and Fury” clearly illustrated the importance of signing in the deaf community, but I was surprised to learn that different dialects of the language exist in different regions. I think this really shows the versatility of sign and solidifies its use as a legitimate language.

    In the end, it’s not difficult to see struggles encountered by the deaf community; consequently, it’s really unsurprising to see the Gallaudet students so passionate about having a deaf president. With the support of leaders like Jesse Jackson and George Bush, the deaf world made their voices heard by bringing one of their own to a prominent position.

  13. allison Says:

    My absolute favorite part was the discussion of the Deaf President Now movement. It reminds me so much of the civil rights movement, and what struck me most was how you couldn’t even tell that these giant groups of shouting people were deaf. We have such a stereotype about deaf people, that they are quiet and submissive. I think this movie highlights the struggle that deaf people have gone through to be seen as regular members of society who can riot, protest, and communicate just as well as hearing people can. Also, I have never understood why there was not a deaf president of Gallaudet University. Really, why does the president of a historically deaf university need to hear? Deaf people can communicate, too.

    The portrayal of Alexander Graham Bell was also surprising to me. I had never heard any description of him other than the “American hero” title he is given for inventing the telephone. The fact that his mother was deaf and he could still believe that deaf people were better off not signing doesn’t make sense to me.

    The only change in my perception of deaf people and culture was seeing the struggle that they have gone through in history. I really cannot comprehend why they were never given the opportunity to be understood or given rights at all. I am just glad that we have gotten to a point in history where our society and our technology allow for easier communication between hearing people and between deaf people.

  14. Madison Says:

    As everyone else has said, “Sound and Fury” changed my perception of deafness more than “Through Deaf Eyes”. For me, “Through deaf eyes” confirmed my perceptions and helped to make them more concrete for me. Thinking back over all I learned from this movie, its alot. I was actually surprised at how interesting they were able to make the movie considering usually movie with that much information in them are fairly boring. I guess one thing I learned that surprised me was how many deaf people can talk without a cochlear implant. I really didn’t know anyone could do that.

    One of my favorite parts of the movie was when the man was talking about his mother and father and how growing up he thought his father was a failure because he couldn’t speak (but signed beautiful sign language), but thought of his mother very highly because she spoke well. I was very happy that he studied ASL in college, so that he could see everything his dad was. That really touched me because I’m sure kids out there have similar perceptions about their parents who are deaf, and I think that they too should be enlightened that if your parent is deaf and does not speak, that most certainly does NOT mean they aren’t just as smart as everyone else you know.

    I also really liked the part Michele said about Marlee Matlin. I think it’s amazing that she was able to make it big like that in the movie world. I also thought it was very good of her to go up there and try to speak, but also sign a little. I was very surprised when the deaf community did not support her. I still don’t understand why. She did some of both so that everyone was included.
    About the Gaulladet students, I really admire their strength and willpower to protest and get what they wanted. I wasn’t really that surprised when I heard they hotwired buses, and I don’t understand why people do. Hot wiring a bus requires no skill that a deaf person does not have.
    Overall I really liked this movie and though it was beneficial to watch.

  15. Katelyn Says:

    The film “Through Deaf Eyes” did not change my perceptions of deaf culture very much. I was, however, surprised to learn how passionate students were about having a deaf president at the university. I agree with John in that it’s discrimination to exclusively hire only deaf presidents; the most qualified person should be hired to do the job. I was impressed by the way they adamantly protested their beliefs until someone listened to them, no pun intended. The film showed that they are normal in many ways and deserve equal treatment. I also respect Jesse Jackson and George Bush for supporting their cause and helping them achieve their goal of a deaf president.

  16. RJ Says:

    Through Deaf Eyes did not change my perception of deaf people very much (if at all). If this had been the first movie about the deaf that we watched, then it may have had more significant of an impact, however after seeing Sound and Fury (part I and II) I formed a clear decision as to what I would do in the event that I had a deaf child. I liked the short films made by ‘deaf filmmakers’ throughout the video. It was interesting to see how the producers tried to convey a ‘deaf’ story to a ‘hearing’ audience. Obviously we were able to see the sign language used in their short productions, however the story was being read to us by a narrator, with some sound effects as well. So in reality, we didn’t get a taste at ALL as to what a deaf movie was like, or how it would really be perceived. This also made them seem like over-dramatic movies, but we have to recognize that they wouldn’t seem this way to the audience they were made for. I also enjoyed seeing the protest to keep a deaf president instead of a hearing president at Gallaudet, however I wish it was more possible and accepted by the deaf to integrate the hearing world with the deaf world.

  17. ronald Says:

    My perception of Deaf people have altered a bit, but i wouldn’t say drastically. There was a lot of things i wasn’t aware of such as: deaf people have a strong prejudice against hearing people and also that deaf people for the most part would rather have their deaf children (if they had any) be deaf than hearing because they don’t see being deaf as a disability. I’m all about being optimistic but to see being deaf as blessing is one thing, but to take ones view of how their life as a deaf person has been and to try to impose it onto someone else, i think is ignorant and selfish. Deafness is obviously a disability, people don’t just have ears for no reason. I was completely oblivious about deaf peoples sentiment towards the hearing. I knew deaf people didn’t felt bad for themselves but i surely didn’t think they’d rather their children be deaf than hearing. I’d consider that abusive.

    I really liked the segment with Marlee Matlin. I find her truly inspirational. Here you have someone who is deaf, successful and that can speak. This shows true motivation and drive on her part. And it also shows there could be a commonality between the deaf and hearing world. Of course it would be great of most hearing people knew basic sign so that we can all just get along and communicate but i feel like people like Marlee Matlin create hope and are a prime example of the fact that these two world don’t necessarily have to be apart.

  18. Luke Says:

    2 days of watching the movie, a day of discussion in class, a great deal of introspection and I still have no idea what to take away from this movie. I guess I concur with the sentiment that Sound and Fury really were such a drastic wake-up call that this movie just seemed like your run-of-the-mill PBS special.

    This much I know is true: The deaf culture is just as complex and has just as many facets as the hearing culture. If nothing else, I think the movie presented, and was trying to present, deaf culture as a microcosm of hearing culture. That is certainly the case, which the movie leaves little doubt about.

    There have also been a couple of comments about Alexander Graham Bell. One moment you could believe he was a hero, and the next the most disdained of villains. Which was it? Do the deaf champion his work with the deaf? Or do they hate his oralist movement? Maybe the post-oralist deaf world really does hate him, where as the oralists (including many who are alive today) grew up believing and therefore still believe he is their bastion in the hearing world. I would like to believe that in the future, history will tell us that he did what he thought was best, and that was enough. He may have spawned a movement that was damaging to many in deaf society, but he himself did not damage them.

    Either way, I can’t see a great deal of change in my perceptions of the deaf culture from this video, as has been stated again and again, and I hope its because our class, including myself, were able to take away so much from Sound and Fury that this video fit right in line with what we had learned.

  19. Ethan Says:

    This documentary film definitely changed my perception of deafness. It exposed the struggle and ordeal that the deaf community has undergone. While I am sympathized with the deaf community, I do not approve all of their actions and beliefs. When the hearing candidate was elected president of Gallaudet over two other deaf candidates, the deaf people protested. I understand the frustration and anger that they felt, but their action was somewhat extreme. There was a sign that said, “We Won’t Give Up Until We have a Deaf President”. I do not doubt that deaf people possess the same ability that the hearing people do. Just because they were not blessed with hearing at birth does not mean they can’t perform intelligent, complex, and even malicious tasks such as hot-wiring school buses.

    There’s no doubt that discrimination against deafness exists. I completely understand deaf people’s desire to prove their capability and eliminate the sense of inferiority. However, radical thoughts are unnecessary and even disastrous.

  20. ebstone Says:

    I was really surprised about the protests the students had at Gallaudet University. To show such strong emotion over the matter is indicative that it would be best for them. Even the outside support given to the protesters was amazing. I thought the argument the one man made about historically black colleges having black presidents was impressive and very suitable. Why should a deaf school not have a deaf president? Having one would allow the students to feel more comfortable.
    The determination of the students was awe-inspiring. Being able to hot-wire the buses, block the exits, and flatten their tires took a lot guts. There protests paid off, though. If someone has the will to do something and feels strongly over the subject, they can succeed, such as these students. Not only did they get their deaf president, but they also got all their other demands fulfilled. Simply amazing.

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