- Deaf Education and Deaf Culture: Lessons from Latin America
Change and Promise describes the current state of Deaf communities and deaf education across Latin America. Gerner de García and Karnopp have assembled a group of contributors whose work connects current educational practices in Latin America to historical events, international influences, power relations, and hegemonic forces within deaf education. In this review, I critique this work and provide a rationale for why it should be widely read by any professional considering the field of deaf education. Additionally, I argue that Change and Promise should be read by Deaf, Deaf-Blind, DeafDisabled, and Hard of Hearing individuals in celebration of the power of community movements to ignite change on local and national levels.
The preface of the book sets the tone for the content to follow. Carlos Skliar boldly and unapologetically questions the current state of bilingual deaf education, the role of educational structures, and the need to address public policy. Skliar confronts the chasm between educational policy and the educational structures around deaf children; addresses the push for normalcy, which is affecting the education of deaf children; and discusses the gap between rhetoric and implementation (i.e., the difficulties related to insufficient resources, training or its lack for Deaf adults, the push for inclusion in schools, and the lack of early intervention services). The preface raises important issues that need to be propelled to the forefront of discourses surrounding deaf education worldwide. In particular, whose rights should prevail: those of the deaf child, the hearing parents, or the professionals in the field? Are the needs of deaf children incompatible with the educational policies and structures that govern classroom and schoolwide practices? The preface is followed by a chapter that connects the fields of cultural studies, Deaf studies, educational policy, and politics. For far too long, deaf education and Deaf studies have been kept away from cultural studies, with most universities housing deaf education within special education. This has resulted in a persistent demand to make Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, and Hard of Hearing children fit normative expectations. Most teacher preparation programs, as a result, have adopted the medical perspective on being Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, and Hard of Hearing, and have sought to prepare professionals to repair what is deviant from the hearing norm. This is true not only of Latin American colleges and universities but of most institutions of higher education preparing teachers of the deaf around the globe.
The authors tackle all aspects of the issue at hand—specifically, hegemonic forces and the “othering” of Deaf individuals; educational policy; denial of multiple Deaf identities; connections between Deaf communities and Deaf schools; the need to train teachers, interpreters, and professionals to work in bilingual schools; and the need to expand the concept of bilingual deaf education. The discussion of the narrow focus of bilingual deaf education is of great importance. One author argues that the historical definitions and conceptualizations of bilingual deaf education have focused solely on language and on Deaf versus hearing cultures. However, Deaf culture is not simply the “inverse [with connotations of inferiority] of hearing culture”; it is not a universal [End Page 486] culture but instead is pluralistic within itself. Therefore, bilingual deaf education must include how to interact with multiple cultures and individual differences within cultures. The authors contributing to this scholarly work assert that deaf education must be rooted in what is commonly referred to as interculturalism in Latin America. Interculturalism is similar to the concept of multiculturalism in the United States, but is distinct in that interculturalism provides students the tools to “preserve, develop, and express their own culture” (p. 72) while developing competencies for gaining access to the school curriculum, which they can use to participate equally in a global society. In this sense, one could argue that the proclamations in this book and the work described by these authors are all a form of academic activism.
Other acts of scholarly activism include associations the editors make between international mandates...