The field known as deaf education has undergone considerable change over the past decades. In part, this situation reflects the evolution of understanding concerning deaf people and American Sign Language. The magnitude of this change, however, owes much to progress in pedagogy, developmental psychology, psycholinguistics (including language acquisition), and other related fields. Together with dramatic changes in technology, scientific progress has provided new options and new perspectives for parents, students, and teachers.
We also have to accept the influence of this book being written early in the new millennium. Perhaps caught up in the excitement of it all, but also with genuine commitment, we felt the need to share our optimistic, but realistic, view of what the future holds for parents and educators of deaf children, as well as for the children themselves. Given the progress of the past few decades and the sense of new beginnings, we thought that it was important to consider the education of deaf students from the perspective of what we know rather than what we want. In deciding to provide a research-based framework for educating deaf students, we sought to set aside as much as possible the politics, rhetoric, and confusion that often accompany such discussions. In the chapters that follow, we therefore consider the educational and research literature with an eye toward systematic inquiry and generality of findings. As far as the current state of the art allows, we summarize what we know about educating deaf students and draw implications for parents, teachers, and other gatekeepers.