SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 88

Curriculum: Thirty Years Later Blackburn language models and based on those interactions, concluded that deaf people would not be qualified or willing to help parents learn ASL. In the same edition of Sign Language Studies, Robert Clover Johnson (1990) wrote a thought-provoking commentary about Unlocking the curriculum based on observations and interviews he conducted on Gallaudet University’s campus immediately following the distribution of the paper. I strongly recommend everyone take time to read and reflect upon Johnson’s remarks (1990). While I do not have the space to delve into some of his discoveries here, there is one gem that is essential to share for the purposes of this commentary. This gem relates to a meeting he had with the second author, Scott Liddell, seeking clarification on two points that were creating a sort of cognitive dissonance for him. To begin, Johnson was clear that Unlocking addressed the flawed language and communication policy that had been supported to date, instructing parents and teachers to use Signed Supported Speech (SSS) with young deaf children for the purposes of language acquisition and communication access. Users of SSS believed that hard of hearing students would benefit from hearing what they could of spoken language, while profoundly deaf students could acquire English by seeing signs that had been distorted to represent the morpho-syntactic structure of English. RCJ questions pertained to the two recommendations (listed below) from Unlocking. These recommendations may have been confusing at the time because of their stark contrast with SSS; and their full focus on natural languages for classroom communication and instruction, rather than the splintering of them based on each student’s degree of hearing loss: 1. “hard of hearing as well as profoundly deaf students would best be served in classrooms in which instruction is conducted in ASL…” (Johnson, 1990, p. 298). Based on this ASL-as-the-language-of-instruction policy, the authors stipulated the 2. “… effective use of ASL would significantly raise deaf students’ average achievement levels in school.” (Johnson, 1990, p. 298) Liddell’s response affirmed both of Johnson’s questions stating, “…since ASL can communicate as much information in a visual channel as spoken English can through an auditory channel, then anyone with any degree of hearing trouble who can see clearly would be best advised to learn through ASL.” And then regarding this new language and communication policy, “…‘we believe this proposed program would bring deaf students’ achievement levels right up to grade level” (Johnson, 1990, p. 298). Hindsight is 20/20 Johnson’s (1990) questions for the authors of Unlocking provided us with a taste of genuine foreshadowing about the future role of ASL as an academic language. In short, he asked the questions that were on everyone’s mind. The authors suggested a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework for deaf students long before the term was officially coined in educational circles. SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 88