SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 104

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. or the general difficulty of teaching English to deaf students. It is seldom suggested that the failure may actually result from a failure to communicate between teacher and children. This lack of standards grows indirectly from the need to explain and justify more than a hundred years of failed educational philosophy and practice. Although the United States delegation refused to endorse the 1880 Milan Conference proclamations calling for oral-only education for all deaf children, our educational system has embraced the principles and practices of oralism since that time. The requirement that teachers must speak as they teach and the emphasis on speech training for deaf students is, in fact, the practice of oralism, no matter what name it is given. Thus, although Total Communication is typically viewed as "manualism", we refer to it as crypto- oralism, for the essence of Total Communication is to require students to comprehend and learn subject matter through spoken English, albeit supported by signs. Broadly speaking, the system has been able to convince its own members and the general public that the failure of speech-centered deaf education has been the fault of the students rather than that of the system or the practices of the people in it. Thus, the public image of an educator of deaf children (although seldom stated so explicitly) is one of a highly skilled, almost mystically qualified, altruistic practitioner, who is "helping" deaf people to achieve something greater than they would otherwise have been able to. At the same time the educator is presented as one who is limited in what he or she can do by the inherent limitations of deaf people. As a result, the system itself is not subject to criticism and has been allowed to exist without expectations of success. The conflict between the perceived competence of educators and the failure of their students never calls the system into question. The two facts exist together in apparent comfort, never challenging the practices of the system. But the situation also leads to an uncomfortable double bind for teachers of deaf children, who must manage the resultant conflict between their public image and the knowledge that much of their effort is unsuccessful. It also results in contradictory claims in which deaf people are represented both as being deficient and as especially intelligent or clever to have achieved so dramatically against the odds. Such contradictory statements at once demonstrate and deny the reality of the failure. Thus, it is possible for a leading scholar in the field of deaf education to make the following claim (Moores, 1987, pp. 1-2): In the United States, the results of decades of standardized achievement testing suggest a severe educational gap between deaf and hearing students, especially in areas related to English, such as reading. But despite apparent limitations, deaf people attend post-secondary training programs in approximately the same proportion as hearing people. The fact that approximately 65 percent of deaf graduates of Gallaudet University go on to graduate schools, where they compete on equal terms with hearing students, suggests that the deaf/hearing gap in achievement may be more apparent than real. Such statements ignore the fact that attendance in these programs is in itself not sufficient evidence of success. Standardized tests exist for the purpose of assessing students' achievement within such programs. The low averages in achievement scores may not be dismissed just because the system chooses to allow students to progress in spite of low achievement. The fact that students with deficiencies in central academic areas are allowed to proceed to post-secondary and graduate- SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 104