Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The feedback on my Reading and Deafness post led to a bit of Internet hopping to sites focusing on issues in deaf education. Once again I was struck by opposing perspectives that influence and shape how deaf children are taught.
Delpit describes literacy as being part of a larger political entity and this is certainly true in the field of deaf education. Literacy encompasses not only reading and writing but reflects how it is situated within a larger context. Educational policies and curricula for deaf children closely reveal larger societal views towards deafness. These are represented in the two divergent approaches in teaching methodologies and modalities, namely the oralist and manualist approaches that influence how deaf children are educated in the United States.
Simply put, the oralist perspective is based on a medical view which sees deafness as a deficit. From this standpoint deafness is something that needs to be corrected, fixed or cured. According to King and Quigley, the dominant hearing culture has historically held the belief that "deaf people were intellectually inferior to hearing people and showed definite deficits in various aspects of cognitive functioning". This is in line with an oralist stance.
This deficiency model is challenged by deaf individuals and linguists who promote a cultural perspective incorporating art, American Sign Language, shared experiences, lessons and myths. The shift from "can't" to "capable" has a huge impact on the education of deaf children. It became apparent from my reading that these passionate debates continue to rage on.
As I jumped around the Internet I also read statements voicing the opinion that deaf individuals who use American Sign Language and immerse themselves in Deaf culture refuse to join a hearing world and are therefore choosing to remain isolated and separate from society. This is a bit like saying that my German grandparents who belonged to a German club and spoke German were Nazis. They weren't. And deaf individuals who celebrate Deaf culture are not anti-hearing or shunning mainstream society.
America celebrates and recognizes many cultures, why should this be any different?
Note: Click here for an interesting related article in