Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The More Things Change

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

The More Things Change

Article excerpt

As most readers are aware, the July, 1997 issue of the Annals consisted of reprints from literally thousands of manuscripts of sixteen "classic" articles from the last 150 years of the journal's existence. As I worked through the issues that had been published over the years, my already great appreciation for the knowledge and dedication of early leaders in our field grew significantly. It also struck me that a great many of the issues and conflicts in the education of deaf children have been recycled again and again. It is almost as though articles published 50, 100, and 150 years ago could be reprinted with only minor modifications and accepted as current-not a reassuring comment about the progress in our field.

By the conclusion of the article selection process, my feelings were definitely mixed-I felt an appreciation of our accomplishments and, at the same time, the conviction that much of the work reflects a sense of unreality. For the most part there is no explicit acknowledgement of the social, political, and economic contexts in which American education of the deaf occurred.

Over the past 150 years the country has been split by issues of race, gender, class, and ethnicity, much of it tied to immigration. We fought a civil war to end the horrific brutality of slavery, only to allow the rise of the Klu Klux Klan, and other hate groups. The Know Nothings accused Catholic immigrants of plotting to remove the Pope from Rome to this country. Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. The United States refused to accept European Jewish immigrants prior to the outbreak of World War II, consigning thousands of victims to the Holocaust. The list is endless.

Education of the deaf, of course, has reflected the larger society. Deaf African Americans received no education before the Civil War. Afterward, what services were available were largely limited to understaffed and underfunded segregated residential schools. Many of our large day schools for the deaf were established because residential schools resisted accepting children from different ethnic, language, and religious backgrounds. Educational services for deaf Mexican American children in the South West often were nonexistent. Opportunities for women were restricted and there was open discrimination against deaf professionals, both men and women. …

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