THE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT – While the war on deaf education – Oralism vs. Sign Language (ASL) – is as old as, well, the telephone, the bickering continues. New technology – Cochlear Implants (CIs) seems to favor oral methods, yet the CI is used by the signing deaf too. Although words such as “genocide” and “culture” is thrown around, both parties still exist.
In recent years however, support for signing in deaf education has seen erosion — not necessarily as a result of Alexander Graham Bell’s superior oral firepower or the Cochlear Implant’s tendency to render sign language interpreters obsolete, but rather, the realization of the actual cost to society to fund a community dependent on sign language, and more importantly, the lack of evidence showing the hundreds of millions of dollars spent yearly on deaf education (residential deaf schools and Gallaudet University) is one iota better than not spending the money at all (mainstreaming all the kids instead).
Then there is the cloud of greed hanging over the signing deaf community as a result of multiple convictions of top deaf community leaders for defrauding the federal government (perhaps totalling over $100 million when all is said and done). The icing on the cake here is the Gallaudet Board of Trustees awarding the college’s retiring president the status of being the highest paid retired federal employee.
The following is a discussion from a deaf education usergroup that I found particularly worth sharing because it offers insight into minds of many in the deaf community AND is one of the rare “discussions” that isn’t akin to preaching to a choir — rational thinking enters this discussion, hence its usefulness in sharing here:
Only one party of this discussion has “technically” given approval for their name to be used so I will refer to the other parties as “Person A” and “Person B”.
From a discussion titled: “Re-examining the Influence of Auditory-Oral Education Movement on the Deaf Community in Politically Turbulent Times”
Person A [a professor at Gallaudet University]: Why this obsession with creating troops of robobabies [deaf kids who have the Cochlear Implant] when many of them, like oralists before them, will still gravitate to sign language anyway?
Joseph Pietro Riolo: I am not going to suppress your freedom of expression. But, the freedom of expression is not without consequence.
Calling the babies with cochlear implant as “robobabies” is not really a nice way of labeling them. Some of them will grow up and become very involved in the deaf community. Some of them will become advocates. Some of them will work in Gallaudet University, RIT[Rochester Inst of Technology]/NTID, CSUN[Calif. State Univ. Northridge], deaf schools and deaf programs. Maybe, one of them would be your boss. Maybe, one of them could become a president of Gallaudet University. Maybe, one of them could be a student in your class. Just imagine when they happen to meet you and later on, learn that you called them as robobabies when they were babies. I truly hope that they will hold no grudge against you and be very forgivable but they may think twice when they think of you.
Enough preaching from pulpit.
FDA lowered the approved age for cochlear implant to two years old in 1990, 18 months old in 1998 and one year old in 2000. Right now in this year of 2012, those who received cochlear implant when they were two years old during 1990-1998 cannot be older than 24 years old. Those who received cochlear implant when they were 18 months old during 1998-2000 cannot be older than 15 and half years old. Those who received cochlear implant when they were one year old since 2000 cannot be older than 13 years old. What this means is that the deaf college students with cochlear implant that we see at the colleges received cochlear implant no earlier than when they were two years old. Those who received cochlear implant when they were one year old have not reached colleges yet.
I absolutely have no idea how many of them will gravitate, as you put it, to sign language. I came across a comment saying that these children who received cochlear implant at one year old are the new wave that is going to affect everything from Gallaudet University down to programs and services for deaf babies. The new wave will not hit Gallaudet University, RIT/NTID and CSUN until around 2017 (or maybe 2016).
Person A: Perhaps we shud ask the GAO and the DOE to do a joint study of the costs beginning with costs of implants, speech and hearing therapy costs, training parents, counseling them etc vs costs of raising a deaf child in a signing environment.
Riolo: I don’t mind the study. But, I have the fear about it.
What if – I have to emphasize the key word “if” – the study really show that educating a deaf child in a signing environment costs more than educating a deaf child with bilateral cochlear implants in an oral environment. If – again, the key word “if” – it really happens, I cannot imagine how destructive this study will be for the parents who choose to raise their deaf children without cochlear implant and for the deaf schools and programs that offer
My fear is not completely unfounded. In my state, there are several private schools that are approved by the state of Pennsylvania to receive funding for the deaf students. [privacy contents deleted] The following information comes from the directory file whose link is available at:
Davidson School (Elwyn)
$51,706.20 – not including 1 to 1 aide service
$107,709.80 (residential) – not including 1 to 1 aide service
DePaul School for Hearing and Speech
Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD)
Pressley Ridge School for the Deaf
(for deaf with serious emotional disturbance)
$130,957.00 (7-day residential)
Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD)
$100,882.00 (5-day residential)
I know for sure that PSD and WPSD use signing environment and that DePaul school uses auditory-oral environment. I don’t know about two other schools.
Using DePaul’s cost as the base, PSD’s cost per student is 1.19 times DePaul’s cost. WPSD’s cost per day student is 1.45 times DePaul’s cost. From this information alone without any context and qualifications, it is not hard to predict that the cost of raising a day deaf student in an auditory-oral environment will be lower than a signing environment.
We should be careful in calling for the study on the costs. As the saying goes, be careful for what you wish.
Regardless of which way the study will go, we cannot use the cost as the rationale for justifying one approach over other approach. We need to use a different framework or paradigm. We need to appeal to the moral, religious and/or ethical values. We need to use these values to justify any approach, leaving the decision right in the hands of parents. If parents do not want their deaf children to have cochlear implant and want to raise them
in signing environment, the educational programs have the moral and ethical duties to support these parents’ decision. Likewise, if parents truly want their deaf children to receive bilateral cochlear implants and want to raise them in auditory-oral environment, the educational programs have the moral and ethical duties to support these parents’ decision Likewise for any decisions between these two ends of the spectrum. The cost should not be used to favor one or some approaches over other approaches.
Person B [Unidentified]: We need to display research showing their statements [the superiority of Cochlear Implants over sign language] are false and support with research like below definitely pointing to the fact that those with CI are not doing any better than Deaf Children without CIs. Here is one such example:
“Dr. Marc Marschark wrote this: “…. Certainly, kids with implants are doing better on average than kids without implants, but they still generally perform behind hearing peers. …” [Quoted from http://www.rit.edu/ntid/educatingdeafchildren/?p=683 ]
Riolo: The key words in the quotation are “on average”, meaning that there are some kids with CI doing worse than kids without CI and some kids with CI doing better than kids without CI. When hearing parents read the above quotation by going to that website and then, read what you wrote, they will ask themselves who is telling the truth. What will they do? One of the possible ways that they will do is to examine your credibility and Dr. Marschark’s credibility and decide who to trust.
From reading your post, it is obvious that you have your own ideology. There is nothing wrong with it. There is no crime in having an ideology. But, what you seem to overlook or won’t admit is the hard, real fact that the auditory-oral education really works for some deaf children. This fact alone is enough to grab the attention of the hearing parents. It will be extremely hard but not impossible to redirect their attention to ASL or any sign language or signing system.
Joseph Pietro Riolo
Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this
post in the public domain.
Note: If the usergroup this discussion came from wants me to add their name to this article, I will be happy to do so.
Previous post on excessive retirement package for Gallaudet’s ex-prez: https://lexiecannes.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/ex-prez-of-a-small-college-gallaudet-u-for-the-deaf-is-highest-paid-federal-retiree/
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