SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 100

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. and ASL found in SSS and the generally impoverished quality of the signed portion of the signal may provide a model that is counter-productive to the goal of language acquisition. Quigley and Paul (1984, pp. 19-23) conclude that there are no studies demonstrating that the SSS movement has been successful in promoting English achievement. In examining what they call the most favorable evidence in support of each approach to deaf education, they find that results favoring any one of the approaches can usually be explained by an intervening variable, such as socio-economic status, literacy and educational level of the parents, or personal involvement of the parents. They find no unequivocal evidence in support of the practices associated with Total Communication. It is still widely believed, however, that ASL, while possibly a nice means of communicating socially, is unsuited for the educational process. In fact, both the official statements and the common practice in American deaf education suggest that those in charge of educational institutions still believe that early sign language exposure inhibits the learning of speech. In a recent debate in the magazine Deaf Life, the superintendent of a state residential school for deaf children, made the following comments (Bellefleur, 1988, p. 23): ASL is a beautiful, conceptual language, and I truly believe that it has an important place in the proliferation of a deaf sub-culture, but it has no place in the education process, if deaf citizens ever wish to compete with their hearing counterparts, with any kind of efficiency. . . . When I ask myself why those individuals would use written English to support a language that dispossesses its users, I have to wonder if the subconscious motives of the advocates might actually be to keep their constituents in a state of impoverished language. Because of views such as this it is unusual to find deaf teachers in public school programs for deaf children. Most deaf teachers work in residential schools, but even here it is still common practice throughout the United States to put them in the upper grades or with developmentally retarded children where they will have less impact on the language use of the ordinary deaf children (Moores, 1987, p. 205). Thus, the deaf education system, in which over 42 percent of teachers were themselves deaf in the 1870's, was able to reduce that proportion to less than 12 percent by the 1960's (Lou, 1988, p. 76). This has been accomplished primarily through the argument that deaf teachers are poorly suited to speech-centered methodologies and by perpetuation of the misconception that sign language exposure and acquisition at an early age impedes the acquisition of spoken English and appropriate "hearing world" behavior. We suggest that this trend has been intimately linked to the difficulty deaf students encounter in attempting to acquire the contents of the curriculum. On the other side of the issue is a fact that has been recognized by researchers for many years: deaf children of deaf parents on average achieve higher levels of proficiency in school- related skills than do children from all-hearing families (Stevenson, 1964; Stuckless & Birch, 1966; Meadow, 1968; Vernon & Koh, 1970; Corson, 1973; Brasel & Quigley, 1977; Moores, 1987, pp. 198-205). In all of these studies, children from deaf families consistently outperform children from hearing families in most measures of academic achievement. Moreover, in most of SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 100