SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 98

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. English grammar and the experience with the invented English signs necessary to decode the teacher's message. The child's competence in ASL grammar would not help because the teacher's utterances are not structured by ASL grammatical principles. While it may seem to be too obvious to say, it remains true that, in order to understand signed utterances built on English syntactic and morphological principles, a child must first be competent in English. It also remains true that most deaf children arrive at school with little or no competence in English. These observations combine to suggest that English is not the most appropriate language to use for instruction in important and valued parts of the curriculum. This conclusion seems to have escaped the reasoning of those who have designed our current approaches to instruction for deaf children. In opposition to this view, proponents of "signed English" assume that systems for representing English speech make English "visible" to deaf students. This assumption then becomes support for the expectation that deaf students will acquire signed English competence naturally through seeing English and that this signed English competence will lead to spoken English competence and written English competence. The following series of comments from the inventors Signing Exact English make the assumptions of this approach clear (Gustason, Pfetzing, & Zawolkow, 1975): The message is clear. Deaf children must be exposed as young as possible to English if we want them to learn it well, and since input must precede output we need to make sure that their perception of the language is as unclouded as possible. (p. iv) Signs present larger, more discrete symbols in communication than either speech or fingerspelling and are thus easier for very young deaf children to pick up. (p. v) However, American Sign Language is a language in its own right, and this language is not a visual representation of English.... Its structure is different from that of English, and the symbols represent concepts rather than English words. A child learning American Sign Language at an early age has communication, but he must still learn English if he wishes to function well in our society, and he must learn it as a different form of communication. Moreover, the difference in structure and symbolism makes ASL a difficult language for many hearing people to master. Since most deaf children have hearing parents whose native language is English..., we suggest that these parents can most comfortably learn to sign English and so expose their child to their own native language, rather than learn ASL and have the child later learn English as a second language. (pp. v-vi) From the time of its introduction to the field, the philosophy and methodology of Total Communication has depended on the assumption that SSS provides a Visual representation of English. Denton was among the first proponents of Total Communication in the United States and oversaw its implementation at the Maryland School for the Deaf in 1968. The following passage summarizes his view on the developmental functions of SSS (Denton, 1976, p. 6): SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 98