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date: 24 July 2024

Bicultural, Bilingual, and Bimodal Deaf Educationlocked

Bicultural, Bilingual, and Bimodal Deaf Educationlocked

  • Gabrielle JonesGabrielle JonesUniversity of California San Diego Division of Social Sciences

Summary

Deaf education, particularly in the United States, is an ongoing and controversial conundrum. The term “deaf” applies not only to a medical diagnosis that defines hearing loss and speech ability but also to a cultural and linguistic recognition of a way of life that is deeply rooted in deaf community practices often unknown to “hearing” communities. The tension between these different philosophical and epistemological worldviews starts the moment a baby is identified as “deaf.” This identification affects language and modality choice, school placement, literacy instruction, curriculum, academic achievement, marriage partners, social groups and organization, and even meaningful and equitable employment.

The inherent struggle in deaf education is the desire on the part of monolingual, hearing-centric educators, professionals, and parents to rely on technological solutions or therapeutic interventions to produce “hearing” speaking citizens. These participants are expecting the same outcomes from deaf children as they are from hearing children, emphasizing auditory/oral learning without understanding the sociocultural, linguistic, and biological challenges experienced by deaf children. While inclusive education may seem to “accommodate” the idea of equality, perversely those who experience the process can vouch for the inequalities, inequity, and injustice in monolinguistic deaf education. Most of society has yet to recognize that education of deaf children is necessarily embodied in a far more complex cultural and linguistic ecosystem. For American deaf persons, this ecosystem involves American Sign Language, visual learning strategies within culturally and linguistically driven content instruction, and cultural traditions and experiences that are indigenous to deaf communities. How are best practices addressed when the medium of instruction differs in modality and structure (i.e., spoken language vs. signed language); when reading instruction involves a different mapping process; when school assessments are only available in a spoken language; and when lack of teacher qualifications may hinder learning.

Historically, conflict over language ideologies has dominated academic discourse about classroom pedagogy, literacy, teacher training, and educational research. Issues of power and language dominance emerge around curriculum instruction and assessment, as deaf individuals struggle to take their rightful place in a largely hearing deaf education environment. However, both hearing and deaf scholars in the field of neuroscience, child development, and Deaf studies have contributed to critical understanding about a bilingual-bimodal ecosystem in deaf education. This research has set the stage for reevaluating systematic, linguistic, and pedagogical traditions and has raised ethical questions regarding education and sign language research with deaf participants. By including members of the deaf community in the discourse, the emergence of a new practice of bilingual-bimodal education for deaf children secures a sociocultural and sociolinguistic foundation for all deaf children. Research findings support the veracity of a bilingual-bimodal deaf education classroom.

Subjects

  • Alternative and Non-formal Education 
  • Education and Society

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