criticizing Deaf education

Pamela Wright-Meinhardt
I’m so frustrated with this topic, from work related issues as well as
things that I have read, that I absolutely have to crawl out of my
carpal tunnel induced dexterity-impaired haze to poke away at the
keyboard and continue my haphazard series. There’s obviously a need for
people outside the “deaf education system” (henceforth called the
System) to understand what’s happening inside the System. Now, with a
jest on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and its expectations that
every teacher be “highly qualified,” I write this article.
I’m of two minds right now. On one hand, it constantly amazes me how
much the deaf education system is criticized by former students
everywhere. I wonder, how can someone who only experienced the System as
a student believe, with full honesty, that they can target elements
inside the System? How can they determine what is wrong without
experiencing the System in a different capacity than as a student? Maybe
experience it as a teacher? Or an administrator? As a parent? Or even as
an artist-in-residence? Do they know how much research is really out
there on the System? Do they really know what the literacy research
says? Do they realize how expertise, positive and rich, has been and
continues to be totally disregarded by people outside the System?
Let’s just say, I’m often appalled at the ignorance outsiders display
when they criticize without really knowing the System.
Okay, on the other hand. . . *sigh* I understand! As a former student of
the System, and as an (admittingly) unrepentant Critic, I completely
share the indignation that so many of us feel. We go through the System
and are able to see what was done/not done, what happened to our friends
or classmates, or obvious literacy gaps, that we formulate opinions from
our conversations and readings. So we attack! We criticize, chop up,
pick apart, and scrutinize the System under a microscope. And that’s not
all bad. Those inside the System do need to hear what outsiders do have
to say. Some mini-Systems are so shut out from the outside that they
perpetuate the same crimes from generation to generation.
Why do I jest, using the NCLB law? Because the people who advocated the
law and virtually all of the people involved in creating the law were
not from fields of education. They were psychologists, linguists,
doctors, politicians, and a celebrated speech therapist. The politicians
decided that all teachers must be “highly qualified” in their field of
expertise. So. That means what? Honestly, it means more paperwork, not
more quality. It means that people who are not the least bit cognizant
of how teachers function, or what truly makes a qualified teacher, are
making the rules for teachers.
Change the System? Yes! Please! I wish for nothing more than for my
students to become fully literate and say that they whupped the ‘hearing
standard,’ which, by the way, is an overlooked, over-celebrated 7th
grade average. Teach the Six Traits (check the website)? Oh yes. More
communication? Sure! A definition of literacy that encompasses more than
just English? YES! Bridge ASL and English? Yes, yes, yes!
But, dear me, talk to the insiders! We already have to deal with a
federal law written by clueless politicians… the last thing we need is
a literacy-rescue program created by people who know *zilch* about the
multitude of issues lying around the average System classroom. Believe
me, there are plenty of those out there already.
Keep criticizing, keep discussing. Don’t stop! But, meanwhile, complete
your homework.
From The Tactile Mind Weekly #32 THE TACTILE MIND WEEKLY Copyright

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *