While Lawrence University offers a healthy variety of languages, we currently lack any curricular opportunities to learn American Sign Language (ASL). While ASL is not technically a foreign language, it remains unfamiliar to many Americans.
Our society lacks the ability to communicate with the deaf community, which studies estimate includes over one million Americans. As in any other culture, language is paramount; the National Association of the Deaf writes that ASL is the “backbone of the American deaf culture.” If foreign language classes allow Lawrentians to explore and understand distinct cultures, the study of ASL could serve that purpose.
Further, ASL could serve as an appropriate alternative for students with dyslexia or other verbal/learning disorders. Rather than waive their language requirements, Lawrence could grant such students a unique and stimulating educational experience.
An education in ASL could make Lawrence alumni distinctive job candidates, much more so than experience with Spanish or French. But more importantly, ASL classes would allow Lawrentians to communicate and collaborate with the deaf members of our society.
There already exists a Lawrence University Sign Language Club, so Lawrentians clearly have an interest in the study of ASL. Lawrence prides itself on its devotion to “The Power of Individualized Learning;” what better way to honor LUSLC’s initiative than by offering ASL in the curriculum?
The LUSLC has dedicated itself to communication with speakers of ASL. For Lawrence to reciprocate this effort would benefit students, alumni and the American deaf community.