"It is my experience that most of the students (that I have met) coming out of deaf institutes today lack the ability to read and write English fluently. I believe in the past the curriculum for deaf institutes was more oral and English based, so a lot of deaf people who attended them were able to obtain adequate lessons in English. What a blessing for them!"
Ok, Anonymous. If that is your experience, then that is your experience. Many students coming out of deaf institutes lack the ability to read and write English fluently. The truth is, most deaf students have historically been far less than fluent when reading and writing English, and it doesn’t matter what school they attended, because just about all of them have been failures. Mainstream, deaf institute, Total Communication, Signed Exact English I and II, oral programs… they all fail more often than not. That is the reality. As for your comment on about past curriculums being English and oral based, so what a blessing?!?!?! Oh my, not a blessing at all, I can assure you.
Let me tell about my parents' experience with oral based education. They attended a deaf institute in the fifties to mid sixties. Back then everything taught in the classroom was done orally. Signing was not allowed in the classroom, and the punishment for using it was often physically abusive in nature, let alone emotionally nearly 100% of the time. Signing went on in the residential dorms, at recess, and during meal times. The staff never signed with them at any of these times, they just simply let the students do their thing. This is how my parents learned ASL. It was the same ASL Deaf people were using around the country, though it had its own regional dialect. They used this language to interact with each other daily, and it was fully accessible.
You think oral and English based education was a blessing for deaf students in the past? I'm sorry to have to tell you what a naïve statement that truly is. Your lack of knowledge of Deaf history shows like a bright star on a clear night. To know anything about Deaf people and their history is to know of their struggle for equality in a world full of Audism, of hearing people whose belief in their superiority to be able to hear was projected onto deaf adults and children so they could be assimilated and oppressed with things like hearing aids and cochlear implants, et cetera, et cetera. This is not a knock on those accommodations because when used to enhance a deaf person's senses it can be an accommodation with purpose. History shows again and again that instead of being used to enhance, it has been the focal point to make deaf people different from who they truly are. This is a cultural issue and it always has been for Deaf people. It was always hearing people telling deaf people what to do and how to do it, and it still goes on today all over the world. Audism is something you committed yourself with that naïve statement I refer to, the one that goes as quoted at the beginning of this post. Your belief in the superiority of a historically documented failure that so many deaf people have had to endure in their own education is naïve. Congrats to your son for being one of the few successes, but that's all it is - one of the few. For every English success you show me, I can show ten English failures. And if one wants to make the argument that I have no experience or sense of modern mainstreaming or oral based educational practices, or the SEE methods, or even the Total Communication methods, then you would be wrong. I have worked in most of these settings as an educator myself. But to best illustrate my point, I will once again refer to the experiences of my parents.
Both of my parents attended the same deaf institute during the fifties to mid sixties. My father started at age 5, while my mother attended public school until the age of 13, which showed her parents no significant improvement, so from there on she attended the institute. Back then everything taught in the classroom was done orally. Signing was not allowed in the classroom, and the punishment for using it was often physically abusive in nature, let alone emotionally nearly 100% of the time. Signing went on in the residential dorms, at recess, and during meal times. The staff never signed with them at any of these times, they just simply let the students do their thing. This is how my parents learned ASL. It was the same ASL Deaf people were using around the country, though it had its own regional dialect. They used this language to interact with each other daily, and it was fully accessible. Through this interaction they learned socially, something that oral education could not provide them.
Conversations I had with my father revealed a lot of what really went on in those classrooms. He recalls being able to understand very little of what was instructed in his classes, until the one year he had a teacher who signed in the classroom. This teacher was a brave person who went against the current educational philosophy of the school, and taught lessons in ASL whenever superiors and peers were not around to see it. My father told me that was the best year he ever had at the school. It was the first and only time he understood the lessons being presented, and he was able to digest them easily. He did not get punished for using sign in the classroom. When that happened with other teachers, he would often have his hands tied with rope or be slapped in the face in front of his peers. What a year that must have been for him. He said that the teacher never returned the following year, and he guessed it had to do with the administration catching wind of signing in the classroom. Do you think they ever bothered to look at the overall improvement in student's grades?
This is what oral based education looked like in most of the institutes across the country until the mid seventies and later on. We as a society condoned and endorsed educational practices that were oppressive to deaf students all over the country. It's still oppressive today, for it claims that a non-fully accessible language (English) is superior to ASL, which is fully accessible for every deaf student. English is the primary language in this country, and there is no question that deaf people need to be able to read and write fluently if they are to have an equal chance to succeed in the hearing world. It's a fact that will never change.
This brings me to an educational approach that current research data shows has been the most effective in improving a deaf student's ability to read and write English. That is the bilingual method. The bilingual method recognizes that a deaf child's most natural and fully accessible language is visual (ASL), and therefore the one that needs to be mastered first. This means all lessons are taught in ASL from day one, and as the students learn to master their native language, they also begin to learn to read and write English. By learning about English through a fully accessible language (ASL), they have an opportunity to understand the language of English in ways that were not possible for many in the past. They use their mastery of ASL to analyze English and break down its grammar structure and syntax. It's possible because of the use and mastery of ASL.
Think about all the world knowledge you acquire as a hearing person everyday at home, school, and in social situations. Think of how limiting it is for a deaf child who lives in a home where everyone speaks and no one signs and attends school where the oral method is used. Pair that with the current mainstream movement having placed most deaf students in local public schools that have few deaf peers, and one can see the opportunity for social interaction in a fully accessible language is also significantly reduced. At least when my parents were in school they had their peers going for them.
If deaf students were able to get instruction in a fully accessible language, and be encouraged to interact socially with their deaf peers in that same language, imagine the improvement for what they can understand about the world. If hearing parents of deaf children learned ASL for their children and used it at home, think of the additional improvement.
Many deaf students in oral and mainstream programs often struggle with identity issues. An alarming number of these deaf children believe they will grow up to be hearing people. ?????????? In a setting with other deaf peers and Deaf role models, an identity can be easily seen and attained, and with that comes a sense of pride in oneself. What could be more valuable to a person's self-esteem?
This doesn't mean that parents have to send their child away to be raised by others. If a parent learns ASL and becomes supportive of Deaf culture, they likely become the biggest role model of all to their child. What it means is that a parent recognized that their deaf child IS different, and decided it IS ok, even if it means needing Deaf people to help show them the world. In short, as a parent you would be giving your child the world. Isn’t that what every parent wants? Imagine how that child will look to that parent with respect for what they did. To me that is the ultimate sacrifice a hearing parent can make for their deaf child, and speaking from experience I believe it to also offer the ultimate reward to a parent. It is giving that child all the tools to be the most successful person they can be.
Of course I think it goes without saying that this is the goal for every caring parent, regardless of how they decide to raise their deaf child. However, from my standpoint, the bilingual method is the best way to educate a deaf child. There are some schools out there using this approach right now, and when deaf students are fortunate enough to have been in such a program from the day they enroll in school until the day they graduate, the world will get to see Deaf people who can read and write just as well as they can. Deaf people have always held to power to make change for themselves, and at times they have. When the average Deaf person is able to read and write just as well as their hearing peers, they will perhaps acquire the best weapon available in destroying the many obstacles that stand in the way of ending Audism.
Anonymous stated that deaf student in deaf institutes today lack the ability to read and write fluently. Please keep in mind that most deaf institutes still do not employ the bilingual method. I would encourage you to see the results for the ones that do, and compare them to every deaf education practice out there. Through my work as a deaf educator, I have my certification from Gallaudet University in the bilingual educational method. From my past experiences in SEE II and Total Communication instruction, and everything I know from Deaf history and oral education, I have 100% conviction that the bilingual method is the best way to go for all deaf students. The oral method may be successful for a handful of deaf people, and I do not wish to diminish their success, but the truth is that the oral method leaves far too many deaf children behind.
This is my final post in response to Anonymous. Anonymous, you may still wish to disagree, and that's your right, but I want to thank you for your comments and your opinion, and for allowing me to voice mine.