Saturday, October 4, 2014

MSS v ASL in Amarillo, Texas

A Texas school district is not teaching its students ASL but the Morphemic Sign System (MSS) system. This has many ASL users up in arms since the system isn't being used elsewhere. The Amarillo School District says it picked MSS because to promote literacy. KVII‑TV has a video report posted below. No captions, but you can read the text of the report here. (This post has been updated to reflect the difference between MMS and Exact Sign).

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey there. this is the problem with MSS. MSS IS NOT Signed English. A woman named Wanda Milburn invented MSS in 1987 and its only used in Amarillo Schools.

MOST of the signs in MSS are made up and wouldn't be understandable by anyone who knows ASL or Signed English.

We have no problem with Signed English as an educational tool, but MSS isnt' even something resembling it, and when these kids graduate they're stuck in Amarillo.

--Cory Lejeune

Deaf News Today said...

Thanks for clarifying, Cory!

Stephen Goforth
Deaf News Today

Anonymous said...

Very welcome! That was the biggest problem I had when watching the story when it aired, representatives kept saying that they were using "Signed English" with students and that's just plain untrue.

For example in standard ASL and Signed English the word "so" is fingerspelled holding the hand backwards, however in MSS a sign has been invented which unfortunately looks almost exactly like the ASL sign for "rape."

Another ridiculous example that's used constantly to illustrate MSS for people outside of Amarillo is the MSS sign for "understand."

To sign "understand" in MSS you take the ASL sign for "stand" and then turn it upside down.

"Restaurant" is signed by signing the ASL signs for "sleep," "shop," "aunt." This results in kids not only associating the word "restaurant" with those three separate concepts of sleep, shop, and aunt, but also it results in kids spelling it "restoreaunt" or "reshopaunt."

There's many more horrible examples that conceptually make no sense. The inventor of MSS is someone who unfortunately doesn't grasp the basic concepts of linguistics like morpheme and phonic (she just plain doesn't understand what a morpheme is, and she refers to a phonic as a 'phoning'), but also quotes by her in news stores from the area reflect a certain audist attitude that Deaf children are somehow broken and need to be fixed, and the goal of MSS is to 'teach deaf children to speak' because in Dr. Milburn's words, without speaking, Deaf children have no access to language, which those of us who grew up with ASL (my parents are Deaf) know is not only a ridiculous concept, but highly offensive as well.

That's just like saying that Spanish and French speakers have no access to language because they don't speak English.

Thank you for spreading more awareness about this.

Deaf News Today said...

Very helpful. You can see what happened. I heard them using the phrase "exact English" in the news story, and although it seemed like something was off about that, I trusted the report and repeated it rather than checking for myself. Thank you for taking the time to explain!

Stephen Goforth
Deaf News Today

J. Steve Brodie said...

OK folks.
First, to Cory Lejeune: Your information is terribly flawed. MSS derived from Signing Essential English (SEE1) and dates to the early 1970s. Doctor Wanda Milburn, David Anthony (from England) and others started the development in Iowa and I have been involved since the mid-1970s. That gives me more original and factual information than most of the MSS detractors.
Stephen Goforth:
Do not be misled by those who have no background on the subjects dealing with communications methods for the deaf. ASL has a limited vocabulary
of about 3000 words. MSS has a documented lexicon of over 40,000 words, stand alone and or made by using standard base words, augmented by morphemes and other linguistic parts of English. It produces, on an average, higher English test scores and English fluency, not imparted using ASL.
Now, to "anonymous:
It appears that your "information" (so called) has been gleaned from the boob tube.
Your explanation about "understand" demonstrates your complete misunderstanding of the word as expressed in MSS. It is nearly impossible for me to correct all of your assumptions in this post. The persons who started the development are , to a person, have credentials which prove that you are blowing smoke and using mirrors. I am sure that if you want the factual information you need to talk to Doctor Wanda Milburn of Vega (TX).
Her entire professional career has dealt with the education of the deaf and she has the degree(s) and accolades to prove her hands-on experience in the education of the deaf. Most certainly you aptly prove your inexperience and lack of knowledge in her field of deaf education.
As for me, I've raised two adopted deaf children, both of which use grammatically correct English (ala MSS) and are fluent in ASL.
A college professor in California is an expert in teaching and using ASL, yet he was raised using MSS and NO, he is not constrained to living in Amarillo (or Richardson) as he is professionally comfortable with MSS and ASL.
AS for me, I served on staff at the University of Texas (Richardson campus) for 4 years to transliterate post graduate classes to the deaf since there were no accredited ASL interpreters who could interpret and do it constantly for 3-4 hours a day. It is my observation that MSS, in a classroom setting, is far superior in inculcating knowledge to the deaf and MSS has the academia stats to disprove 99% of what you espouse.
I am willing to dialogue with anyone based on FACTS, not no personal wishes or opinions. IMy e-mail is: ars.k5zyz@gmail.com.

Deaf News Today said...

Interesting! -Stephen Goforth

J. Steve Brodie said...

I challenge the naysayers of Seeing
Essential English (now MSS) to an
open, non hostile, dialog. The only reason(s) for being combative about
MSS can be traced to one item...
follow the money. If a person's job is "translating" into ASL, for which you receive some kind of compensation, any competing modality becomes a social, political and financial threat. It is fine if you "prefer ASL" but you do yourself no good by becoming, vindictive, ugly and combative. My only preference for MSS is because I give my students a leg up on those with a lesser acumen in English. I want my children and students to be able to compete in their predominately hearing world, where English is king and where ASL continues to produce illiteracy and dependance on others, be it from the Federal, State, Church or other support organizations. If you can't read and understand an 6th grade level newspaper, you are going to be at the behest of others. I do not want that for the deaf, while you may say that is what you want, too, but ASL has not met the challenge of the 21st century and 3rd to 5th grade literacy is a crime. I rest my case and am open to dialog. Prove me wrong or shut up.

J. Steve Brodie said...

By the way, how many educators or interpreters do you know who have the ability of signing advanced college subjects, 3 to 4 hours at a stretch? There are not many of us and most cannot do it using ASL. Top level ASL leaders have castigated me, damning me for my
use of MSS. Funny, UT-Dallas would not hire them, but they hired me for 4 years before I retired and moved to Lake Texoma.

J. Steve Brodie said...

Stephen Goforth: From my years of experience, hearing parents of a deaf or hearing impaired child have enough hurdles to cross. If the parent(s) use English, my observation that using ASL is a barrier to a long term parent-child relationship. By the time the child reached puberty, graduates and is out on his own, the parents are still back at the starting gate and never attain any degree of proficiency in ASL.
Experience and observation show that many deaf adults have only an elementary relationship with their (now) aging parents who have never learned any kind of sign language. In less than a year
I was proficient enough to enter my children's school and transliterate. By two years, I was signing to her and to my son
as well as anyone, parent or educator. I used my signing skills to demonstrate to the Texas State Board the efficacy of MSS. You may find this interesting: A lady friend had a deaf daughter and asked me to babysit. On a Monday she gave me a book to study. The following Saturday, at her request, I was able to do the alphabet and numbers, to her surprise. She then challenged me to sigh the pledge to the flag, which I did flawlessly. Since I was understanding the basics and the use of the English "building blocks" MSS came to me easily. I suggest that probably that cannot be done using ASL as it a language in and of itself, unrelated to written and spoken English. I rest my case. Steve

J. Steve Brodie said...

Ah Ha, is there no one able or willing to discuss (no cussing) anything that I have written? Seems to me that the "coward's silence"
speaks loudly of their ineptness.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Brodie: MSS IS NOT SEE. It's COMPLETELY different. And you accuse me of being rude and ugly, yet you tell me to shut up.

To assume that advanced academic topics can't be taught in ASL comes not only from a complete audist attitude, but an obvious misunderstanding of ASL itself.

MSS as used in Amarillo schools IS a complete invention. If you saw how it's used here you would see that it's not even close to what you call Signed English.

And proof? I can show you. Come to Amarillo and attempt a conversation with one of the high school students here.

I can name off hand at least 20 PHDs i know who have used ASL only their entire lifes, yet I can't do the same for an MSS user.

I'm not sure why you accuse me of being rude yet get rude yourself, but one can only assume that it's being driven by a complete ignorance of Deaf culture, ASL, and a sense of ownership over the Deaf which for me as a CODA I find particularly repugnant.

You are also showing a complete lack of acumen in the field of linguistics, and of how MSS is used in Amarillo. the way I explained how 'understand' is signed here IS how it's signed in Amarillo style MSS. Ask any Deaf who live here.

I have no stake in pushing ASL. What is YOUR stake in pushing MSS besides the fact your job is on the line?

Anonymous said...

my information bythe way is based on 6 years of interpreting in Amarillo and seeing the deleterious effects of MSS on these people. You are hearing and seem to want to turn Deaf kids into hearing kids. That's called bigotry, sir.

AND I DO have facts and statistics. It just kills me how I'm being accused of being ugly and vindictie yet you can't name a single fact other than to attack me.

My training is in linguistics, my degree is from Michigan, and I'm a CODA. I think I know what I'm talking about. and MSS is NOT SEE, trust me on this. my examples I gave as how they're signed in MSS ARE accurate.

J. Steve Brodie said...

I suggest that you talk to Dr. Wanda Milburn or to David Anthony about my translitertating skills. The reason UT-D cound not find willing and qualified "interpreters" is that at the post graduate level, there were no such qualified persons. I have been using SEE1/MSS far longer than you or many of your contemporaries so you are a johnny-come-lately. I do not belittle the use of ASL but it is incompatible with graduating literate adults. Plus, I notice that you have not the "gonads" to use your name and hide your identity. Coward! BTW, I have been to the Amarillo schools and had no problems communicating, fluently with the students and staff there. OF course, I must admit I have not had any direct need to hone my skills for over 20 years, bat at that time, I was considered one of the best, second only to Dr. Milburn. Do you dare continue this conversation using my e-mail address and yours? Mine is:
ars.k5zyz@gmail.com and my phone number is (903) 786-2288. The ball is now in your court. Let's see if you will "man-up" or is it "woman-up"? PS: Do not get caught up in the SEE/SEE1/MSS name calling rat race. All three modalities are related by only the districts who use and name any of them.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brodie,
I like how you invited us to an “Open, non hostile, dialog” then you attack our reasoning for disliking MSS, say we are being “Vindictive, ugly, and combative”, then you say we are cowards. I’m not getting this whole ‘dialog’ thing.
I am a CODA and interpreter, and I use ASL. While I may be compensated, I am personally offended that because of the fact that I interpret for a living is why I have qualms with MSS. That is far from correct. As you said earlier, “Your information is terribly flawed”. The reason I have problems with MSS is because I have a relationship with the Deaf community. They are my people. They are the reason I am who I am today. Even if this was not true, and all I cared about was money, I could simply move ANYWHERE ELSE. There is not a shortage on ASL interpreters.
You said that MSS, “Produces, on an average, higher English test scores and English fluency, not imparted using ASL” yet I conveniently don’t see anything more than your words. While I have heard these “MSS makes them fluent in English” rumors before, I have yet to see a single shred of evidence. But if I did, I’m sure that it would be incredibly biased. Research on Deaf children has been done wrong for years. They lump kids together and just look at one thing: they’re Deaf. What they don’t look at is things like whether or not their parents actually learned to sign, what their environment is like, how much interaction they have with peers. Nope. They’re just Deaf. They are all the same.
In regards to the, ‘ASL has 3000 words, but MSS has 40,000 words’: again, just your words. And while it MAY be true, at least the ASL people can sign with the personality of something more than a wood screw. Have you ever truly watched someone sign with MSS? It is chopp -y and it is bor-ing ver-y much like this sent-ence. While we may or may not have only 3000 words, do not for a second believe that we cannot convey more. We have a truly beautiful language that is more than just a string of unrelated signs. It is facial expression, body language; in short, an art.
Finally, I see you talk, but you never really focus on the real importance: the Deaf themselves. If you ask the older adults who went through Amarillo’s school system, you will find many dissatisfied people who got cheated out of their cultural understanding.The only people that stand up for MSS are hearing or have been brainwashed by those same hearing people. But that is not what it’s about. It’s about the Deaf. What MSS has done for the deaf in Amarillo is deprive children from a truly beautiful and rich culture. I may be a little too radical, but I think that removing Deaf culture from these students should be a crime.

Evelyn said...

As a SODA with a Deaf sister who attended and worked at Gallaudet for nearly 30 years, I must admit that I find this sad. If a deaf student learns MSS, what happens if they want to attend Gallaudet University? How are they not socially handicapped? I am not qualified to debate MSS as this form of sign language is new to me. But in doing some research, I came across this letter which I find informative and powerful. http://deafnetwork.com/wordpress/blog/2014/10/01/deaf-education-at-schools-amarillo-texas/

Anonymous said...

The reason I (and maybe the other anonymous user here, too) am as you say, "Hiding behind a name" is because I am an educational interpreter. It is typically bad practice to bad mouth a school.

HOWEVER, if you actually had some connection to Amarillo and to the Deaf here, you would know who is posting. I'm pretty sure I know who the other anonymous user is. Because I actually care about the community, not trying to forward my own misguided agenda.

I think my biggest problem I have had with MSS since its creation is the amount of rude and arrogant people it produces. I remember as a fresh, young interpreter, I was criticized and berated by a teacher (not someone who even knows how to sign MSS or ASL) for being an ASL user. She said, and I quote: "MSS is the ONLY way for the deaf to communicate" I calmly called upon Helen Keller, who was not only Deaf, but blind. She communicated just fine, despite being both deaf and blind. I often see quotes from her on walls. She did not use MSS.
Riddle me this: if MSS is such a blessing to the Deaf, then why, after almost half a century, is it not anywhere else? Say whatever you will, Mr Brodie, but it is not YOUR language. It's theirs, and millions and millions of Deaf people can't be wrong.

Anonymous said...

MSS is literally a joke to the Deaf here in Central Texas. In Austin, they call it 'Amarillo Sign System' or 'ASS'.

J. Steve Brodie said...

Maybe you have a vested interest in ASL, but after 100+ years, far too many remain woefully undereducated and dependent on DSPs who mold and shape their minds for the DSP is the primary source of their information and they remain mesmerized by DSPs for most of their information. DSPs have a deep ingrained, social and financial in keeping them barefoot, dependent and back on the farm. IF any institution
calls graduation students with a minimal fluency, nationally (3rd-4th grade), it should loose its accreditation. JSB

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brodie, I do not have a vested interest in ASL. I have a vested interest in the Deaf. The letter that Evelyn posted shows the outcry of the Deaf. You should read it. It's truly a heartbreaking story. All you people can do is just try and compare them to the hearing, and try to micromanage them to being 'fixed'. Did it ever occur to you that maybe they don't WANT to be fixed? Maybe they have a strong identity and a sense of self. Maybe they are proud of who they are. You can't see that. You still look at deafness as a problem. They have a rich and beautiful culture that HEARING people are trying to take away from them for their "benefit". It's no different than when the Europeans came to America and forced them to integrate with their society. "It's for their benefit" "We'll teach them the Gospel and get them into heaven" "We are saving these people". You sir are no different.

Unknown said...

ASL has a limited vocabulary of about 3,000 words???? Thats a riot!!!! You, sir, obviously have NO CLUE about ASL.

J. Steve Brodie said...

I may need to clarify my statement......ASL has a basic collection of 3000 to 4000 sets of manually concocted signs as ASl's beginning, in France, was a collection of documented manually concocted hand shapes and motions to communicate thoughts through visual "signs". These same (or slightly modified) "signs" can connote various meanings based, in part, the subject being communicated and on the language proficiency of the "audience". ASL is not English, the common language of our nation. English deprived
persons tend to migrate to groups of those lacking a proficiency as "birds of a feather, flock together". We find this true in people from non-English speaking countries overseas. Having raised two adopted, deaf children, I speak from years of observation and experience after dealing with those who use ASL, Singlish and other variations while cataloging their poor success rates and documenting the results there of. No one wants to see its "golden calf" gored. At 80 I still maintain a close communications relationship with many adult deaf and HoH who were raised using different philosophies and methodologies. In closing, IF indeed there is no "vested interest" in the teaching and use of other systems, please explain the animosity I receive as I promulgate MSS/SEE1. In life, "always follow the money". Honesty would suggest a financial interest in maintaining the "status quo". For those who have accepted ASL, or another system, as their modality, go for it! My experience is not your experience. If you are OK with anything less that straight English for the deaf and HoH, so be it and may God bless y'all. JSB

Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone (Brodie) is standing up for MSS.

As for Corey...he is terribly mistaken!

J. Steve Brodie said...

I stand up for SEE/MSS. Because of political correctness, I use both SEE and its later derived MSS which Dr, Milburn, myself and others have developed, practiced and popularized. Although,
over time, Amarillo may be one of the few bastions of SEE, -aka- MSS. The politics of deaf education and sign language systems is wholly weighted toward the promoters of ASL and several well known, pro ASL, campuses of deaf education. Of the few students brought up on SEE/MSS, one holds a position at a CA school who teaches ASL. Another who is a major purveyor of electrical power using solar technology and the list goes on and on for SEE/MSS students. Most who were raised using SEE/MSS have become fluent in ASL. Few SEE/MSS practitioners have impaired speech skills, but their understanding of spoken and written English separates the "sheep from the goats". Those steeped in SEE/MSS are far better prepared for a life in the English speaking world and have no need for social services and service providers. JSB

Anonymous said...

"Any forcible purification or unification of sign languages, conducted by governments, professionals working with Deaf people, and organizations for or of the Deaf, is a violation of the UN and UNESCO treaties, declarations and other policies, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Deaf people in every country have the sole right to make changes, if necessary, in their own local, provincial and national sign languages in response to cultural changes. The control of the development of any Sign Language must be left to any social group where the particular sign language is exercised."

Source of quote: https://wfdeaf.org/human-rights/crpd/sign-language

Anonymous said...

MSS will not survive, mark my words.
It is not SEE 1 nor is it SEE 11.
At least the students here can take an ASL class after they leave the elementary setting in high school here in town.
Most deaf students do take the course and there are some that are forbidden by their parents.

Anonymous said...

After the financial collapse that will occur in the following years, I think that funds will become limited and probably students will reside with their natural parents and not be bused or living with families in Amarillo to attend school.
MSS will die out and signed English accompanied with ASL will be restored in the schools after we restore our country after the collapse.
Teachers are limited in MSS training therefore I don't see how it can continue as it is now.

Anonymous said...

Are they still teaching MSS in Amarillo or has that changed? I have a degree in deaf eduaction and want to teach here but I dont know MSS

J. Steve Brodie said...

Anon,

I am pretty much out of the "circus". If you want current information I suggest that you write to Dr Wanda Milburn at PO Box 634, Vega, TX 79092. SEE1 and later MSS were never meant to replace ASL. It was developed to instill English literacy to the deaf which ASL cannot and never will. I was involved from 1979 until my 2 deaf children graduated (on grade level) from High School. David Anthony, a co-researcher of Dr. Milburn (recently deceased), began developing SEE1, later renamed the Morphemic Sign System.
To address your unfamiliarity with MSS, it is very easy to learn and once you understand the basics you will expand your fluency quite quickly. I became fluent in a bit over 6 months and later was retained to transliterate at the University of Texas (Richardson, TX) when the local interpreters declined applying their skills at the Graduate Level.

Dr. Milburn, now 90 years of age (don't tell her I revealed her age), has retired from teaching and has the official library of SEE1/MSS which may be published, beginning with the initialization in Michigan.

If you wish to talk to me, send me an e-mail to "ars.k5zyz@gmail.com", I'll be most happy to discuss all that I have experienced in my years of using SEE1/MSS.

Be aware, there is a lot of disapproval and vitriol over the use of SEE1/MSS but the militant opposition. You need to be "thick skinned" toward the practitioners of ASL.

As I told my deaf students, "You are free to learn and use ASL outside the classroom but in class, you and I will both use SEE1/MSS in order that you excel in English literacy".

Thank you for your inquiry.

J. Steve Brodie
Preston, Texas