Residential Schools versus Public Schools for the Deaf
The Deaf community has been struggling for its survival for
decades. The overall hearing majority think that the best approach for
the Deaf is to have them integrated with the rest of the hearing world.
The Deaf have their own unique culture and language that is under
constant threat from the hearing majority. My paper is addressing the
very real threat that Deaf children are facing when they are required to
attend public schools in response to the 1975 Education for All
Handicapped Children Act.
Public Law 94-142 says that deaf children fall under the same
category as handicapped and special education children, as being
entitled to an education in public schools. The result for residential
schools for the deaf, because of this act, has been a major decline in
enrollment of deaf students (Padden & Humphries, 1988). This is a major
problem for the Deaf community, as this is the place that a lot of deaf
culture has been traditionally passed down to other members. Many
children that are deaf have hearing parents who have no idea of the
historical significance of the Deaf and many are afraid to learn the
language. The oralists idea is to encourage the movement of deaf
children to learn how to speak and lip-read like the majority.
Pre-lingually deaf children who are taught by oral methods tend to fall
far behind their hearing peers in school. One study found that the
average deaf high school student read on the third-grade level (Kent,
2003). This does not bode well for the Deaf community or the deaf
children that are enrolled in public schools.
As can be seen by the swift decline of public funds being
transferred from residential schools for the Deaf to public schools for
mainstreaming purposes, deaf children are often left out in the cold.
Public schools cannot serve the needs of deaf children when they are ill
equipped to do so. Teachers in public schools often turn their backs
when they are writing on the board and continue to speak, thus deaf
children who might be attempting to lip read are left out of the
conversation. Also deaf students are not able to hear their peers in
class as they respond to various things in the classroom environment.
Even when public schools give deaf students the benefit of an
interpreter, all the conversations in the classroom are not told to the
deaf students (Walker, 1994). Thus, the deaf students are not really
being integrated into the hearing culture, they are actively been shut
out. Most hearing students will not make the effort that is required to
talk with a deaf student that they feel can not understand them when
they try to communicate with them. The deaf student is left out of the
social environment of the school as a result. A deaf child may with a
lot of effort be able to excel in the academics of public school, our
language is very different then ASL, but they will have a major
stumbling block when it comes to the social environment. It is very
hard for deaf students to feel like they belong to an environment they
feel is hostile to their language and culture. Basically when deaf
students are made to go to public schools they are being told that they
need to forget about their language and culture and concentrate on
blending in with the hearing world. It is certainly hard for them to
feel like they belong when there are very few, if any, deaf students in
the school they attend.
Integrating on the basis of race is very different from integrating
on the basis of communication abilities (hearing and deaf). Integration
on a physical level, such as winning athletic awards and playing on the
hockey team, is not the same thing as integration in communication.
Students will miss out on talks in the locker room, the bus, and various
other social activities that require a form of communication that the
deaf may not be able to meet (Bragg, 2001).
Deaf culture has struggled to survive in a world that is constantly
trying to suppress it. While many residential schools for the deaf have
been closed down through lack of funding, the Deaf community have been
fighting back by inviting others to share in their rich cultural
heritage and language. Through their efforts and organizations, the
Deaf are reaching out to the young deaf students that are coming on that
have not previously been exposed to a culture that has been denied to
them in the public schools they are required to attend.
Padden, C., Humphries, T. ( 1988). Deaf In America Voices from a
Cambridege, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Walker, L. A. (1994). Hand, Heart, and Mind. New York, New York:
Kent, D. (2003) American Sign Language. New York, New York: Franklin
Watts. (p. 39)
Bragg, L. (2001). Deaf World: A Historical Reader and Primary
York, New York: New York University Press.
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