Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Apartheid in Deaf Education: Examining Workforce Diversity

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Apartheid in Deaf Education: Examining Workforce Diversity

Article excerpt

A SURVEY OF of 3,227 professionals in 313 deaf education programs found that 22.0% of teachers and 14.5% of administrators were deaf - a less than 10% increase in deaf professionals since 1993. Additionally, 21.7% of teachers and 6.1% of administrators were professionals of color. Of these minority teachers, only 2.5% were deaf persons of color. Only 3 deaf administrators of color were identified. The study describes how "apartheid" or "intellectual oppression" may result from unchanged hiring practices in K-12 programs for the deaf and in postsecondary institutions. Using a bottle metaphor, the researchers describe how deaf persons of color are often stuck in "a bottleneck on the highway to opportunity." Relevant data underscore that the field of deaf education must diversify its professional force in order to utilize the intellectual, linguistic, and multicultural proficiencies of hearing teachers of color, deaf teachers, and deaf teachers of color.

My country, 'tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee 1 sing.

- SAMUEL F. SMITH, 183 1

Grab the broom of anger and drive off the beast of fear!


Not all Americans experience the sweet land of liberty idealized in patriotic song. Like African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, deaf Americans have been marginalized, disenfranchised, and disillusioned (G. Anderson, 2007; Krentz, 1996; Padden & Humphries, 2005; Vernon & Makowsky, 1969). Socioeconomic disparities, social inequities, and political injustices have hindered their ability to gain full access to opportunities more easily afforded to nondiverse, nondisabled Americans (Dunn, 1992; Moores & Oden, 1977; Ritte nhouse, Johnson, Overton, Freeman, &Jaussi, 1991).

Substandard educational opportunities and inadequate communication accessibility have left 50% of deaf high school graduates reading at or below the fifth-grade level (Cawthon, 2004; Holcomb & Peyton, 1992; Holt, Traxler, & Allen, 1997; LaSasso & Lollis, 2003; Padden & Ramsey, 2000). Despite legal protections and mechanisms, many deaf children have been deprived of the linguistically rich and culturally affirming environments necessary for psychosocial growth and academic success (DeLana, Gentry & Andrews, 2007). The perpetuation of these issues has created an apartheid-like scenario: extreme segregation or separation and educational disparity resulting in intellectual oppression of the Deaf community (Dunn, 1992; Linderman, 1994).

The historical philologist Seth Lerer (2008) has discussed the etymological meaning of the term apartheid. It is a Dutch or Afrikaans translation of the Latin word segregare. Thus, in its original literal meaning, it simply means to separate or place apart. In South Africa in 1953, Hendrik F Verwoerd, the minister of native education, stated, "When I have control over Native Education, I will reform it so that natives will be taught from childhood that equality with Europeans is not for them" (quoted in Dunn, 1992, p. 53). During the South African apartheid, intellectual oppression was propagated for political and social gain (Dunn, 1992). But today, the word apartheid has been "charged anew with political and cultural tensions" (Lerer, 2008, p. 121). The African American deaf educator Lindsay Dunn (1992) discusses this concept of apartheid as he draws parallels between the words of Hendrik F Verwoerd and the social, political, and educational tensions aroused by Alexander Graham Bell's oral approach.

In the present article, we use the term apartheid in a similar way. Apartheid is often unconsciously perpetuated by professionals who fail to understand core linguistic issues (Chamberlain, Morford, & Mayberry 2000; Nover & Andrews, 1998; Vernon, 1970), fail to promote cultural sensitivity (Leigh, 1999), and fail to maintain high standards for deaf children (Cawthon, 2004; Holt et al, 1997; Johnson, Liddell, & Erting, 1989). …

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