For us Deaf people, I think many of us can’t image any Deaf people being totally illiterate, can’t read and write.
But why are there over, i mean it, way over 30 million hearing people that are illiterate right here in this country.
Have you as a Deaf person wondered why this particular hearing person refuse to write with you? Could it be that this hearing person is illiterate?

And now let’s ask this question, how come these 30 million hearing people are illiterate? What caused them not know how to read and write? What was the ramification or consequence of those hearing people not know how to read and write.

I have a theory and let debate on this if you will.

My theory is the philosophy of “Listening and Speaking” that caused the hearing people that can speak but not able to learn how to read and write.  What do you think?

Majority of us Deaf people, at least 90%, started off with the philosophy of learning to “listen and speak” by the ideology that Deaf should learn to speak and listen at start. But/and then eventually many Deaf people got fed up with the losing battle trying to speak and hear like hearing people and started learning American Sign Language….and they said, PAH, I am now normal and have 100% normal communication modality.

That got started with Alexander Graham Bell’s advocation over 100 years ago that Deaf people should learn to speak and listen and the ramification was that most Deaf people have today is that they still do not have good write and reading skills.

Now, it seems that the over focus-ization of of AG Bell’s ideologue of speaking and listening is the main reason why many Deaf people do not have good reading and writing skill similar what is going on in the hearing community….the 30 million+ hearing people being illiterate right now in this country.

You may ask,  What is the solution?  Simple,  it is bilingualism: ASL/English for all Deaf babies and children in schools. No question about it.

  1. deafa says:

    Yes, I’ve seen how my dad and grandma writes, but they also don’t care much about reading either. Parents really should start reading to their children, sign or spoken, from the moment they are born so they will develop the love for reading for lifetime. Those who love reading seem to be good writers. Some of the love for reading come from good memories and bonding:

  2. johnfegbert says:


    I agree 100% what you said about how important it is to read early as you can with your Deaf infant.
    My three Deaf grandchildren from the age of 8 years old to 28 months love to read before bedtime.

    John Egbert

  3. A Recovered Oralist says:

    AG Bell is as stoopid as the hearing impaired egoist blogger!

  4. Joseph Pietro Riolo says:

    Try to be sensitive toward and have empathy for the hearing people who cannot read or write.

    One of the causes of illiteracy is poverty. Some hearing people who grew up in poverty do not have the opportunity to develop their literacy skills. Other cause is learning disability or communication disorder. Some of those who have learning disability or communication disorder may not be able to overcome illiteracy.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this post in the public domain.

  5. johnfegbert says:

    WHOA, WHOA, Mr Joseph Riolo,

    Yes, we should and we do try to be sensitive toward and have empathy for the Hearing people who cannot read or write.

    But what about your sensitivity toward and have empathy for the Deaf babies and children in schools that have the bad education system and their language are deprived by the ideology of those organization that focus on the education of the mouth and ears first before the education of the brain to develop a language?

    The illiteracy problems with hearing people is not by the sinister directly with promotion of any organizations.

    But the Deaf education is still an enormous problem all because the decisions by the hearing people having marginalized ideology or discriminatory attitude towards American Sign Language.

    Joseph, I know damn well that you are not an idiot and surely aware of what is going on with Deaf education and how Deaf education is being decided by the hearing people and organizations that are blindly motivated in interest of many millions of dollars by making sure that the deaf people are labeled disabled by those that have a character as “Mask of Benevolence”

    Joseph, I am really disappointed of your attempt to persuade us off the mark to feel sorry for not being sensitive regarding the hearing people’s illiteracy problems and you have no statement or sensitivity of how devastating AG Bell and its associates has done to the Deaf people and how his ideology is still stigmatized in the society today.

  6. Jean Boutcher says:


    TIME cover in 1963 shows a picture of Johnnie. Above is the headline:

    Thrty years later (1993), the very same magazine, TIME, ran another headline with the picture of “WHY JOHNNIE CAN’T WRITE?”

    Another national news magazine, US News and World Report , shows the percentage of the highest literacy to the lowest illiteracy:

    1. France (the highest literacy)
    2. Germany
    3. Japan
    15. Great Britain
    16. United States of America — yes, the 16th, not the first!
    100. Somalia (the highest illiteracy

    The Washington Post ran an editorial page several years ago reporting that more and more Americans have reading comprehension problems.

    Again, the same source report some time last year that 64% of graduates in Washigton, D.C. failed the driver’s license examination.

    All of above ARE hearing people.

    Meaning what? It has absolutely nothing to do with the ability to hear in order to master English — or any other languages, for that matter. Anyone can learn — through the eyes or through the ears. Soit

  7. Joseph says:

    And most hearing people have an average of an eighth grade reading level at high school graduation.

    Yes, as Mr. Riolo reminds us, many hearing people live in poverty. So? So do many Deaf people – in fact many more Deaf people. But Deaf people are still targeted for their low reading levels, despite our high levels of poverty and challenges getting a job. Why do hearing people get a pass when they have every opportunity – while we get beaten with the 5th-grade reading level stick?

    Turnabout’s fair play. And I think it’s a fair question, because 90% of Deaf children attend mainstream schools for hearing children, and for some reason, many people in our community ALSO have problems with their reading levels.

    Frankly, I think ASL/English dual language education is applicable for both Deaf and hearing children and has the potential to maximize their educational opportunities.

  8. Joseph Pietro Riolo says:

    I am trying to answer the question that is the topic of your blog post. There are some causes for illiteracy among the hearing people. None of them has to do with the philosophy of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell or the practice of listening and speaking. There are different philosophies and teaching approaches on how to read (for example, phonics vs. whole language) and people argue indefinitely which philosophy or teaching approach works best. Some choose to look beyond the philosophies and teaching approaches to look for other causes such as socioeconomic issues. Again, none of them has to do with Dr. Bell.

    Joseph (a commenter above) raised a good point about the special privilege that the hearing illiterate people possess but that the deaf illiterate people lack. It is a recurring problem among the minorities.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this post in the public domain.

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