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The Great Debates Where, How, and What to Teach Deaf Children Donald F. Moores Throughout the history of education of the deaf there have been three constant underlying sources of tension, friction, and controversy. Although at any point in time, one of the three may receive major consideration, they are all complexly interrelated. For purposes of simplicity, the three issues may be framed in the form of the following questions: 1. Where should deaf students be taught' 2. How should deaf students be taught? 3. What should deaf students be taught? Because the issues are so complex, they have defied solution for centuries and to many they appear to be intractable. The first issue (where?), of course, has surfaced recently in the form of what has been labeled the "mainstream " movement and the Least Restrictive Environment emphasis, with concern for providing education to deaf students in appropriate settings. The second issue (how?) has evolved from the traditional oral/manual controversy to the more recent manual/manual controversy, which is concerned with the relative merits of instruction using manual communication systems based on spoken languages (e.g., Signed English, Signed Swedish, etc.) as opposed to sign languages used by deaf adults which have different structures and vocabularies from the spoken Dr. Moores is editor o/American Annals of the Deaf. He is also director of the Center for Studies in Education and Human Development, and professor of Educational Foundations and Research at Gallaudet University. This article is reprinted with the permission of the editors of the 1990 International Congress on Education of the Deaf Proceeding II. Topical Addresses, Rochester, NY: NTID, where it appeared under the title "Educational Policies and Services. " languages of a particular country or area. Well-known examples of these would include American Sign Language and Swedish Sign Language. The third question (what?) involved the matter of curriculum. Briefly, how should the education of the deaf be organized and structured? To what extent should the education of deaf children be similar in content and technique to that of hearing children and to what extent should it be different? How do we—or should we— incorporate special programs in speech, auditory training, sign language, and deaf culture into the school day? If we do, what parts of the regular curriculum should be cut back or eliminated? Math? Science? History? Literature? The situation at present is unique in that, perhaps for the first time in the relatively short history of education of the deaf, all three issues currently are being debated with a great deal of intensity. We shall examine briefly each of these issue in turn. First is the question of educational placement. It is the natural desire of parents to keep their children at home, especially during the early years. This desire may be brought into conflict with the presence of a deaf child in the family. Early childhood deafness is a rare condition, occurring perhaps in once child per thousand, so the chances of any neighborhood school having more than one or two deaf children are small. On the other hand, the deaf child has special needs and usually requires services and training from highly skilled specialists. Many parents are torn between nurturing the child within the family environment and their desire that the child receive the best training and education possible. In the past, in most countries, it was the policy to educate deaf children in residential settings, where they remain for most of the year. Because of transportation limitations, there was little or no contact between the deaf child and the family except during long Vol. 136, No. 1 AAD 35 The Great Debates holidays. Parents accepted this in the belief that they were doing the right thing for their children. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years, at least in industrialized countries. More and more residential schools have "home-going" programs in which children from homes far distant from the schools are able to spend considerable amounts of time with their families. At least one school, the New Mexico School for the Deaf, flies children home every weekend. Although increased mobility has allowed deaf children in residential schools to spend more time with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0375
Print ISSN
0002-726X
Pages
pp. 35-37
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-22
Open Access
No
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