Opinion: MCHS needs to implement ASL classes

McHenry High School should implement an ASL class into their foreign language program, which will benefit both hearing people and those with hearing loss.


Jo Hilton

Mackenzie Sroka, Staff Writer

Imagine there’s a member of your family who is deaf or hard of hearing. You watch them at every family gathering, rarely talking to anyone because no one in your family knows American Sign Language (ASL). You catch on that they would rather not talk to avoid struggling while holding an English conversation. You watch their emotions as they have no idea what is going on because they can’t read lips well during mass gatherings. You feel terrible for your deaf family member, and decide to do something about it. The next year, you enroll yourself in the ASL class offered at your high school. Soon you begin to learn ASL, and at your next family gathering, you go to your family member to start up a conversation using ASL. You watch the joy come over them because they have someone they can talk to easily. Now imagine not having that ASL class at your school, so you attempt to try to teach yourself, but you struggle and give up because you had no one to help you. For years, you watch your family member rarely talk to anyone and watch their sad, lonely emotions. For some students in the McHenry area, this scenario is a reality that could be solved by MCHS offering an ASL foreign language class. 

ASL is used to communicate with deaf people or people that can not speak. ASL helps so many deaf people communicate with hearing people easier. According to Health Line, speech training can be a very long and difficult process, depending on when someone became deaf, and even after many years of speech training, it may still be difficult for hearing people to understand a deaf person when they speak. Speaking English is not an advantage for them, it is an advantage for hearing people when communicating. The hearing community of McHenry can make an effort to include non-hearing people more effectively. According to IDHHC, in McHenry County, IL, there are 16% of people that have any type of hearing loss and 3% of people have complete hearing loss. Studying ASL could help citizens of McHenry feel more united and not separated by lack of understanding or communication. 

People who learn ASL become more understanding and sensitive towards the deaf community. Students can learn about deaf people’s culture and language in the class. The more people that learn ASL the more awareness is brought to other peoples attention. 

Becoming a person who can fluently speak ASL not only leads to better communication with people who are deaf, but also respect and understanding of their culture. According to Lead With Languages,  someone who is proficient in ASL will develop a strong appreciation for deaf culture, and can promote understanding and acceptance of the language among others. Developing these skills can lead to promoting ASL, which can help respect deaf people, but can also lead to the people learning more languages to understand the culture of  other people.

Students who can not hear often benefit from others understanding them. Becoming more sensitive towards them is great for them too. Them learning English is difficult and it is way easier for hearing people to learn ASL. According to Health Line, an individual may choose to use ASL over spoken language, as learning spoken language is mostly for the benefit of hearing people. When people learn ASL, they can realize that, and become more sensitive and respectful to everything they went through for hearing people. 

Many people in the U.S.A. are hard or hearing or completely deaf. When the community around them understands and respects them, they can feel more supported and understood. In order for that to happen people can learn ASL. “Not enough schools teach how to communicate with them. People that are deaf or hard of hearing are more common than what people think, and have a hard time communicating with people,” declared Alexis Wilde, a freshman at McHenry High School. The more students who learn and understand ASL will lead to more support for the deaf and hard of hearing community, specifically in McHenry.

When students learn how to respect and understand a community and culture better, they grow into a better person. “I believe benefits such as helping others and improving ourselves come from taking an ASL class,”  described Kendra Hengine, a sophomore at McHenry High School. Students know that they would be helping the deaf community by understanding and being sensitive towards them, too. By learning ASL, students can learn more than just communication.

Communicating with a deaf family member or a person in ASL is more than communicating together for them. It makes the person feel seen and understood because someone learned how to make communication easier on them. According to Healthy Hearing, when someone you love can’t hear, ASL is a great way to communicate in a rich, meaningful way. Using ASL is special to a deaf person because it is not expected for hearing people to communicate in that way rather it is expected for a hearing person to try to communicate in English. It can be deeply appreciated by a person. 

When a person learns ASL in order to communicate with a non-hearing person, it can show the non-hearing person how much the person cares. It is very helpful and meaningful to a person when you can make communication easier on them. “I believe that our school should have an ASL class so we can communicate with the community or other students who are hearing impaired because it could change their life knowing that the community cares and wants to communicate with them,” expressed Henige. Teaching ASL to students can lead to a better community because it will show hearing impaired people how much the community cares for them. It would make deaf people feel more included in the community. 

Many schools are accepting ASL as a foreign language. Illinois also has accepted ASL as a foreign language. According to States that Recognize American Sign Language, Illinois has recognized ASL as a foreign language for high school credit, which allows up to four years of class credits, and one year of credit for demonstrated proficiency. This allows all high schools to have ASL as a foreign language class and the students to receive credit for it.

ASL classes are growing in popularity around the United States. Many colleges and universities have implemented ASL as a language class. According to Lead with Languages, ASL is one of the most widely used languages in the United States, and the fourth-most studied second language at American universities. The popularity of the language continues to grow year by year. Many deaf, hearing impaired, and hearing people are using sign language as a first or second language to communicate with. Students are continuing to want to learn the language in high school into college or university. 

In order for ASL to have become a class, there was a law that had to be passed. When the act was passed many schools, colleges, and universities began to implement it into their programs. According to Healthy Hearing, since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ASL has become one of the most popular language classes in colleges and universities. When high schools teach ASL, the students can continue to learn how to communicate using ASL and learn more about the culture of the hearing loss community. Which can lead to the deaf and hearing impaired community being able to communicate easier, and be more understood.

While some people believe that an ASL class is not necessary because 81% of the population can hear perfectly, many people know at least one person that experiences some form of hearing loss. Hearing loss and deafness affects many families. According to Verywell Health, interaction using ASL may be limited to a single family member or person who is deaf. But that one person who is deaf could be feeling excluded from everyone else. If a deaf person knows no one that can communicate using ASL, they can struggle to communicate with many people in a group because communicating in English can be very difficult for some deaf people. By a deaf person knowing people that can communicate using ASL, they can feel more included. Teaching ASL to students can help deaf and people with hearing loss that speak ASL feel more included.

McHenry High School should have an ASL foreign language class that can benefit deaf and hearing people. Family members and other deaf people can feel included by hearing people knowing ASL because it can show them that hearing people care and are supportive. It can lead to hearing people understanding the culture and the language of deaf people. Hearing students can improve themselves by learning ASL. In order to support McHenry High School adding an ASL class to their forgien language program, email the administration at West and East campus, or contact the author’s email for more information.