Fred Farrior: A Man of Action

Photo by Jeff Primozich

Photo by Jeff Primozich

Laura Strahan

For the Review

Amber McKenna

Editor in chief

 

In the case of Fred Farrior, adjunct professor of American Sign Language, actions always speak louder than words.

Born deaf and raised in Sweet Home, Ore., deafness and Deaf culture were not commonly understood or accepted when he was growing up. Farrior’s mother was very supportive and constantly looked for ways for him to be accepted.

“When it was discovered that I was deaf, the doctors thought I was dumb,” Farrior signed. “They wanted me to do speech therapy.”

For several months, Farrior went to speech therapy practice, but he learned nothing. Eventually, he attended the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem. Farrior was eager to interact with the other deaf students and instantly connected with the community at his new school.

A long-time love of teaching led Farrior to education. In 1968, he enrolled in Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. He later transferred to the Oregon College of Education, now called Western Oregon University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education.

“I studied education all my life and would love to learn more about education,” Farrior signed.

He taught at the Oregon School for the Deaf for 28 years and retired in 2003. After so many years of teaching, Farrior signed that he still doesn’t feel old.

Farrior doesn’t plan to stop teaching. In addition to teaching at Linfield since 1999, he also teaches at South Salem High School.

Senior Marcus Monroe, American Sign Language Club president, said Farrior’s teaching style is immersion, which makes students learn faster. He said it’s different than other languages where you sometimes just don’t learn.

“He wants you to succeed and ask if you don’t understand,” Monroe said.

Throughout Farrior’s life he has watched a shift take place in the acceptance of the Deaf community.

“Before, when people found out I was deaf, they would seem to be in shock and quickly started writing things,” he signed.

Farrior’s wife and children know ASL; however, many of his family members, including his parents, never learned the language.

“With family members who don’t know ASL, we use gestures and exaggerated lip reading,” Farrior signed.

Today, ASL is more widely accepted by people across the country thanks to its acknowledgement as an offical language.

In 1960, Dr. William C. Stokoe, an English teacher at Gallaudet University, was the first to propose American Sign Language as a fully formed human language. He published the book “Sign Language Structure,” and he followed up with the first published dictionary of ASL. Stokoe’s research also led to the discovery of dialects of sign language all over the world. He found that many countries had their own forms of sign that correlated with the culture of that area.

Farrior signed that he is pleased ASL and Deaf culture have become much more widely known. A lot of oppression against the Deaf culture and Deaf community existed at one time, Farrior signed.

Cultural differences among the Deaf and hearing communities stem from the ways the two cultures interacted in the past. Farrior gave the example of the “deaf goodbye.” The Deaf community has always had a long goodbye. Conversations may end multiple times before the people actually part ways. In hearing culture, when people are set to leave somewhere, they just leave. The reason this is common in Deaf culture is because deaf people did not always know how long it would be before they could see each other again. Even though technology has minimized the differences between life as a deaf person and life as a hearing person, Deaf culture still holds onto unique traits, such as the “deaf goodbye.”

Farrior signed that deaf people are more direct in their conversations than hearing people as well.

“If someone gained weight, deaf people will say, ‘You’re fat! What happened?’ as opposed to hearing people who will beat around the obvious,” Farrior signed.

Being deaf is a constant visual culture, he signed.

“Deaf people have eagle eyes and see everything,” Farrior signed. “Hearing people are so dependent on their hearing and don’t notice anything.”

With the invention of text messaging and the Internet in recent years, communicating is much easier, Farrior signed.

“When I was young, I had a hearing girlfriend. If I wanted a date, I’d get on my bike, ride over to her house and drop off a letter I had written,” Farrior signed. “I had to wait for a few days before I got a response.”

He signed that it was especially frustrating to watch his sister chat away on the phone with her friends.

Nowadays, Farrior feels like the hearing community generally understands deafness.

“Doctors used to think deaf people belonged in a mental hospital,” he signed.

Luckily, those prejudices are no longer accepted. Farrior signed that he finds many people, including police officers, gas station attendants and others, know basic ASL today.

Farrior signed that those who are deaf do not see themselves as handicapped or disabled; they simply have their own culture and way of doing things. Many deaf people have careers as teachers, counselors, psychologists, computer technicians and more.

“Hearing people should respect the Deaf community as equals because deaf people respect hearing culture,” Farrior signed.

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