- Summary and ProloguePerspectives on Deaf Epistemologies
This final article in the epistemology series represents a first step and is not, in reality, a summary or conclusion or end point, but rather the end of the beginning. When we, the editors, began planning the series, we saw it as the first phase of what hopefully would evolve into a more comprehensive consideration of the concept of d/Deaf epistemologies and how this impacts on our understanding of deafness. Given the complexities of the issues and the different perspectives, even over the meaning of the word “epistemology” itself, our goals for the series were modest; we wanted eight articles written by professionals with different experiences and world views to express their opinions on the concept of a d/Deaf epistemology, or epistemologies, and its relation, if any, to a standard epistemology. It was also our hope that these discussions would proffer insights into possible approaches for understanding and improving the educational and social welfare of individuals who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. In essence we envisioned a brief overview of a range of topics and perspectives within the framework of d/Deaf epistemologies.
We were aware that eight articles would only scratch the surface of such a complex subject, one that had received relatively little attention in the field. We also had to impose space limits on the contributions, a difficult restriction because of the richness and variety of ideas presented by the authors. In fact, many of the first drafts were longer than the final articles and decisions about what to cut and what to include were difficult; decisions with which no editor or author is comfortable. Inevitably, space limits mandated that much material of significance be eliminated.
We envisioned the present series as a building block for a text that would continue the dialogue in greater detail and with more participants. The core would be most or all of the current articles, expanded into chapter length and treated in more breadth and depth than was possible in the present case, supplemented by perhaps an equal number of additional contributors who would provide even more diversity and perspectives. Along with the contributors to the current series, and a like number of new contributors, we have begun work on a more comprehensive text that hopefully will expand consideration of d/D epistemology or epistemologies. Within this context, we perceive the present article as essentially a prologue for future [End Page 493] work and the present series as a work in progress.
This series has both d/Deaf and hearing contributors. Their professionalism and knowledge established an environment for the scholarly exchange of ideas within an atmosphere of mutual respect, something that is all too rare in our field. We, the editors, have many areas of commonality and some differences ourselves. We both went through the same PhD program at the University of Illinois, albeit at different times, and were exposed to similar emphases. We were inculcated predominantly with the positivist notion that there is a standard objective epistemology, and we were taught that there is an external reality attainable through value-free hypothesis testing and refinement. We were also exposed to Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) and his treatment of a shared research paradigm, consensus, and, eventually, paradigm shift, as well as reactions to his views.
It is possible to approach the questions we raise in different ways. As discussed in Paul and Moores (2010), there are the familiar medical/clinical and social/cultural paradigms, with all the implications for school placement, instructional modes, first language usage, and the various directions that theory, research, and practice should take. In our opinion it is more productive to explore questions from an epistemological viewpoint. In fact, all the means and ends of epistemological problems should be explored, weighed, and debated—all means and ends to educational and social situations are relevant. There is no “God’s eye view of epistemology.”
As we have noted before, we share a belief in a multiparadigmatic reality, based mostly on science, and we are acutely aware of the complexities of the issues. One may think of...