Greg Leigh, PhD, FACE

Recognizing Diversity in Deaf Education: From Paris to Athens with a Diversion to Milan—How far have we come?

Recognizing Diversity in Deaf Education: The Road from Athens

Education of the deaf has a proud heritage with regard to scholarship and professional education.  This is perhaps best exemplified by the longevity of the International Congress on Education of the Deaf (ICED). The ICED was first held in 1878 and has been held continuously ever since. The history of professional discourse at this conference, however, reveals a continuing competition between perspectives on deafness and wide differences of opinion about the nature of best practice in the education of deaf and hard of hearing children that has been of questionable benefit to the field. Often, unfortunately, the discourse has centered on “obvious” solutions to the persistent educational challenges that are faced by children who are deaf or hard of hearing and has sought to describe a One True Path to better academic outcomes for all learners. All too frequently, the solutions that have been proffered have lacked an evidence base or, at best, have been examined only for a particular subgroup of learners or those in a particular educational setting. This is in spite of the long-accepted recognition that, as a group, people who are deaf or hard of hearing are extremely diverse in regard to their learning needs.

Across two presentations we seek to examine the context of education for learners who are deaf or hard of hearing in 2015—where the field has been, where it is headed, and paths not taken—emphasizing why, after more than 135 years of scholarly discussion and debate, the field of education the deaf should recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to communication, school setting, or socio-cultural environment simply cannot be appropriate for all learners. In doing so, we seek to highlight  why the pursuit of a One True Path approach by many stakeholders in deaf education continues to make the field  appear dysfunctional to policymakers, teachers, parents, and people who are deaf or hard hearing.

 

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