‘We Have 14 Black Deaf Americans With Ph.D.s—14’

In many ways, Gallaudet University looks like any other liberal-arts college in America: Brick buildings and leafy walkways are abundant on its campus in Washington, D.C. But at Gallaudet, American Sign Language (ASL) is the lingua franca, and creating space for deaf culture a main priority. Walking to class, students sign in rapid-fire bursts of kinetic language.Franklin Jones Jr. is one of those students. Though he is thriving now—having gotten his undergraduate degree and now attending graduate school at the university—his path has been a difficult one. In fact, Franklin wasn’t sure college was for him at all. But Dr. Carolyn McCaskill, a professor of deaf studies at Gallaudet who researches the history and structure of black ASL, worked with Franklin to make sure he reached graduation. Not only did he do that, but he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in ASL, linguistics, and deaf studies, and he was selected to deliver remarks at his graduation ceremony.For The Atlantic’s series on mentorship, “On The Shoulders Of Giants,” I spoke with Jones Jr. and McCaskill about their bond, the experience of being black and deaf in America, and how mentorship can promote inclusion.B.R.J. O’Donnell: Can you talk about what black ASL is particularly well-suited to capturing and communicating?Carolyn McCaskill: You know how some people may talk loud? I sign loud. So that's one of the features—a larger signing space. Two-handed signing is also one of the features. In mainstream ASL, someone might just sign with one hand, but in black ASL, two-handed signs are also okay. And then there is repetition. If you sign, “I’m getting out of here,” you will sign it not just once, but twice—you might even sign it three times, for emphasis and also for clarification purposes. So we incorporate our culture from black English

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Why Suburban Schools Are Inflating Kids’ Grades

PITTSBURGH—Monet Spencer remembers traveling to affluent suburban high schools when she was a member of the marching band at Brashear High School in this city’s low-income, high-crime Beechview neighborhood.The suburban band members’ uniforms were brand new, Spencer noticed—not passed down and worn-out like hers. So were their instruments, unlike the scratched and tarnished castoffs her school loaned her and her bandmates, including the secondhand flute she played.More From The Hechinger Report A school where you can’t fail — it just takes you longer to learn What happens when a regular high school decides no student is a lost cause? Most colleges enroll students who aren’t prepared The experience sticks in her mind as a symbol of the gulf between the opportunities she had compared to those enjoyed by students living in the suburbs just a few miles away.“Everyone knows they’re treated differently,” said the soft-spoken Spencer, 19, who was left homeless when her mother died but continued taking herself to school and is now entering her sophomore year in college.Here’s the latest, more profound way in which wealthier students have an advantage over lower-income ones: Those enrolled in private and suburban public high schools are being awarded higher grades—critical in the competition for college admission—than their urban public school counterparts with no less talent or potential, new research shows.It’s not that those students have been getting smarter. Even as their grades were rising, their scores on the SAT college-entrance exam went down, not up. It’s that grade inflation is accelerating in the schools attended by higher-income Americans, who are also much more likely than their lower-income peers to be white, the research, by the College Board, found. This widens their lead in life over students in urban public schools, who are generally racial and ethnic minorities and from families that

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