It is wrong to assume that deaf people want to become like hearing people and it is not our right to make educational discussions regarding deaf children with this assumption. Instead of forcing children to waste their school years on learning to “speak” and “hear,” we must give them an equal opportunity through bilingual education.
Brittany Waterson, a Deaf UVU student, tells about her educational experience in Utah: “The Utah School for the Deaf (USD) strongly encouraged my parents to put me in an oral program, and it was unsuccessful. My parents discovered early on that a full language was crucial and put me in a program that was taught in ASL. I am grateful that my parents fought the state’s oppressive and unsuccessful methods of educating the deaf. I am one of the lucky few.”
In a bilingual setting, deaf children flourish – they develop language, create friendships, meet successful deaf role models and have the opportunity for a worthwhile education. They use ASL to learn subjects such as math, history and English.
Flavia Fleischer, a Deaf Studies professor at UVU and a fourth generation deaf woman explains: “Bilingual education, with an emphasis on ASL and written English, is very important for deaf children as it does not only allow them.access to a full linguistic system, but also allows them to develop a strong cognitive foundation upon which they can build various skills and knowledge. The end result is that deaf children are given the opportunity to become fully capable human beings, confident and able to interact with everyone.”
The ongoing denial of the ability of the deaf community to decide their own futures has allowed people who have no relation to the deaf experience to be considered experts on deaf education. Deaf peoples’ lives are predetermined by oppressive administrations; teachers for the deaf exclusively deal with hearing, or more specifically the lack thereof. They spend their entire career focusing not on students, but on technologies of normalization.
Deaf children have noticed and internalized that their language, culture and education are not valued.
The very institution that claims to teach our deaf children is disabling them by granting them an inferior education and labeling them as defective – a label they will fight their entire lives to remove.