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Volume 142, No. 3, 1997 Bi-Bi to MCE? David A. Stewart Associate Professor, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan Kendall School's Janet Weinstock uses ASL to discuss a text with a student. Goodman/Van Riper. Unlike in any other time in the education of deaf children, a stronger instructional role for American Sign Language (ASL) is being pushed vigorously . In the United States and Canada, this movement has found its greatest support from linguistic analysis of ASL, the dominant sign language of the deaf community, and from dissatisfaction with manually coded English (MCE) systems1 used in the classroom. The use of MCE in the classroom is based on the premise that by interacting in English in all of its modalities (speech, signs, and print), deaf children will have more opportunities to become proficient in the use of English. This premise, however, has not been played out in the classroom. The reading levels of deaf children are about the same today as they were 30 years ago, when oral education dominated the field (see Schildroth & Karchmer, 1986). Critics of MCE turn to ASL as a more promising language base upon which to build the linguistic skills of deaf children in both signed and spoken languages. They also point to the need to include deaf culture in the school curriculum, assuming that greater awareness of one's own culture will lead to greater self-esteem, which will translate into higher academic achievement . This new approach, referred to as bilingual-bicultural (Bi-Bi) education, may well be the hottest thing to hit deaf education since the advent of total communication in the 1970s. It will take the rest of this century and possibly beyond to determine what Bi-Bi means to teachers of deaf children and how it can best be implemented in the field. One clue is found in the practice of bilingual education in general. The term bilingual education does not mean a single instructional strategy; rather, it encompasses a number of communication strategies , including immersion, English as a second language, and transitional bilingualism (Baker & de Kanter, 1983). We can expect Bi-Bi to come to be associated with different communication strategies with two Reprinted from Stewart, D. A. (1993). Bi-Bi to MCE? American Annals of the Deaf, 138(4), 331-337. Volume 142, No. 3, 1997 American Annals of the Deaf major underlying themes: ASL will have a prominent role in classroom instruction, and the cultural affiliation of deaf children to the deaf community will become important in helping the children learn about themselves and others. One common perspective of Bi-Bi views ASL as the only form of sign communication appropriate for instructional purposes, and that the teaching of English should be confined mainly to reading and writing activities (Israelite , Ewoldt, & Hoffmeister, 1992). Proponents of this viewpoint usually resist the presentation of English information in a sign modality (see Walworth, Moores, & O'Rourke, 1992). In particular , they argue that when MCE is used with speech, the result is unwieldy and difficult to understand (Johnson, Liddell, & Erting, 1989). Their criticism is not unwarranted. The signing behavior of teachers of the deaf is often inconsistent (Kluwin, 1981; Marmor & Pettito, 1979; Strong & Charlson, 1987; Woodward & Allen, 1988), and the English grammaticality of their messages may be very low when they have no training in the use of MCE or simultaneous communication. Based on this and other evidence, some Bi-Bi advocates have resolved to accept nothing short of the complete elimination of MCE from the classroom. But elimination of MCE does not automatically imply that its replacement , ASL, will be successful. In all probability, ASL will help young deaf children acquire basic language skills before they would normally acquire such skills in a classroom dominated by MCE or, more commonly, Pidgin Sign English (PSE). Preschool teachers should find it easier to teach concepts to and expand the vocabulary base of children who have developed an early language base in ASL. Educators assume that such deaf children will also be better prepared to begin the formal process of acquiring English. Bi-Bi proponents are adamant in their belief that once ASL is learned, English can be acquired through reading and writing without exposure...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0375
Print ISSN
0002-726X
Pages
pp. 106-112
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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