Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Inclusion: The Big Delusion

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Inclusion: The Big Delusion

Article excerpt

Dear Editor:

Inclusion, mainstreaming, and monolingualism as language policy for the majority of deaf youths is one of the most colossal failures in the history of education, resulting in an entire generation of Deaf semilingual students. Since the mid-1970s, with PL 94-142, IDEA, and now No Child Left Behind mandating assessments, the majority of deaf students are starving for accessible, comprehensible linguistic input in the public school system.

For the past 25 years I have been in and out of small, medium, and large day programs, and what I have found are large numbers of deaf semilingual students who can't read very well, nor write, nor even understand sign language fluently. In the past 10 years, I have also provided language assessment for a dozen young Deaf adults in the court system. All of these Deaf youths have been products of public mainstream programs. They cannot read the legal documents they are asked to sign, and, furthermore, they have difficulty understanding an ASL interpreter, if they are provided one, when they stand before the judge or go on trial. In her landmark study of 99 Deaf prison inmates at Huntsville (AL) State Prison, Dr. Trina Miller (2001) found that most of these Deaf adult inmates read below the third-grade level. Many of these Deaf inmates had not fully participated in their trial because they were semilingual, meaning they had weak English and weak ASL skills (linguistic incompetence). As the state of deaf education stands now, semilingualism abounds in our public schools, courts, and prisons. A big part of this environmental problem is that we have neglected to aggressively insist that rich, visually accessible language-learning environments in the schools be set up for Deaf students where they can learn both ASL and English as early as possible.

In our current stale state of deaf education school programming, there is some fresh air. Dr. Steve Nover and his colleagues at the Center for ASL/English Bilingual Education and Research (CAEBER; http://www.nmsd.k12.nm.us/caeber/ index.html) have set up state-of-the-art ASL/English bilingual professional development (in-service and preservice) that has spread to more than 15 state schools for the Deaf and to five universities with teacher preparation programs, leadership programs, and doctoral programs. …

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