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Manual Communication: Implications for Education. Harry Bornstein, editor. 197 pages, hard cover. Gallaudet University Press, Washington, DC, 1990. Since its beginnings in the early 19th century, deaf education in this country has found itself continually enveloped in unrelenting controversy, which today seems to have reached a fury never before known. Among the major issues so fiercely debated today are the means or methods of sign communication most appropriate for achieving English literacy among deaf children—native sign language, methodological sign, or the combined (oral and manual) method. Not the least of the problems embedded in this controversy have been definitions and specifications for each method, for even today these usually remain vague and lacking in meaningful definition in theoretical as well as applied discussions. In the midst of the current maelstrom of change, many of us are questioning our most cherished convictions concerning the nature of sign and oral communication and their places in the education of deaf children. We are besieged by rhetoric, usually shrouded in linguistic and cultural theory, that assaults our reason and common sense in an incessant clamor for a one-language (ASL), one-culture (deaf culture) approach for all deaf children (dressed in the euphemism "bilingual and bicultural"). In the face of this, many of us are gripped by mounting despair in a void created by educational leadership that seems incapable of offering calmness and reason and wisdom in dealing with these complex issues. And now onto the stage comes a textbook worthy of our consideration as a valuable perspective on manual communication and its uses in the education of deaf children. ManualCommunication- ImplicationsJorEducation(.1990), edited by Harry Bornstein, is an impressive compilation of information on méthodologie or systematic sign systems and American Sign Language (ASL), as well as their uses in deaf education. In Bornstein's own words, this book, consisting of chapters written by himself and several other eminent authorities, attempts "to offer an authoritative description of manual communication as it is used in the United States. It is designed for professionals who work with deaf and language-delayed children and adolescents (including some who may hear). It should also be useful for teachers-inttaining and interested parents." The book contains an outstanding opening chapter by Joseph D. Stedt (Cameron State University) and Donald F. Moores (Gallaudet University), who present an absorbing, detailed history of the roots and usage of manually coded English (methodological or systematic signs) and ASL in the education of deaf children. In the opening chapter, Stedt and Moores note that ...the acceptance and adoption of these (methodological ) pedagogical systems after decades of adherence to oral-only programs of instruction has led some educators to believe that English-based signs—or signs based on a spoken national language—are recent developments in themselves. Such a belief demonstrates a total lack of historical perspective, (p. 1) Stedt and Moores then explain: The almost inevitable resultant conflict between proponents of English-based signs and American Sign Language (ASL) in contemporary America also has been perceived as sui generis, whereas the 19th century in the United States and the 18th and 19th centuries in France are replete with cycles of conflict between "natural" and "methodological" signs, (p. 1) Stedt and Moores present a historical perspective that includes discussion of methodical signs and education of the deaf in France; a description of the instructional sign system of the first deaf teacher of the deaf in America, Laurent Clerc; a summary of indigenous sign languages that were used; a discussion of the spread of Clerc's system of instruction; and an excellent, extensive comparison of natural versus methodical signs used in deaf education. The next section focuses on the return of educators to English-based signing in 1948 and its subsequent expansion beginning in 1966 and continuing through the 1980s. The authors round out the chapter with their perceptions of the ASL and Sign English systems, along with their views of how these systems are interrelated. Chapter 2, "A Manual Communication Overview," was written by Harry Bornstein. It provides a baseline of information for the reader's use in evaluating the contents of the subsequent chapters on methods of sign communication. In his remarks...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0375
Print ISSN
0002-726X
Pages
pp. 253-256
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-22
Open Access
No
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