SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 93

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. achievement among deaf students are depressed by comparison to hearing norms, according to which much higher grade-equivalents are necessary to be included in the 93rd to 98th percentiles. These results appear not to be restricted to children who have been exposed to any one of the several "methods" for educating deaf children currently in use in the United States. Each method is more accurately described as a policy about how teachers and students should interact and communicate with one another. These approaches to communication include oralism, total communication, simultaneous communication, artificially developed systems for coding English, and Cued Speech. In the end, regardless of the particular method selected by parents or educators, the results are less than adequate. 'This conclusion is even apparent to laypersons who examine deaf education from the outside. A recent segment of The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour (1988) concluded that each of the major approaches to educating deaf children in America (private oral programs, residential Total Communication programs, and public mainstream programs) is "seriously flawed." They observed that the problems persist in spite of the fact that classes for deaf students are small compared with classes for their hearing counterparts. A class size of eight to ten is typical. Moreover, teachers of deaf students are highly trained, and typically hold an MA or MEd degree from a program which provides specialized training in deaf education. In addition, the cost of educating a deaf student in specialized programs is quite high when compared to that of educating hearing, public school students. How is it possible that such a well-developed, costly, and elaborate system has failed? The Reasons for Failure It is our position that the failure of deaf education to live up to its promise results, first, from deaf children's fundamental lack of access to curricular content at grade level, and, second, from the general acceptance of the notion that below grade-level performance is to be expected of deaf children. The first of these problems --access-- is in our opinion largely a language-related issue. The second --low expectations-- is, we believe, primarily an issue of values and attitudes that have developed among those who educate deaf children. Linguistic Access to Curricular Content The issue of linguistic access to curricular material has been at the heart of all discussions about pedagogy in deaf education since about 1870. Most proponents of one methodology or another have used access to educational and social benefits as the underlying justification for their proposals. Most arguments about pedagogy have centered on what means of communication should be implemented or inspired in deaf children in order for them to match more closely the normative linguistic and behavioral expectations of hearing children. However, it is not the case that the developmental history of deaf children is linguistically like that of their hearing peers. It is unusual for a hearing child to reach the age of four or five without having acquired at least the rudiments of a natural language. Even severely mentally retarded children develop rather sophisticated linguistic competence at an early age. It is usually the case, however, that deaf children of hearing parents have not developed a sophisticated competence in any native language (signed or spoken) by the time they enter SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 93