Deaf President Now


This episode breaks our rule of thumb about covering fairly recent history. In 1988, the appointment of a hearing president at Gallaudet University sparked a protest that changed the course of both the school and deaf culture in America.

Female Speaker: This episode of Stuff You Missed in History Class is brought to you by Square Space, the all-in-one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website, portfolio and online store. For a free trial and 10 percent off, visit SquareSpace.com/history and enter offer code history at checkout. A better web starts with your website.

Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class from HowStuffWorks.com.

Tracy V. Wilson: Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Tracy V. Wilson.

Holly Frey: And I'm Holly Frey.

Tracy V. Wilson: So just really a couple of weeks ago we mentioned our rule of thumb about the most recent history we normally talk about, right?

Holly Frey: Yep.

Tracy V. Wilson: So that's the late '60s, early '70s typically.

Holly Frey: Usually.

Tracy V. Wilson: Naturally, having just said that just now, we're going to do something today that breaks that rule just a little bit because I've been looking for a while for a podcast subject that was in some way related to a disabled person or disability rights. And the trouble is a lot of these stories have this distinctly inspiration overtone and there's this whole thread of overcoming hardship. And it's very presented in a way that ultimately comes off as being a heartwarming uplifting tale told to nondisabled people about a disabled person.

Holly Frey: Right, it seems like a very positive take on things initially, but when you stop and think about it, you kind of realize that it sets up people with disabilities as other and having to overcome things to be equal.

Tracy V. Wilson: Yeah.

Holly Frey: And that's not really how it should be.

Tracy V. Wilson: Yeah. It's not that we never tell inspirational stories. We do that pretty often on the show. Like when we talked about Elizabeth Blackwell who was the first woman to earn a MD in the United States. That was a hugely inspiration story and event. It especially inspired other women, but if you told a story today about a woman going to medical school that would be just a story about a woman going to medical school.

Holly Frey: Yes.

Tracy V. Wilson: However, if we told - not we necessarily, but the American media. If the American media told the story of a blind doctor in 1849, the tone would be pretty similar to the story of a blind doctor in 2014.

Holly Frey: Yes.

Tracy V. Wilson: Drives me a little bit nuts.

Holly Frey: Yeah.

Tracy V. Wilson: And I know it drives other people nuts also. So I was really - I've been on the lookout for a while for a story that would not fit that mold because I kind of don't want the podcast to contribute to that pattern of setting people up as being inspirations for other people rather than actual human beings with agency and the ability to do things on their own, which is why when we did that thread on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that said please tell us events to talk about and someone said deaf president now, please, and I looked into what that was about, I said okay, we're going to break our rule. This happened in 1988. Some of you may remember it. I don't personally remember.

Holly Frey: I do not either.

Tracy V. Wilson: It was national news at the time, though. And this is essentially a student protest that changed the course of both Gallaudet University - I have also heard it pronounced Gallaudet with the U sound. I've heard people pronounce it both ways. And also deaf culture in America.

Holly Frey: That makes it sort of exciting and new.

Tracy V. Wilson: It is very exciting and new.

Holly Frey: And definitely outside kind of our stuff because it is a little more modern.

Tracy V. Wilson: It is a little more - and researching it was a very different process because of that.

Holly Frey: [Laughs]. It's well-documented and recent. So for background, Gallaudet University is a United States school that's dedicated to the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. It's also a bilingual university. It has classes taught in both American Sign Language and in English. But its funding comes from both federal sources and nongovernment sources.

Tracy V. Wilson: There are also a few hearing students who enroll every year and usually these are people who want to have a career that's in some way closely related to the deaf and hard of hearing community. So if someone wants to teach at a school for the deaf or to work with organizations for the deaf, things like that, a lot of times those people will decide to go to college at Gallaudet. And in addition to all of that, Gallaudet is also really viewed as the heart of the deaf community and of deaf culture in the United States.

Holly Frey: And the school started in 1856, so fairly recently compared to some other universities. And that was when former postmaster general Amos Kendall donated some of his land outside of Washington, DC to start a school for blind and deaf children. And at that point, schools for the deaf had really only existed in the United States for less than 40 years. So the concept was still very new. And 12 of the first students at Kendall's school were deaf and the other six of the students that were enrolled that first go around were blind.

Tracy V. Wilson: A year later, the school was incorporated as Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind. And the school's superintendent was Edward Miner Gallaudet whose father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet had founded the first permanent school for the deaf in the United States. And that was in Hartford, Connecticut. The elder Gallaudet had traveled around Europe to learn about teaching methods for deaf children after he had met a young deaf girl who really did not have any access to education at all.

Holly Frey: Edward's mother, Sophia Fowler Gallaudet was deaf and also served as the Columbia Institution's matron.

Tracy V. Wilson: In 1863, Congress passed a bill to "authorize the Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind to confer degrees."

And President Abraham Lincoln signed this into law on April 8, 1864 and so with this, the Columbia Institution became the National College for the Deaf and Dumb.

Holly Frey: President Lyndon Johnson signed an act creating the model secondary school for the deaf at Gallaudet in 1969. And Richard Nixon signed a similar bill the year after that creating an elementary school for the deaf. And these two schools are actually part of Gallaudet today.

Tracy V. Wilson: Acts of Congress have also continued to shape the university, changing the name to Gallaudet College in honor of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and also granting it university status in 1986. Diplomas for graduates of the school are also signed by the current president.

Holly Frey: So it's easy to see all of this governmental involvement in the establishment and development of the school as a hearing nation attempting to see to the best interest of its deaf citizens. And that was one of the sentiments that actually sparked the Deaf President Now protest in 1988.

Tracy V. Wilson: Another piece of this was a schism that kind of starts with two different schools of thought about the best way to provide education for deaf people. And this goes all the way back to the earliest days of schools for the deaf. On one end were the oralists who thought that deaf people should learn to speak and to read lips to better fit in to a hearing world. And then on the other end of this spectrum are manualists who thought that deaf people should learn sign language to communicate with each other.

Holly Frey: Edward Miner Gallaudet supported the use of sign language. He knew and used sign language because of his mother. On the other hand, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, whose mother was also deaf, was completely in favor of the oral method.

Tracy V. Wilson: So in the earliest days of education for deaf people in the United States, educators really fiercely debated which method was better. And the idea of signing versus speaking really extended into every aspect of people's lives. It affected how doctors worked with deaf families and how parents raised their deaf children and in some cases it even created a schism within the deaf community itself between the deaf people who could sign and consider themselves to be what's now called culturally deaf and the deaf people who could not.

Holly Frey: And to add to all of this context, every president of Gallaudet University had been a man who can hear. And we'll talk more about that after a quick word from our sponsor.

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Tracy V. Wilson: So in the earliest years after Gallaudet was founded, it was a legitimate claim that there weren't really any deaf people in the United States who were qualified to be president of the school because before that point there had been really almost no way for a deaf person to get a college education. There just was not educational system for deaf people in the United States.

Holly Frey: At Gallaudet and at other schools for the deaf, whether they taught manualist or oralist methods were overwhelmingly people who could hear. Some schools for the deaf did not allow deaf teachers at all believing them to be unqualified to teach deaf students.

Tracy V. Wilson: And even as we were approaching the part of history where this protest took place, Gallaudet continued to be taught and run mostly by hearing people. This went on for many years of its history. By the 1980s only about 20 percent of the faculty and administrative staff were deaf.

Holly Frey: In 1983, Gallaudet's fourth president, Dr. Edward C. Merrill, retired. He and all the presidents before him had all been able to hear as we mentioned. He and others actually started to advocate for a deaf president to lead the university, but that idea really did not gain much traction.

Tracy V. Wilson: Then between 1983 and 1987 Gallaudet saw this series of presidents come through in quick succession. And the resignation of the seventh president Jerry Lee was really sudden and kind of caught a lot of people by surprise. And at that point the board of trustees brought on a consultant to try to get the best candidate for his replacement and it put together this search committee of faculty, staff, alumni and students.

Holly Frey: At this point, the argument that there weren't any qualified deaf people that could be president of the university was really completely invalid.

Tracy V. Wilson: Yeah, that was gone.

Holly Frey: There were more than 100 deaf people in the United States who had doctoral degrees. And many of them were Gallaudet alumni as were some of the past hearing presidents and had experience in school administration. So there were some options.

Tracy V. Wilson: There were lots of options and a pool of 87 applicants was narrowed down to six finalists. Three of them could hear and three of them were deaf. Those six finalists were then narrowed down to three.

Holly Frey: Dr. Harvey Corson was a deaf man who was superintendent of the Louisiana School for the Deaf. Dr. I. King Jordan was a deaf man who was at the time serving as Gallaudet's Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. And Elizabeth Zinser was a hearing woman who was assistant chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Tracy V. Wilson: So at this point, we had two of the three final candidates who were deaf. The student body, the faculty and alumni along with many deaf advocacy groups had been lobbying for quite some time for the university to have a deaf president. They had also been getting letters of support from people like then Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush, then Senators Bob Doyle of Kansas and Bob Graham of Florida and other politicians supporting the idea of putting a deaf person into the presidency.

Holly Frey: Here is part of George Bush's letter on the matter. "I've become aware of the two basic principles that underlie the Disability Rights Movement. The right of disabled people to control their own lives and the right to integration and an involvement in society. Gallaudet University has a critical role to play in advancing these principles. It is held in the highest regard by deaf people throughout the United States and the world. It provides an excellent education and a meaningful future for thousands of deaf person. More importantly, Gallaudet University is a symbol of leadership and opportunity not only for deaf people, but for all of us."

Tracy V. Wilson: His letter also points out that considering how Gallaudet is funded by the federal government, it has an obligation to set an example in this matter. The sentiment he's kind of expressing here a lot of times you will hear today expressed as nothing about us without us, which is basically don't you go making laws for people without consulting those people about those laws.

Holly Frey: You may be well-intentioned, but not well-informed.

Tracy V. Wilson: Well, and I feel like we should say everyone involved in this story had good intentions.

Holly Frey: Yeah.

Tracy V. Wilson: There was nobody who was setting out to just make the - make the deaf community suffer. That's not what anybody had in mind.

Holly Frey No, and I'm sure everyone making decisions, they weren't just throwaway decisions. They were considering them thoughtfully, but sometimes not always with all of the best information at hand.

Tracy V. Wilson: Right.

Holly Frey: A letter from the student body government informing the faculty of a rally being planned to support the selection of a deaf president began, "The idea of a deaf person being named president of this university is exceptionally important to us and to the entire community of people concerned with deafness and education and in our view now demands our action."

Tracy V. Wilson: So the students had been rallying for a week in advance of the announcement of who the next president would be. They had been distributing flyers, even camping out on the president's lawn. The student body president, Greg Hlibok, wrote to Zinser and asked her to withdraw her candidacy, which would have guaranteed that the next president would be deaf.

Holly Frey: The text of a flyer for a rally that was held on March 1st reads as, "It's time. In 1842 a Roman Catholic became president of the University of Notre Dame. In 1875 a woman became president of Wellesley College. In 1875 a Jew became president of Yeshiva University. In 1926 a black person became president of Howard University. And in 1988 the Gallaudet University presidency belongs to a deaf person to show our solidarity behind our mandate for a deaf person of our university, you are invited to participate in a historical, all caps, RALLY."

Tracy V. Wilson: Yeah. So basically everyone - seemingly everyone involved was really behind the idea of a deaf person being named president and with all of these factors combined, with such a huge outpouring of advocacy on the part of the student body and the alumni and everyone else and the Vice President of the United States and senators and all of these other people saying we really think this is - it's time. People pretty much thought that what was going to happen was that either Dr. Corson or Dr. Jordan, the two deaf candidates, one of them would be selected as president. However, on March 6, 1988 the board of trustees announced the next president of Gallaudet would be Dr. Elizabeth Zinser. So basically everyone had been expecting the board of trustees to announce a deaf president. And what everyone was also expecting and had been planning for was for the board of trustees to come to the campus to announce the new president. But instead what they did is they sent out press releases at 6:30 in the morning, which is about an hour and half before anybody thought the announcement was going to come.

Holly Frey: It is not, perhaps, surprising to find out that the reaction was immediate and it was huge. People were furious. A crowd had already been forming to wait for the announcement and at the encouragement of Gary Olson from the National Association of the Deaf. They spontaneously marched to the hotel where the board had been meeting to demand an explanation.

Tracy V. Wilson: When they got there there was basically a press conference going on. The chair of the board, Jane Spilman, and Phil Braven, who was one of the deaf trustees, were answering questions from reporters. And the protesters interrupted and demanded to speak to the board.

Holly Frey: Eventually, some of the protesters were allowed to meet with the board and during that meeting, Spilman allegedly said that deaf people could not function in the hearing world. She denied ever having said this, claiming that it was a misunderstanding by her interpreter. Regardless, it really solidified opinion against her and many people sited it in letters and speeches afterwards. So whether she actually said it or not, it still really was a big black mark.

Tracy V. Wilson: It became hugely associated with her. And there are lots and lots of letters that were sent to the board or to newspapers or things like that that were anyone who would say this should not be running the school for the deaf.

Holly Frey: Right.

Tracy V. Wilson: So as protesters talked to the board, they didn't reach any kind of agreement and eventually the crowd dispersed. But by the morning a full scale Civil Rights protest was in the works at Gallaudet. Students were holding sit ins. They boycotted. They held rallies and marches. They wrote letters in support of their objectives. And in their letters and their speeches and their addressed that they gave, people framed this as a Civil Rights issue. And additionally to all of that, they blocked access to the campus by forming a human chain to keep the faculty and administrators out effectively shutting things down.

Holly Frey: And as the news spread, Civil Rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson wrote a letter of support to the students of the university. This is a portion of it.

"The board of trustees has an obligation to respond to student concerns with sensitivity. There is no time to resolve this dispute equitably. The problem is not that the students do not hear. The problem is that the hearing world does not listen. The entire nation owes the students of Gallaudet its gratitude for reminding us once again that each of us has the ability and the right to achieve. I urge the board of the university to move forward and recognize the justice of its students' demands."

Tracy V. Wilson: By the day after the announcement, the protesters had created a list of these four demands to present to the board. They were No. 1 Elizabeth Zinser must resign and a deaf person be elected president. No. 2 Jane Spilman must step down as chairperson of the board of trustees. No. 3 deaf people must constitute a 51 percent majority on the board. And No. 4 there would be no reprisals against any student or employee involved in the protest.

Holly Frey: These demands were presented to the board in a three hour long meeting. However, the board did not yield.

Tracy V. Wilson: So following that meeting, the board had planned to make an announcement in the university auditorium, basically saying that they were not yielding their position. But before Spilman could begin, a deaf faculty member named Harvey Goodstein came on stage and announced it himself. And he encouraged everyone to leave, which they did. And spontaneously marched to the capital building and held an impromptu rally there. I'm not sure if we have said that the school is basically in Washington, DC. So a lot of the rallying and protesting happened sort of in the context of these huge important government buildings for the government of the United States.

Holly Frey: And the next day was Tuesday, March 8th and while the campus was open, most of the students boycotted their classes. It was about this time that the protest formed the Deaf President Now Council, which included representatives from the student body, the faculty, the staff, alumni as well as people who work as interpreters, fundraisers and legal liaisons. Greg Hlibok president of the student body became one of the protest prominent leaders.

Also among the students leading the protest were Jerry Covell and Bridgetta Bourne who had been running mates to lead the student government and Tim Rarus, who was majoring in government. And together they were all known as the Gallaudet Four.

Tracy V. Wilson: Yeah. They are cited frequently as the four most prominent student leaders of the protest. And the protest was really ongoing. It became national news and as these meetings and protests and rallies went on with both sides becoming just more and more entrenched in their stances. Greg Hlibok, Elizabeth Zinser and actress Marlee Matlin appeared on ABC's Nightline on Wednesday, March 9th to talk about the protest.

Holly Frey: Nightline closed captioned the broadcast for all viewers with anchor Ted Koppel saying it was because the network had learned that many deaf people did not actually have access to close captioning.

Tracy V. Wilson: You can see this on YouTube today. Pretty cool. Which is also kind of one of the weird things about working on this episode is footage that's still exists of the event.

Holly Frey: And it's easy to find and look at.

Tracy V. Wilson: It's easy to find and watch at your desk. So after several days of protest and boycotts and sit ins and marches and rallies and letters, Elizabeth Zinser announced her resignation on the night of March 10th. And so for sort of a brief moment, all of these rallies of protest briefly turned to celebration, but the students also recognized that they still had a long way to go. A lot of the started wearing buttons that said three and a half, since at this point only half of one of the their four demands had actually been met.

Holly Frey: And at this point, it was Friday and Spring Break was scheduled to start, but many students decided to stay on campus. The start of the weekend was fairly quiet and then the board reconvened on Sunday.

Tracy V. Wilson: That night the board held one last press conference in this event in which they made a number of announcements. The first was that Jane Spilman had resigned as the board chair. The second was that Phil Braven, who was deaf, had been named as her replacement. The third was a taskforce was going to be established and that taskforce's job would be to figure out the best way to get 51 percent of the board of the directors to be comprised of deaf people. They also announced that there would be no reprisals for the people who had been participating in the protest. And their last announcement was that I. King Jordan would be the next president.

Holly Frey: And in the words of Greg Hlibok, "Now we have respect, we have everything. It's just the beginning for all of us."

Tracy V. Wilson: And in the words of Jerry Covell, he said, "DPN has profoundly and significantly affected my life. It made me more committed to serve my people. It made me more determined to have America and the public accept and respect deaf people, allow deaf people to control their destiny and preserve the beauty, tradition and values of our culture and language. The ultimate goal is to see deaf people empower themselves and know their rights resulting in necessary changes in all walks of life."

Holly Frey: So in addition to serving as president, I. King Jordan actually became a huge advocate for deaf people and for the disabled community in general. He was a lead witness in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tracy V. Wilson: A kind of interesting side note about his story is that he was able to hear when he was born and he became deaf as a result of an accident when he was in his early 20s - he was a young man. And he enrolled at Gallaudet as a deaf person, but he did not yet know how to sign, so he sort of had to learn how to do sign language and everything else at the same time as he was studying at university.

Holly Frey: I would think that would be extremely stressful.

Tracy V. Wilson: I think that was extremely stressful. He actually did talk at my alma mater, which I found in the internet, which all just makes it a weird circle of events, where he talks about this story and talks about how there were some people who were very patient with him and some people who were not. In part because of the schism that we talked about before between manual and oral instruction. There were people who really firmly believed that being taught sign language was the only way to do it and we're not really patient with someone who knew how to speak and not sign.

Holly Frey: Yeah.

Tracy V. Wilson: So anyway, following DPN a number of other laws were passed that gave the deaf community better access to jobs and schools and technology as well as legal protection. In the five years after the protest was over, there were more laws and bills passed related to the rights of the deaf community and access to resources and education then had been passed in the entire previous history of the United States as a nation.

Holly Frey: And the protest also united the deaf community in many ways. So the schism between oralists and manualists has continued until today with deaf people who know sign language sometimes considering themselves "culturally deaf" while people who speak and read lips are not.

Tim Rarus who was one of the Gallaudet Four described it this way, "Before DPN I was not one to interact with deaf people who were not culturally deaf like myself. Deaf people have a history of fighting among themselves. Yet during DPN we all worked together for that common goal, a deaf president. Never mind the mode of communication our president would choose or his background, as long as he was deaf. And together we accomplished that goal."

Tracy V. Wilson: So today most children who are deaf learn sign language. There's much less debate on the front of do I teach a child sign language or do I not. A much bigger debate now is about Cochlear implants.

Holly Frey: Yes.

Tracy V. Wilson: And that is a whole other issue that we're not going to talk about on this podcast.

Holly Frey: No, that's like a can of worms, both medical and cultural that is beyond the scope of today's -

Tracy V. Wilson: Way outside of the scope. I King Jordan was president of Gallaudet until December 31, 2006 and in a weird twist of events, after having been this historic person put into this role, the end of his tenure as president was also marked with protests as the student body objected to the way the search for his replacement was handled and for the candidate that was selected for that as well. That story does not have quite the Civil Rights implications as this one did, but it was kind of an odd thing to have his entire time as president kind of bookended by these two massive student protests.

Holly Frey: Yeah. Part of it - I mean having worked in a university, I can imagine that since he served for roughly 18 years, they haven't had to put together one of those committees.

Tracy V. Wilson: Yeah.

Holly Frey: So it becomes kind of a starting from scratch every time, even if you have guidelines it's still - most of the people that are in those positions have never done that job before, searching for somebody.

Tracy V. Wilson: He did have a long tenure.

Holly Frey: So I can imagine there would be some what do we do?

Tracy V. Wilson: Yes. And students feel strongly about their universities.

Holly Frey: Which is good.

Tracy V. Wilson: I remember being just all angry about various administrative decisions when I was in college.

Holly Frey: I don't remember.

Tracy V. Wilson: It's okay.

Holly Frey: Yeah, I was busy with other things.

Tracy V. Wilson: That's fine.

Holly Frey: [Laughs]. Do you have listener mail for us?

Tracy V. Wilson: I do have listener mail. Our listener mail is from Ashlyn who wrote to us. I'm surprised she was able to write a letter of this length as quickly as it came after the episode that it's about, which is our -

Holly Frey: Yeah. Oh, it is lickety-split.

Tracy V. Wilson: It really was. I was like did we give you an advance copy of this? I'm not trying to tease you. I really was happy about this. So Ashlyn says, "I'm a graduate student working on a PH.D. in genetics, so I love when you guys do episodes on science related history. I also love just about all the other topics you guys pick, but I'm also a history nerd. Anyway, I just listened to your flu epidemic episode and I had a few things I thought you might find interesting.

The first is about one idea as to why the flu epidemic killed so many healthy young people who would normally deal well with the illness. One leading hypothesis is that the 1918 flu triggered an immune response that was much stronger than usual. Young people typically have much more robust immune systems than children and the elderly, which is why the latter groups are the usual fatalities during epidemics.

In the 1918 flu epidemic, however, a strong immune system worked as a disadvantage. The immunes systems of young people essentially overreacted to the 1918 flu leading to massive levels of inflammation of the lungs that caused fluid buildup conducive to bacterial infection. Additionally, the inflammation could be so strong that patients would stop breathing.

On the bright side, our medical knowledge and technology is better today and this type of immune system overreaction is better treated. So Holly, even if you do get some kind of crazy flu, you're much more likely to get better, especially because your over paranoia [inaudible] would help you get to the doctor early.

Another interesting thing is the way our modern flu vaccines are made."

This is a thing, side note that I knew but we didn't say and so I was glad someone wrote to us to give us an excuse to talk about it now.

"The flu travels around the globe each year with the cycle staring in China. Producing the vaccine takes a long time, eight months if memory serves. And so the vaccine producers have to guess what strains will hit the US far in advance. They do this by looking at the flu strains that are active in China as the global flu cycle starts up.

Usually those strains end up coming over to the US and the vaccines are effective. Other times the flu strains mutate before they get to the US or a different makes a late surge. In this case, the vaccine is much less effective.

The last thing I wanted to write you about is" - and this is the thing that made me want to read the letter the most - "the plague incorporated game that Tracy mentioned. It is a simultaneously super fun and kind of creepy, since the goal is to wipe out the human race. Every time I do it - every time I beat a level I would think victory. OMG, I just killed millions of people. I'm a monster. Do it again.

But fear not, Tracy, there are several flaws in the science of the game that make a plague [inaudible] style infection unlikely. The biggest problem is the mutation feature. In the game you click a button that allows you to turn your points, which you earn for infecting and killing people - see creepy - into mutations for all the bacteria that are already infecting people. In real life, an entire population of bacteria can't pick up a new mutation all at once. Bacteria mutate on the individual level.

So a super deadly bug wouldn't be able to infect people silently and then suddenly switch to kill mode by mutating. Any deadly mutations would have to start up in one location and then spread and so we'd have a better chance at containing it. Also it's not very advantageous for a pathogen to be super deadly in the first place. Over time most diseases evolve to be less deadly. This makes sense if you think like a bacteria. If you infect and kill someone in a single day, you don't have much time to spread to other people. If you make someone mildly sick for two weeks so they can go to work and the movies, you can infect all kinds of people.

Really deadly diseases are the ones usually in animals and then switch over to infecting humans. They haven't had time to get better at not killing people. That's why swine flu and avian flu, which are not used to infecting people, are worse than the regular flu that's been infecting people forever."

And then she went on with some other ideas for future podcasts. Thank you so much Ashlyn.

Holly Frey: Yes. Reassuring and informative.

Tracy V. Wilson: Yes, I played - I played that game. They have scenarios now in - in that game where you can play as various things. And I played one on the airplane last night that was basically Black Plague. I got to play as plague.

Holly Frey: Wee.

Tracy V. Wilson: And it also makes me a little nervous to play it on the airplane because you're looking at this little screen that has countries slowly going red and planes flying on it. And I'm always afraid someone's going to think I'm doing something nefarious.

Holly Frey: You could be, but you're not.

Tracy V. Wilson: But I'm not.

Holly Frey: Also, I think playing something like that on a plane when you're basically trapped in a steel tube with a bunch of other people who may or may not be carrying crud adds an extra layer of paranoia.

Tracy V. Wilson: Yes. So if you would like to write to us about this or anything else, we're at historypodcast@discovery.com. Our Facebook is Facebook.com/MissedInHistory and our twitter is MissedInHistory. Our tumbler is MissedInHistory.tumbler.com and our Pinterest is Pinterest.com/MissedInHistory.

If you would like to learn more about what we have talked about today, you can come to our website and you can put the word sign language in the search bar and you will find an article called How Sign Language Works. You can do that and a whole lot more at howstuffworks.com and you can find us at missedinhistory.com.

Female Speaker: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit howstuffworks.com.

Tracy V. Wilson: Netflix streams TV shows and movies directly to your home, saving you time, money and hassle. As a Netflix member, you can instantly watch TV episodes and movies streaming directly to your PC, Mac or right to your TV with you Xbox360, PS3 or Nintendo Wii Console plus Apple devices, Kindle and Nook. Get a free 30 day trial membership. Go to www.Netflix.com and sign up now.

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Duration: 34 minute

Topics in this Podcast: Protests, Deaf history, disability, civil rights, American history, 20th century, U.S. history