Inquiry into Community/Culture
Getting the Words Second Hand
?Everything you hear directly is what we hear second hand.? As we sit in the lobby of Sackett
Hall, Lee explains to us how it is to be deaf in a hearing world. . . . Although Lee grew up
struggling as a deaf child in a hearing home, her colleagues Ruth and Linda are among the 5
percent of the deaf population who come from deaf families. The deaf child born into a deaf
family has a distinct advantage in literacy, Linda tells me, a home environment rich in language.
Their ?home language? is American Sign, and English is a learned second language. Linda?s
parents and grandparents signed stories to her when she was a child, creating a context for
learning much the same as in any privileged home.
?Bonnie S. Sunstein
They get on the bus in their Raider jackets, their ears plugged with huge brainstorms of rap?
that?s what they hear a tiny, metallic tish, tish, tish leaking from their earphones?they board the
city bus in groups, talk loud . . . It would be a smart idea not to look at them?no, I mean it?
these are children, but they are children with machetes and guns and no point of ref-france, so
betta show me def-france, or you are outta breff, once I blow your brains to hell. . . . Keep your
eyes to yourself. Read your paperback. Read your magazine. Do not make eye contact. They are
children so wary of any ?dis? they might ?smoke? you for staring.
ConVal is in some ways progressive. There are about 900 students and an administration that
consciously work to minimize the ultramacho sports culture that dominates many schools. . . .
Even so, the traditional hierarchies operate: the popular kids tend to be wealthier and the boys
among them tend to be jocks. The Gap Girls-Tommy Girls-Polo Girls compose the pool of
desirable girlfriends, many of whom are athletes as well. Below the popular kids, in a shifting
order of relative unimportance are the druggies (stoners, deadheads, burnouts, hippies or neohippies),
trendies or Valley Girls, preppies, sketeboarders and skateboarder chicks, nerds and
techies, wiggers, rednecks and Goths, better known as freaks. There are troublemakers, losers,
and floaters?kids who move from group to group. Real losers are invisible.