SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 103

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. approaches to deaf education continue to pursue English-only and speech-dominant approaches. Such approaches expect the children to learn curricular material through communication in a form which they can understand only imperfectly at best. This puts the form of instruction (how something is said) in constant competition with the content (what is said). In American deaf education, form usually wins, a fact which maintains and intensifies the gap in performance between deaf children and their hearing peers. It is now understood that the reliance on speech-dependent means of communicating in early childhood education programs and in parent training programs has failed to achieve the accelerated English language acquisition that was expected of it (Lucas, 1989). Its most pronounced effect is to delay acquisition of a child's first language and intensify the effect of the lack of early and extensive social interaction. Thus, although early childhood education, is continually pushed to younger ages, many children still enter school with little or no competence in a natural language and with serious inadequacies in the kinds of social skills and cultural knowledge expected of children their age. The Cycle of Low Expectations We have proposed that changing language policy and permitting the use of ASL in classrooms would be of benefit in attempting to bring deaf children closer to normative grade- level achievement. It is probably not the case, however, that such a change alone would be sufficient to bring them to parity with their hearing peers. This is because deaf education in the United States has come to expect that deaf children cannot perform as well as hearing children and has structured itself in ways that guarantee that result. The report of the Commission on Education of the Deaf (1988) contains descriptions and several recommendations concerning the appalling lack of standards and accountability in the field. But the situation is not the result of widespread cynicism or malfeasance. In fact, the field is populated by dedicated, hard-working, and committed individuals, most of whom have made a principled choice to pursue a career of public service. The problem results more from training programs, which, through a belief in and a commitment to speech-centered educational methodology, fail to prepare aspiring teachers to meet the actual communication needs of deaf pupils. The curriculum of typical training programs in deaf education, for example, includes a great deal of material on teaching speech, the psychology of deafness (usually concerning the adjustment or lack of adjustment by deaf people to the norms of the "hearing world"), audiology, and spoken English language development, as well as the ordinary curriculum of teacher education. On the other hand, in most such programs it is rare to have a course about deaf people interacting with each other, a course that teaches about the role of ASL in the ordinary development of deaf children, or even a course that teaches a future teacher to understand or produce ASL. In fact, virtually all such programs teach only some system for SSS, and usually require only two or three such classes. The result is that, although trainees meet the expectations of the program, they are nevertheless singularly unprepared to teach deaf children. Moreover, once in the classroom, there is no genuine assessment of communication skills. If a teacher's students fail to improve their writing and reading abilities, it is always assumed to be the result of inadequacies in the children SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 103