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EDITORIAL Minority, Poor, and Deaf The recent riots in Los Angeles, the aftermath of the Rodney King case, are but a single manifestation of what appears to be a world-wide phenomenon—a growing sense of fragmentation and separatism fueled by feelings of despair and powerlessness. The most obvious examples, of course, are the break-up of the Soviet Union into 15 (at least) independent republics, each one of which has large ethnic minority populations with potentially incendiary conflicts, as well as long-standing border disputes, such as those between Russia and the Ukraine and between Armenia and Azerbaijan. As of this writing, the situation is even more grim in the disintegration of what used to be Yugoslavia. It seems that few places in the world are free from ethnic, racial, religious, or cultural strife. Given massive global population shifts, most developed countries are illTprepared to accommodate an influx of immigrants with various linguistic, ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions. The most recent census counted more than 25,000,000 foreign-born residents in the United States. In reality, the number may be much higher. Although the largest numbers came from South and Central America and Asia, immigrants from Africa and Europe also are heavily represented. Many of the immigrants are poor and have limited or no English skills. There are also more than 30,000,000 African-Americans, many of whom have not been allowed to participate fully in constitutionally guaranteed rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is clear that not all minority children are poor or deprived: large numbers are highly educated and economically successful. It is also clear that a large number of white children also live in poverty. However, it is undeniable that the percentage of minority children growing up in poverty and deprivation is much higher than the percentage for the general population. The ideal of equal access to education for all children has not been achieved. The economic deprivation, of course, extends to deaf minority children as well. Approximately 10 years ago some colleagues and I began studying public school programs for deaf children. The contrast we found between affluent suburban and poor large city programs for the deaf was, to put it mildly, shocking. The large suburban programs, to an impressive degree, have been able to offer viable options to deaf children in terms of classroom mode of communication and educational placement. The choices range from selfcontained classes with other deaf children to complete integration, accompanied by interpreters, with hearing children . Many of the programs truly approach the goal of individualization of instruction. Regardless of what part of the United States we are talking about, driving a few miles from a suburban program for the deaf to an inner city one is like traveling to a different world. Facilities are decaying, placement and communication options are limited, and school district resources are strained to the breaking point trying to provide special education, remedial education, bilingual education, health care, and school breakfast and lunch programs. Problems identified by suburban programs center around issues such as whether to use grammatically based English or conceptually accurate signed English systems, the provision of interpreters for after school activities, and the development of a deaf culture curriculum. In the city schools, such questions take a back seat to rape, guns, and the presence of a crack house down the street. We began our work in two large northeastern and two large southeastern city programs. In each case, minority children were in the majority. In one program, 40% of the children came from families in which English was not the home language. In another, 33% of the children came from families with no employed adults. It was not unusual in any of the programs to accept a 12 or 14 year old deaf child from another country who had no previous schooling. Even among parents who could afford to come to the school, many could not take advantage of meetings or sign classes because they did not have a language in common with the teachers. If anything, this bad situation worsened in the last decade. In the past, many large city programs for the deaf provided...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0375
Print ISSN
0002-726X
Pages
p. 251
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-22
Open Access
No
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