Abstract and Keywords
A history of the education of deaf persons is by its very nature a study of societal and cultural change. This notion is epitomized in tracing prevailing attitudes about deaf people and how they learn. Certain fallacious attitudes, for instance, have lingered, taking on new forms over time, even with the more recent efforts of scholars to examine the issues systematically. This is especially true with regard to the issue of language and its relationship to academic achievement. That deaf students are visual learners and may benefit from a visual language, rather than an auditory one, has never been universally accepted as an established tenet guiding formal instruction. Whether speaking of the seventeenth century’s metaphysical association of the human voice with the soul or divine spirit, or twenty-first-century decisions in some schools to forbid the use of signs by children with cochlear implants, misconceptions, as well as insufficient bridging of research and practice, have thwarted efforts to effectively teach language and academic content to deaf children. The well-documented cognitive and linguistic developmental delays in deaf children continue to be viewed by many as the result of deafness per se. But as Marschark, Lang, and Albertini (2002) summarize, “if there is a problem, it is much more likely to be found in the way we teach and what we expect from deaf students than in the students themselves” (p. 7). Such an understanding of deafness as an educational condition shapes the historical highlights discussed in this chapter.
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