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The Future Stewards of the Profession

From: American Annals of the Deaf
Volume 159, Number 1, Spring 2014
pp. 3-6 | 10.1353/aad.2014.0012

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The title of this editorial is inspired by the letter to the editor in the Winter issue of the Annals (Marlatt, 2014) and two recently published Annals articles, one in the Winter issue (Beal-Alvarez & Cannon, 2014) and the other in the current issue (Gardiner-Walsh, Kemmery, & Compton, 2014). Well, if truth be told, maybe it all started with my re-reading of an interesting piece by Schirmer (2008), followed by fresh looks at two relatively recent articles (Benedict, Johnson, & Antia, 2011; Johnson, 2013). I might as well include articles in a special section of the January/February issue of Educational Researcher (Southerland, Gadsden, & Herrington, 2014) and various essays in a book I coedited (Hancock & Paul, 2005) that touched on a number of topics that were later addressed in those Educational Researcher articles.

There are at least several approaches from which to choose to connect a few major points in the above-mentioned publications. There are a number of topics ranging from the closing of special schools for d/Deaf and hard of hearing (d/Dhh) students to the termination of university/college P–12 teacher preparation programs to the need for additional university/college educators—specifically, teacher educators who are professor-researchers who publish and present their work—to the innovative future preparation of doctoral students specializing in the education of d/Dhh students to—oh, my head—evaluating the quality and impact of educational research for d/Dhh children and adolescents. I got out of breath (and incredibly stressed) re-reading the preceding Proustian-inspired sentence, so I have decided to select a simple all-encompassing connective construct, which, no doubt, has layers of interpretations and is not that simple: stewards of the profession.

When thinking of stewards, typically one might think of university professors and doctoral students—especially if the focus is on doctoral programs in education (e.g., Hancock & Paul, 2005). In general, these stewards should be competent in raising and answering hard scholarly and researchable questions to advance theory and research and to facilitate the improvement of practice. Along with the knowledge-generation and knowledge-dissemination endeavors, these stewards should be cognizant of broader educational policies and practices and be familiar with the challenges of working with diverse children in P–12 educational settings. In short, stewards should be respectful, if not downright knowledgeable, of the broader educational paradigms and philosophies, not just those in their immediate areas of interest or research foci.

If these stewards are successful—so to speak—they may demonstrate how the understandings in their areas or disciplines contribute to a better understanding of the larger questions associated with the acquisition of knowledge (see Hancock & Paul, 2005; Southerland et al., 2014). Of course, if the above condition is to materialize, it might be that current and future teacher-educators will need to be adept at conducting research; publishing, presenting, and disseminating their findings; and being aware of trends—perhaps impelled by evidence-based practices and needs—in their fields (see, e.g., Bennett et al., 2011; Gardiner-Walsh et al., 2014; Johnson, 2013; Schirmer, 2008).

From another perspective, I like to paint with a broad brush. In my construct, stewards should include all preservice and in-service teachers, parents and other caregivers, educators, community and business members, ancillary support-service personnel (e.g., speech pathologists, educational audiologists, interpreters), academics (whether scholars, researchers, or professors), and other stakeholders involved in the education of d/Dhh children, adolescents, and adults. Did I leave anyone out? Setting aside the required legal meetings for a few of these stewards, I admit that encouraging all of the above personnel to work together productively in an ongoing progress-monitoring fashion is probably more difficult than herding cats. Or perhaps I am just an incurable romantic.

So let me continue with my synthesizing and syncretizing processes. I sympathize with Marlatt (2014) on the phenomenon of school closings and even agree with him about the causes: “politics, incidence, and economics” (p. 484). I am not at all convinced (yet) that, with the advances in early intervention, early amplification, and assistive technology in general (digital hearing aids, cochlear implants, brain stem implants), we will not actually need the services of...

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