SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 105

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. level education is additional evidence of the failure to maintain standards in the system, not evidence of its success. Moreover, Gallaudet University chooses its students from the top five percentiles of the population of deaf students in the United States. Even so, a large proportion of those who continue on to graduate school do so despite the presence of academic deficiencies, especially in English literacy, which often present them with substantial challenges in their "competition" with hearing students. To suggest that the success of these students invalidates the overall failure of the population is statistically unfounded rationalization. In these ways, the speech-centered system of deaf education in the United States has not been held accountable for its failures. To the contrary, over the last 150 years the system of deaf education has been able to argue that its failures, rather than being reason for self-evaluation, are justification for its own growth. Since 1870, the number of teachers of deaf children in the United States has increased from around 200 to more than 10,000 today (Lou, 1988, p. 76). The increase has been achieved primarily by arguing that failures can be reduced by intervening at earlier and earlier ages. Thus, a system that typically admitted children to school at about the age of ten or twelve until the 1890's, moved the age to about six years old during the early 1900's and then to about three years old in the 1940's. Currently, "early intervention" programs are being established widely in order to push back the first contacts to infancy. Simultaneously, because none of these expansions has succeeded in solving the problem, expansion at the other end has been necessary, so that at Gallaudet University there now exist a post-high-school reading program, a preparatory program, and a pre-freshman status, which may all precede actual entry to the university as a freshman. In addition, there is now a massive system of deaf social services, all of which provide genuinely needed services, but which in another sense extend services to deaf people whom the system has failed to prepare to succeed in modern America. The result is that there is also now a large service industry that thrives on the failure of the system of deaf education. Thus, the situation is perpetuated through a commitment to a set of beliefs that devalue sign language, restrict access to information, deny deaf students' capabilities, and diminish deaf independence, all by placing a higher educational value on speaking than on communicating or learning. In order for a new approach to deaf education to succeed, the participants in the program must subscribe to the belief that deaf people can be expected to learn as much as hearing children, that the pedagogical methodology and practice must be subject to evaluation and revision, and that not all failure can be blamed on the students. A Model Program for Education of Deaf Children In the remainder of this essay we propose a model program for educating deaf children. We present, first, a set of principles that arise from the observations we have made above, and, second, outline a design for such a program as it might be instituted in a school district. We do not expect that such a program will quickly or easily alleviate the ills of deaf education, or that it will make the process simple or non-controversial. If there is one lesson that arises from the history of deaf education, it is that solutions to problems are quite complex. We do believe, however, that it will achieve much more acceptable results than any of the options currently being employed in the United States. SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 105