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EDITORIAL One Hand Clapping Recently, a new book appeared, A Free Hand: Enfranchising the Education of Deaf Children (Walworth, Moores, & O'Rourke, 1992). The book was based on a three-day symposium in August 199O at Hofstra University organized by Professor Frank Bowe and chaired by the late Terrence J. O'Rourke with the expressed purpose of assessing, from a theoretical and practical frame of reference, developments in the educational uses of ASL. The 14 major participants represented a variety of disciplines and educational practices. As with most of the participants, I anticipated receiving up-todate information on the state of the art in classroom use of ASL and gaining access to research on the effectiveness of the bilingual-bicultural programs in existence. Instead, it became manifest that there was no consensus on even the meaning of such basic terms as ASL and bilingual. Even more disheartening was the fact that almost no research was presented on the educational use of ASL. The exception was David Stewart's investigations into the interrelationships of ASL and English-based signing. Those who advocated relegating English to reading and writing presented no data on their programs, although some have been in existence for several years. The symposium exposed an ironic paradox. Everyone present advocated the use of ASL in classroom instruction. I believe they agreed that ASL was appreciated and accepted as an educational tool. There were clear differences, however, between those who would also support signing in English word order and signing with speech, depending on individual needs and instructional requirements, and those who would repress any "through the air" representation of English. Frankly, I found it difficult to understand how any program could advertise itself as bilingualbicultural if it does not allow English in person-to-person communication. It seemed to me that efforts to repress English in one of the programs were punitive and excessive. I would hate to see the terrible traditional suppression of ASL followed by a suppression of English. The representative of one program reported that hard-ofhearing children presented special problems, because in any group activity all children should turn off their voices and ju st sign. She stated, "The rule is that everyone is the same. The students just raise their hands and communicate without voice" (p. 8). From my perspective, this neglects individual differences. The representative also reported that she worked with teachers, ".. .correcting their signs, throwing out whatever was not ASL, and cleaning up their language" (p. 9). She reported that some high school students, in an attempt to eliminate non-ASL signs, imposed a 25 cent fine on any student using SEE signs. When some girls asked her about using a "D" against the chin for dentist, she informed them it was a SEE-based sign and that the ASL sign was an index finger against the chin. Later, a counselor told her that he had signed dentist with a "D" and the girls had corrected him, telling him to use ASL. I was surprised at the exclusionary nature of this approach to ASL and to teaching, especially in view of my experience as a Gallaudet faculty member. In the spring of 1990, under the initiative of deaf faculty members, the Gallaudet faculty in its guideline on communication approved the following statement. ... the Faculty is expected to use clear sign communication with or without voice in the classroom, in faculty meetings, and in meetings of like nature as well as when communicating with individual students. The term American Sign Language, is to be used in an all-inclusive sense, including signs expressing English word order, with or without voice... Although such a definition may present some technical problems, it is quite inclusive. It also means that communication behavior that would be accepted as ASL by Gallaudet faculty standards would be banned from at least one school in America. At a time of great interest in ASL, there is no general agreement about what the term encompasses. In order to keep miscommunication to a minimum, we will all have to be cautious in our use of terminology. Another unresolved issue at the symposium dealt with the assumption by some participants that it would be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0375
Print ISSN
0002-726X
Pages
p. 307
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-22
Open Access
No
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