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Editorial IDEA and the 8OO Pound Gorilla For some time now, programs for deaf children have been moving toward either adopting or adapting the general education curriculum of a particular school district. This has been a relatively straightforward process when the program for deaf children is a component of a local, county, or regional educational system. The usual approach is to use the existing general curriculum and then modify it to fit deaf children's special needs. The rationale is that many deaf children in such programs will spend significant parts of their educational lives in classes with hearing students, and their academic integration should be as seamless as possible. This situation is somewhat different in residential or separate settings, but there is still a trend for use of a general curriculum. The goal is to upgrade academic offerings so that deaf students can compete on an equal basis with hearing peers after completion of schooling. From my observation, many residential schools are showing impressive success in curriculum modification and improvement. The move toward a general curriculum has been influenced by the 1997 version of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which stresses the importance of using a general curriculum as a base to the greatest extent possible for children classified as disabled. Leaving aside—at least for this editorial—the very important question of whether it would be preferable to develop a curriculum from scratch taking into account the special characteristics of deaf children or whether we should begin with a "hearing" curriculum and adapt/adopt it, I would like to address developments in general curricula—especially among "superstates" or "nation-states" such as California , New York, Texas, and Florida, with particular emphasis on California. The United States has a tradition of local and state—not federal—control of education, with a resultant variation in curricular offerings. Thus, we can have a state such as Kansas recently deciding to downplay or eliminate the teaching of evolution in the public schools. In contrast to this is the extraordinarily mobility of the American population , which contributes to pressure for homogeneity of curricula in our schools. For example, 70 percent of the population of Florida were born in other states or countries . Parents want as little variety as possible in the schools their children may attend in different states. One reality is that our textbooks are developed to meet the needs of our largest states. Decisions on the teaching of evolution in Kansas have relatively (no pun intended) little impact on the rest of the country, but decisions made in California have tremendous implications, because the textbooks are geared to our largest states. California, with more than 30,000,000 people, would be within the ten largest economies in the world if it were a country, and New York and Texas would be in the top twenty-five. All of this would be fine if the largest states, especially California, were representative of the United States as a whole and if they were leaders in education. They are not. California, with approximately 12 percent of the country's school enrollment, and 12 percent of the country's enrollment of deaf students, is the 800 pound gorilla. Unfortunately , the state's relative position, in terms of school achievement, has deteriorated over the past generation. At one time, children in California schools scored above the national average, although not quite at the level of traditional leaders in New England and the North Central States. Recent data from the National Assessment of Educational Volume 144, No. 4, 1999 American Annals of the Deaf Editorial Progress (NAEP) suggest that children in the state are among the lowest achieving in the country and the dropout rate is unacceptably high. The situation has been described as "woeful." Many and varied reasons have been advanced for the deterioration, including inadequate funding, concentration on a whole language approach to reading, a large and growing number of children in poverty, social promotion, the fact that almost half of all the school children in the United States who are not proficient in English are enrolled in California schools, large classrooms, and bilingual education . Major changes have been instituted recently, including a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0375
Print ISSN
0002-726X
Pages
pp. 295-296
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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