Today we post part two of our response to the Daily Dot article. Please read Part One of this three-part series if you have not already.
Q2: Explain some general problems in Deaf Education that readers might not be aware of (i.e. graduations rates, etc). If you had to pick a few, which issues would you like to be highlighted?
LAUREN: Currently, 86% of the Deaf population are being mainstreamed into public schools, trying to make it through the education system, labeled “Deaf education”, or would it be more appropriately called surviving a ‘hearing’ education? Are our deaf students learning about Deaf role models? About important contributions made to society by Deaf people? The landscape of Deaf education has changed dramatically over the years. We now have laws and expectations that now focus on student outcomes rather than student access and growth. In addition, Deaf students are being assimilated into environments that are defined by hearing policy-makers and so-called educational experts as the least restrictive environment (LRE) otherwise known as ‘inclusion.’ We know that the LRE ideology is actually exclusive rather than inclusive. In addition, many of our students come from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. So what exactly defines Deaf education? No longer should we be just focusing on providing direct instruction, derived largely from curricula designated for hearing monolingual students. We must become culturally responsive teachers and to help to raise the voices of not only our students but also ourselves as leaders in Deaf education. We need to be dynamic community teachers in order to model for our students how to reach their full potential, and to empower them to become life-long advocates. As a teacher in a marginalized community, we cannot remain hidden in our classrooms. We cannot teach in isolation. We must be community teachers, and this is why #DeafEd is important.
MICAH: In general, there are still the issues of audism, ableism, and racism in Deaf Education.
For example: Regarding racism, Black American Sign Language is often not acknowledged or taken into account when speaking about variations in ASL. Plus, if someone asks to imagine a Deaf student, the majority of the time one will immediately think of a white person.
With ableism, there's the fact that if a student is Deaf+, resources often are not available for both identities at the same time (ex: DeafBlind students not having access because accessibility would be either hearing-based or vision-based). If there is a mental health issue or a cognitive disability, that is often pushed under the rug or used as further proof that Deaf people are "violent."
For audism, this is often seen when one finds out why a certain person may have decided to be a professional in Deaf Education, or the systemic goals behind certain schools of thoughts such as teachers pitying the DDBDDHH students or helping "for" the Deaf (rather than actually working "with" the Deaf). Audism plays the main role in why oralism is very much a strong influence of Deaf Education, as professionals claim that learning sign language or gestures would only be detrimental to language acquisition (contradictory to studies that show children who learn ASL often pick up on a larger vocabulary faster).
TL: The problems in Deaf Education by in large are problems with the larger more amorphous system we call "education”—and to a much greater degree, problems with society writ large. The fact that we have cemented into the minds and hearts of even the youngest among us that there is a "normal"—that some ways of listening, behaving, communicating, thinking, learning are superior to others—is, in fact, a serious problem. The fact that sign languages are not seen as viable teaching languages that would be a value-added to all students is a terrible shame for all of our students and indicative of ableism and audism in society and education. Similarly, the fact education outcomes for students of color; students who are income, food and housing insecure; LGBTQI students; and students with disabilities indicate an urgent need for transformation of how we allocate resources, support marginalized communities and serve all of our students.
I once had the privilege of serving as an educator to middle school-age students in a low-income neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Though these students happened to be hearing, they connected with course content provided in American Sign Language in ways that they could not when provided in spoken or written English. Sign language was a gift that provided another way of understanding the world and concepts that otherwise may have been missed.
Sadly, our continued insistence on use of subjective measurements of “success,” and our collective failure to ensure that education universally accessible and culturally responsive, leads to students being pushed out of school and into the prison system. Studies indicate that 85% of the youth presently incarcerated in our nation’s prisons have at least one disability.
As an activist working to end mass incarceration and the attendant school to prison pipeline, #DeafEd serves as another way of raising consciousness about the importance of an intersectional framework for education that shifts the educational paradigm from rugged independence to compulsory interdependence; from zero tolerance to nonviolent & restorative justice principles; from race & disability “neutral” to race and disability positive & responsive. This framework centers trauma-informed education, disability justice, and universal access to undermine the root causes of the school to prison pipeline. Not surprisingly, this approach also brings about uncommon success in all students because it centers the whole humanity of your youth, supporting them to each become their best selves.
TAMARA: Growing up, I had always felt like an outsider. I was “between worlds”. I am biracial and grew up with a mix of Norwegian and African-American cultures. I weave between the Deaf and Hearing worlds. So often society forces us to “choose” a side. I see this often with my high school students who are struggling to figure out who they are. Those of us in the education field need to become better advocates for intersectionality. We need teachers and administrators who are willing to unpack their privilege and help students question the world around them. Too often people navigate FOR deaf students. Our students, regardless of disability, need to be able to form their own opinions, develop their own beliefs, and build their own character.
Another issue is the unintentional segregation that often affects students of color. Too often we are seeing students of color relegated to remedial cohorts and rarely are they visible in honors level classes or even student council positions. We are also seeing a drastic need for more teachers and administrators of color. We have to have a serious conversation on what diversity means and how we can combat some of the disparities we are seeing within our schools.
Q4: How would you describe the DeafEd movement currently in your own words? What are the ultimate goals?
TL: #DeafEd means different things for and to different people. Even among our current core team, you will receive vastly different responses to this question. That is the beauty of #DeafEd. The hashtag and the movement—is dynamic and can serve in whatever capacity anyone so chooses. It also changes with time and innovation.
People have used it for networking, professional development, sharing space, debating, being heard, live tweeting education conferences, and much more.
Some of my ultimate goals for #DeafEd include:
MICAH: Monumental. A crucial piece in the movement for accessibility, intersectionality, and for decreasing the marginalization of the DDBDDHH communities. For me, I believe the ultimate goals to be:
-improvement of education standards and accessibility for DDBDDHH students
-wider variety of teaching methods, as there is no one template
-greater involvement of students (because whatever education choices made will impact them directly) as well as the guardians (because learning happens in the home too). This is necessary for teachers and other professionals as well, in that they take the time to listen to feedback and advice due to the fact that many are white, able-bodied, hearing people who do not share the same experience as their students.
TAMARA: To me, the #DeafEd Movement is a platform for open dialogue. The history of deaf education has been one rife with division as well-intentioned people try to answer the question of What is the best way to educate deaf children? Or how do Deaf children learn? The answers to these questions are as diverse as the people who are a part of the Deaf Community. I think with #DeafEd, we are creating a safe space for people to share ideas and resources, connect with others in our field, and develop some common ground to show that we are all dedicated to providing our students with the best educational opportunities possible. The ultimate goal for me would be for educators to feel more open in sharing what works—creating a space that allows us to absolve geographical lines, absolve the “us” vs “them” divisiveness that so often permeates social media, and become a source of true professional development. I think we are getting there. I’d definitely love to see a larger participation that included more students, administrators, policy makers, professionals, and even educators from around the world. I’d like to see our movement lead to real positive change for our students.
HEIDI: I think more people are aware of #DeafEd and use it as they navigate or participate on Twitter. When we changed the schedule for this year's chats (which started in August), people were messaging me asking when the chat was. It is great to know we have people who expect the chat to happen and need the chat to happen. My goals for the chat are to bring teachers closer together. Because the majority of deaf and hard of hearing students are being served in their local school districts and represent a very small percentage of the student population, Teachers of the Deaf are often isolated from their colleagues. They cannot just walk down the hall to ask another Teacher of the Deaf a question. #DeafEd is a way of eliminating that isolation, of getting global perspectives on deaf education.
However, I think there are still too many teachers, parents, community members, etc who are uncomfortable with the platform which hinders the ability to expand as much as we want. HEARD has created ASL videos on Twitter basics to encourage more to participate. I think if there was this type of chat platform on FaceBook, where everyone is comfortable, we would have a larger audience each month.
LAUREN: As teachers in a battlefield of differing ideologies and misconceptions, we must learn to find solutions and educate others what it means to raise a deaf student in the education system. A dream I have is that one day the field of Deaf education will no longer only begin from a hearing, monolingual perspective but rather from a social justice, humanistic perspective. This means acknowledging that we each have the power to utilize our voice and be the voice of others through a variety of mediums such as social media. And this is why I am vested in #DeafEd.
I dream incessantly of justice. Hoping to calm my mind & stir yours through this freedom space.