New York Times Article on Deaf Schools Debate


Yesterday, on Sunday, July 31, 2011, New York Times published the five-part series (articles) debating about “Should We Need Deaf Schools” with five different experts, including one deaf person.

It is my understanding the general definition of debate always have BOTH sides of perspectives using facts and research. This article is very one-sided and it does not offer any opposite view supporting why it is necessary to have Deaf Schools.

That question, “Should We Need Deaf Schools” is dangerous, especially to the public who knows so little about what is happening to the history of Deaf Education, language oppression, and technological advances. Bad framing!

Check this website link here.

See the image below are five ‘experts’ writing their own opinion piece.

The first person, Perry A. Zirkel is a professor of education and law at Lehigh University. I never heard of him within professional deaf education circles, and he was well known specializing in special education law. To read bit more about Dr. Zirkel, click the Lehigh University website, here. Zirkel writes his ‘interpretation’ of special education law requires the ‘continuum of alternative placements’ and ‘least restrictive environment (LRE)’ for deaf and hard of hearing students. He argues that each state are not required to have a special school and LRE does not support schools for the deaf.

Zirkel summarizes, “Neither the I.D.E.A. nor its case law requires state schools for the deaf any more than state schools for any other disability.”

I question that, and why did New York Times chose him to write this opinion piece? I find this statement damaging, one-sided and unfair without having an opposite view. It is very restrictive environment for a deaf child to be placed in a regular school with a small program. It is restrictive for a child to be taught by a hearing specialist once in a week and be escorted by untrained and uncertified sign language interpreter. Just because from the eye of the beholder, this deaf child is ‘mainstreamed’ into the community where everyone is speaking English and without any disabilities to make this child appear normal. Without thinking it could be socially, linguistically and academically isolating experience for a Deaf child! LRE is a dangerous word and most misunderstood term too. He does not mention anything about IEP safeguards and communication accessibility. I know there are a lot of qualified lawyers out there who can challenge to what Mr. Zirkel wrote.

Second person, Lance T. Izumi is the senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute. To learn more about him, and you can check the website about Mr. Izumi at Pacific Research Institute in California.

Izumi writes about “Give Parents a Choice”. First of all, I believe in parental choice, and it must be WELL informed. There are always an argument between respecting parental choice over their own child’s linguistic, medical and educational needs compared to a child’s human right to a language. People are confused that language should be taught, instead of being acquired. Teaching a language is an oxymoron. It is a very delicate balance between parental choice and linguistic rights.

Izumi summarizes “If all states gave parents these school-choice tools, the decision of public schools to eliminate separate programs for deaf students would be balanced out, significantly or in part, by the creation of such programs at private schools responding to parental demand.”

Izumi used the example of Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf in Clearwater, Florida which is a special-needs voucher school, a private school. Not a state school. Private school? Who can afford that and often times, private schools paid their teachers much lower than state-supported schools. Private schools usually have a smaller number of students too.

I do question how Mr. Izumi knows about Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf, and is it fair for him to use this private school as an example for parents to fight for their choice for their own deaf child? I know that many parents fought so hard for so many years trying to have their child to get a good education, and they often ask what are other choices, but was told by the IEP team that the options are always either a state school for the deaf, metropolitan magnet school with a large deaf program, or a local rural school with a small program or worse yet, with non-certified sign language interpreter with once-in-a-week itinerant teacher specializing in deaf education? Blossom Montessori school is rare and there are only two such programs in the United States.

Third person, Sandra Jowers-Barber, an assistant professor of history and the director of the history program in the department of urban affairs, social sciences and social work at the University of the District of Columbia, researches and documents the history of the deaf community. You may want to check into a very brief information on Dr. Jowers-Barber, and I hope that Dr. Jowers-Barber can provide more information about why she is so interested in the history of the deaf community. She wrote, “A Complicated History” and it is well written and to the point.

She summarizes, “Supporters of educational choice should indeed be on their guard against a 21st century Milan declaration, rising phoenix-like from the ashes of reduced state budgets.”

Right on the target. Thank you, Dr. Jowers-Barber, and I wish New York Times gives you bit more publishing space for you to elaborate, especially to the readers who does not really understand the devastating effects from Milan 1880 to the deaf education, especially with language oppression, increasing illiteracy among Deaf adults due to language deprivation, and the failure of oralism as per Babbridge Report published in 1965. Babbidge Report is short for “Education of the Deaf in the United States: Report of the Advisory Committee on Education of the Deaf.” by Babbidge in 1965. It seems like professionals keep dismissing this report, and argued that today’s technology is more advanced than ever, and believes that young children do truly ‘benefit’ from cochlear implants. Why do Deaf Schools still serve young children with their cochlear implants? There are plenty of them and they do need American Sign Language along with listening and speaking skills. Believe me, they do exist.

The fourth person, Lisa Snell is the director of education at the Reason Foundation and she writes, “The Price Tag for Separate Schools.” This piece is the most misleading and damaging piece EVER, about her ‘findings’ that separate schools are exorbitantly expensive than local schools. To learn bit more about Ms. Snell, go to the Reason Foundation website here. This foundation is from California and it is a think tank organization advocating cost-effective educational programs, especially charter schools. Does Ms. Snell realize the actual cost of educating a deaf child in a small program is much more expensive psychologically, socially, developmentally, and academically compared to a large program for the deaf? Does she realize that Deaf Schools have their residential program which costs more than a day program?

Snell writes, “These special needs scholarship programs are growing around the country, and they have the added benefit of bypassing the polarizing political debate between how best to educate deaf students in separate or mainstream environments by making state financing neutral and letting parents decide the best instructional approach for their deaf child.”

This opinion piece is very offensive. Very offensive. I am sure that Deaf Californians are livid with this opinion piece right now, and I hope they will set up an appointment with Ms. Snell as soon as possible to clarify some points and have some educatin’ to do.

Lastly, the fifth person, Josh Swiller is the author of “The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa.” His e-book “Still. Listening.”, on deafness and spirituality, will be out this fall. As we all know that Mr. Swiller is deaf himself and wears cochlear implant. He taught at Gallaudet University as a visiting professor with Michael Chorost, and if you wish to read bit more about Swiller’s experience at Gallaudet, go to this link here. Mr. Swiller wrote, “A Losing Battle, or an Opportunity”.

Swiller summarizes “That is: if I get the environment right, my deaf child won’t struggle. But you can’t order the world around like that. Deafness will be challenging regardless. Your child will miss things. Your child will feel the judgment of others.”

My opinion, his ideas are lofty and optimistic, and I would like for Mr. Swiller to give us tangible examples how it can be done. Deaf educators in Deaf Schools are working feverishly hard to educate deaf students to the highest level of academic standards in order to graduate with a high school diploma. We often have deaf students enrolled in deaf schools with at least 8 to 12 years behind with their language acquisition. Why did I pick 8 to 12 years? Look at this math, first five years is when a deaf child receives the 0-3 program support, preschool, and kindergarten education, then this child enrolls at 1st grade. They quickly get behind at 3rd grade when all children are required to take their state-wide tests. This Deaf child kept failing. Perhaps this child may have their cochlear implant or hearing aids, but still struggling. The parents and hearing specialist/professionals were frustrated and decided to give American Sign Language and Deaf School a try, just like an after-thought. Many times, Deaf Schools embraced them without any hesitation, and we had to do a lot of catching-up with this child. If this child enrolls into Deaf school or a large program at 3rd grade, the chances are somewhat possible for a child to graduate with a LOT LOT LOT of work from deaf educators and parents. Often times, families who are hesitant to send a child away at that young age (3rd grade is 8-9 years old!), and decided to wait until this child is ‘old’ enough in their middle or high school school age. This happened quite often, not quite, it is TOO often for Deaf Schools to have these kids in these ages enrolling in Deaf Schools for their first time.

Mr. Swiller, how different can we do that for deaf children who needs their peers to develop their language and have a healthy development psychologically, socially and academically?

Unfortunately, all five writers did not mention about critical mass, language acquisition and benefits of getting bilingual education. They decided to frame with mundane information, about the cost, law interpretation, parental choice, hearing technology, and centuries old debate of manualism vs. oralism. Yawn.

New York Times failed to get a balanced view of this debate and unfortunately, it is up to the bloggers, National Association of the Deaf, Deaf education experts and researchers have to fight after the precious space on New York Times’ website as lowly commentators. Who will read that?

Thank you so much, New York Times for setting us back and also, ignites the fire within us that we are taking a stand by telling the truth against the misleading information that you presented before the public, especially to the policy makers with so little knowledge of deafness, Deaf Education, Deaf Culture, American Sign Language, Bilingualism and Visual learning systems. We are rolling our sleeves right now.

Shame on you, New York Times. Watch out… our “silent” community is no longer silent and we will make NOISE! (Apologizes to Marlee Matlin for using her quote!)

Amy Cohen Efron

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41 comments on “New York Times Article on Deaf Schools Debate

Glad you are on top of this Amy. This summary helps us to frame it correctly. More power to you girl!

It is rather disheartening when we have too many one-sided versions spreading across the Country of what is supposedly the best type of education for a Deaf/hh child. Misleading and damaging, as well.

BUT, I can say THANK YOU NY TIMES for the artilce? It DEFINITELY put fire in our bellies that we will all unite together, hand in hand to fight for the right to a Deaf/hh child’s education.

I can FULLY comprehend and support the fact of “many” who fall through the cracks and eventually are realized that the best approach is a residential school for the Deaf. Then the “experts” do a research and see the staggering amount of students who are behind in education and blame on residential schools. We need facts to show where these children originated from. I’m a strong supporter of: choices. That depends on the state with what they have to offer and whether the child fits best with which program, mainstream or residential. Not all states are the same. But, never will I support an oral school, for reasons of my own. A by-product of oral schools, but that didn’t hinder my learning as my life was well-balanced: Deaf family. Only for a relatively short amount of time before I was placed into an inclusion education: one Deaf/all hearing school. If not for that, language 24/7 at the home environment/community, I highly doubt I’d be where I am today, literate and capable of speaking what’s on my mind.

This article needs to be reprinted with the correct information. Thank you Amy, for your advocacy and I hope there are more who will help turn NY Times’s head to realize the error of their words and print an accurate article that would portray the two sides. As always, there are two sides, I agree. We all need to UNITE AND ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES and WORK together for the common good: the best education for the Deaf/hh child by the experts who have lived it.

amy cohen efron to the rescue

thank u so much for putting this all out here

geez aint this just a wee bit familiar this “discussing of the Deaf” while not including the Deaf – ohhh wait they did include one wee Deaf person out of 5 ha.

important folks to note these are OP ED pieces – they are not journalistic reporting

also important for folks to note that the caption under a pix of the Audism Free America rally attributes it to be a NAD rally. NAD did have a rep there later that day but they were not hosting the rallies.

A NYT photographer did come at 8 am in the morning on Friday as we were just beginning to set up and started snapping pix. He said a reporter would come by later. Friday day, afternoon, evening vigil at AG Bell Votla Bureau – no NYT reporter. Saturday rally and sit in – no NYT reporter that any of us know of.

Odd eh.

So this series of op-ed pieces seems to be in response to the growing tend of Deaf folks finding their feet and economic times being tight.

Nothing about us without us folks. You all have opinions to op-ed. Lets see if they will carry that.

Would any newspaper DARE to do a series about African-Americans or Latinos or GLBT folks and have 4 White Heterosexual op-ed writers and 1 token rep from the group they are writing about???


and let me guess – there is no mention of the current 2nd wave of Oral / Aural ONLYism and how unethical it is

ill read ’em later – just ate so…. ; )

thank u again Amy



Ugh, I am feeling it’s 4201 school situation, albeit on a national level, all over again. As a parent of 2 Deaf children who attend a Deaf school (and thriving there, academically and socially), I feel it’s more important that the states realize the need for them or they’d be burdened more financially if they decided to mainstream the Deaf students into already financially hard districts.

Yesterday or a day before I read that the states would be facing tighter budgets… which does not bode well for Deaf schools as well.

Tsk tsk.

Karen, I am still not sure if its 4201 schools or Indiana, or what. We need to figure out who is behind the series of articles. Something’s up…Hope everyone’s research skills can find out the “who”.

How — of all deaf people — did the New York Times select an implanter Swiller, to write one of the five-part series?

Thanks, Amy, for posting the article!

Sheri… no, I was referring to the “feeling”. NYTimes address the issues nationwide so it’s alluding to Deaf schools nationwide.

Amy, thanks for an excellent, balanced and thorough evaluation of the current opinions on Deaf Education. The trend today is worrisome: in the face of budget cutting and income reduction, people are grasping at surface details and easy answers. We needed you to put into words the fallacy of these simple answers and we all need to get the truth out to those people who decide budgets.

There are special interests who profit from placing kids into mainstream programs and who will play up the apparent savings in doing so in order to assure their careers. Their arguments are persuasive and enticing to legislators.

In order to counterbalance them, we must emphasize that the very people they are looking at to cut budget are US, the end products of those schools and who are more knowledgeable than the “experts” they are relying on for validation. We need to show them and tell them of actual people and their stories.

Karen, understood what you meant. I’m still thinking outloud and processing this sudden series. It helps to have all articles in one place with the summaries of the right framing. I have shared this with many, FB, twitter, and elsewhere as a call to action for ppl to unite and take a stand! Dianerez, you too are an excellent writer, so any additional letters to NYTimes are critical. I received a twitter message this am, a member of the Tea Party has tweeted the “price you pay for state schools” article. Ugh!
My point is, there’s power in numbers.
One other thing, we need to be sure to say there can’t be a price tag on the value of education, and until there are true equal employment opportunities for which Deaf can compete for on an equal footing, Deaf children need an education where ASL and English are evident. Stats show us we are not there yet.
I’m singing to the choir….

I must say that your rebuttal to the NYT is very spectular. One thing is the news media would not likely to publish your rebuttal if you already post yours online before its publication for the op-ed or “lettter to editor”. I learn this one from Brian Riley.

Robert L. Mason (RLM)

Patti, you wrote, “Would any newspaper DARE to do a series about African-Americans or Latinos or GLBT folks and have 4 White Heterosexual op-ed writers and 1 token rep from the group they are writing about???”

(Stands up on a chair)

(Hand Waves)

Damn straight…..this crap pisses me off more than any other issue facing the deaf community… Why do people OUTSIDE the community write about us, make decisions for us, and etc…WITHOUT OUR INPUT? This has to stop, IMO.

Blog about it JJ! This has to stop for anyone outside the community to speak for us. Wrong wrong!

Better yet, blog about this on NY Times…Get it out to the mainstream. The responses here should be there, too…We need to keep making waves to make ourselves seen and heard because this will not go away….

Sometimes it is a blessing disguise of having these five people for whatever of how and why of their motivation to write these article.

The ramification of these articles is the awaken of the potential Deaf people to speak up.

The real truth about what is really going on with Deaf education and the Deaf people’s need to be bilingual: ASL and English and that will be heard to more people in the society by us.

The truth will always win but it may take time depending on the oppressor’s continuing of their ambitions to control the Deaf people’s education and language as they have in the past 100 years for their monetary benefit.

John F. Egbert

Amy, merci beaucoup for your responce to the NY Times, you rock!

Amy, I sent this letter to the NYT. Anyone can send a letter to the Editor of NY Times at Letters need to be less than 150 words.

Dear Editor:

I just saw your “Room for Debate” series on “Do States Need Schools for the Deaf”? This is one of the most biased pieces I have ever seen. Four articles basically saying “no”, with one defense that somewhat says “yes”, but not “why”. All done by Hearing people with a specific agenda of their own, with one “Uncle Tom” Deaf (who did not offer a strong defense FOR Deaf Schools). Would the NYT dare publish such strongly biased anti-gay, Black, or Jewish information without strong counter-representation from these groups? I think not. Fair and balanced journalism? Taking a page from Fox News now? My opinion of the NYT is rapidly plummeting downward. We Deaf people have had enough of Hearing people talking and deciding FOR us but not INCLUDING us!

Disgustedly yours,

Donald A. Grushkin, Ph.D.

Bravo Don! You all have great responses and I am sure many more should be sent to the NYTimes since their comment section is now closed. I am STILL at the end of this crazy Monday, wondering the same question – – “who” or “what org” is behind these 5 ppl to cause them to independently write up articles that are not based on factual information? We can all assume “who” but I want to know for certain. Once we find out, then, its expose’ time! 🙂 Thanks again

You just EXPOSED some the people responsible for hurting our education. We need to create hash tags for each one of those vloggers and New york times for our Twitter world to respond to.

This one outstanding blog! STANDING OVATION!


BTW, Amy, I’m familiar with Zirkel. He’s a well-known Full Inclusion advocate. It is not surprising that he would claim IDEA does not require schools for the Deaf.

Atta girl, Amy! Yes, so important we bombard with letters demanding a resolution for education equality and human rights for Deaf children! As we have two hands, one for helping ourselves, and the other for helping others. We need to see to the proof that our system and laws lack the assurance of Deaf education that lives in the statistics, and feeds off the apathy and ignorance hid behind the status quo. We all know Deaf children have the right to grow up bilingual. We need to show them folks not to allow our Deaf children fall short of the education they deserve from growing up in schools for the Deaf. Deaf people are the very people who end up being the most affected by political choice. Even when California spends less per student than most large industrialized states with which we continue to compete, our Deaf children are no less deserving than students in any other states.

Responded to the blogs-

I encourage you to visit the California School for the Deaf to see what is really happening with our deaf students. The reason why so many of those children are not doing well is because they were sent to us (California School for the Deaf, Fremont and California School for the Deaf, Riverside) from public schools who had FAILED them by denying them their native language, American Sign Language (ASL), during their formative years. They havebeen given a second chance at our schools, but it is very difficult to make up what they missed during pre-school and elementary school. The successful children at our Deaf schools are those who grew up with signed language and ASL since birth just like any hearing children growing up with verbal language since birth. Their languages are not taught…rather the languages are acquired from being in an accessible language-rich environment.

The long-term affects show it is more expensive to put our children in public schools without signed language. They will forever need our rehabilitation funds paid for with everyone’s tax dollars. Give a Deaf child signed language from birth, role models, social opportunities 24/7, and accessible education, this child will contribute to society as a whole human being with the ability to pay taxes just like anyone else.

Basically your article could be compared to having Caucasions writing what they think is best for African American children. It is also like having the Nazis to write that they think is best for Jewish children. I don’t think you intended the arrogance that came across in the writing in your blog because people often overlook Deaf people as a cultural and linguistic entity. It is time for our hearing allies to INVOLVE Deaf people from
the heart of the Deaf before writing about us. Let’s meet soon so I can give you the Deaf perspective about this.

Who am I? I am a semi-lingual Deaf woman who graduated from a public school in California . I was often used as a poster child of Deaf oral education to recruit hearing parents with Deaf children. Thus, I have the first-hand experience of public school Deaf programs run by hearing teachers; Looking back, I can now say that that I would not wish this on ANY Deaf child. With my “PhD” in life experience, I know more than the doctors do, I know more than the hearing teachers do, and I also know more than the audiologists do. Thus, I ask you to please work with the Deaf community to find out what is really the best for the Deaf babies. Those Deaf babies you are writing about will grow up and tell you in 20 years the same thing I am trying to tell you now . Please help me break this vicious cycle!

Julie Rems-Smario

[…] NYT editorial pieces – the bias is obvious and we will let them know that too is not cool.  See Amy Cohen Efron’s important blog on this subject but read below first and if you havent done ur letter yet – pls do so even if it is just to […]

Reading all of this has lead me to ponder a question and I think if we can find the actual answer to the question, it would go a long way to proving a point.

What is the actual breakdown of these low state testing scores that everyone points to?

People often say that that deaf schools have low state testing scores and many of us know that many of these deaf people are often lacking behind in the mainstream environment and then get placed into state schools. That being the case, there should be a breakdown of those actual test scores in these deaf schools.

The breakdown should be 1) those that entered the deaf school from day one and were never transferred there from a mainstream program 2) those that came into the deaf school after being left behind in the mainstreamed schools.

I have my assumptions on this, but would rather see actual results based on this research. Has anyone ever done this breakdown at any of these deaf schools?

Thanks Amy for sharing and getting on top of this. I’m sick and tired of those “hearies” who think they know better than we do on education, communication mode, and lives.
This tells that there are still work on ahead of us to teach them idiots that we will NOT tolerate this!

Lisa Snell is a staff person at the Reason Foundation which is the organization that publishes “Reason” magazine. There was a very shallow article published in Reason magazine on November 8, 2006 after the UFG protest written by Cathy Young. Here’s the link:

How embarrassing that Cathy Young got Elisabeth Zinser’s name wrong and thought her name was “Elisabeth Singer”. They still have not corrected the mistake online. The same mistake was made two days earlier when the article was originally printed in the Boston Globe (on Nov. 6, 2006). So it’s doubly embarrassing that she perpetuated the error in the piece in “Reason” magazine when she had two days to get feedback and correct the error.

It’s also a very shallow philosophical analysis. She ignores the whole history of Deaf culture and attempts to interpret things in a shallow frame called “identity politics.” She (Cathy Young) swallows the “not deaf enough” framing even though just a tiny bit of checking would turn up the fact that IKJ had been accepted even though he grew up as a hearing person and became deaf at age 21, while in comparison, Fernandes grew up deaf. When Jordan was selected Gallaudet president in 1988, people danced in the streets. This shows that the whole “not deaf enough” was just a pretext, and a very thin pretext at that.

Young wrote: “…it’s a leap from this understanding to the bizarre idea that the lack of hearing is no more a disability than being female or black.” This is a very shallow analysis that shows she doesn’t really know much about the study of culture in general, let alone Deaf culture specifically. Deaf culture is not based on a “lack”. “Deafness”, per se, doesn’t exist. It’s just a figure of speech used to refer to the larger context. The larger context is that culturally Deaf people can *see* (a positive, not a “lack”) and Deaf culture exists because Deaf people are visually oriented are are visual beings.

Young claimed in the article that “It is estimated that at most a quarter of profoundly deaf people in the United States use sign language”, yet when I corresponded with her and asked her for a source on that claim she couldn’t cite a source. She said she “recalled” that the statistic “came from a Washington Post article.” I think she was just passing on hearsay and was just being very shoddy in her writing. There is no such statistic that I have been able to find. In her correspondence with me she also tried to justify the phantom statistic by referring me to an item posted on the Gallaudet Research Institute website written in 1994 titled “How many people in the USA and Canada use ASL as a primary language and how many use it as their second or other language?”—But that article talks mostly about ambiguity of definitions and raw numbers, not percentages or proportions. There is nothing in that article ( to justify the claim that “at most a quarter of profoundly deaf people in the United States use sign language”.

It seems that “Reason” magazine is engaging in pseudoscience. They could try to dig up statistics on the number of elderly people with presbycusis to try to justify the phantom statistic, but that would also reflect either pseudo-intellectuality or just plain deception because it doesn’t make sense to lump people together like that in such a statistical category. So we should all keep this in mind when assessing the credibility of someone from the “Reason Foundation” writing a blog posting on the New York Times’ web site.

Small correction: Cathy Young’s Nov. 2006 article was published on the web site (not in the printed magazine).

I see that she wrote another piece in Reason magazine in 2002 (“Sound Judgment,” vol. 33) and tries to analyze things in terms of “cultural deafness”. Quoting the article

“Deafness, all the positive thinking notwithstanding, is defined by the absence of a basic faculty. One may define cultural deafness as the ability to sign, but hearing people can and do learn to use sign language.”

This is more pseudo-intellectuality and shooting from the hip. The term “cultural deafness” is itself a kind of oxymoron. She was attempting to create a straw man and then knock it down. There is no real intellectual debate about so-called “cultural deafness.”


Thank you for your rebuttal for the NY Times Op-Ed series, “Room for Debate”, concerning Deaf education. It is regrettable that views like yours weren’t shared in the same editorial space in the NY Times along with the other commentators. However, I did appreciate the lively debate that ensued in the comments. (And here, as well!)

The Perry Zirkel op-ed piece is largely correct, though. (I didn’t like his comparisons of D/HH students to students with disabilities. That argument is a non-starter.) I liked his framing this issue as a legal, not moral issue. Josh Swiller also touched up on this. Still, I view this largely as a political issue. Citizens of each state need to keep pressure on their legislators to ensure that their respective Deaf schools and other placement options (i.e., self-contained programs, mainstreaming, inclusion) remain open and freely available.

Also, Perry Zirkel misses another dimension to the legalities surrounding Deaf schools; constitutional issues can be raised in defense of these schools. If there is a successful constitutional case involving Deaf schools, it will be a huge step forward in Deaf education.

Thank you, Amy, for taking the time to dissect this biased NY times article on whether if we should keep or need Deaf schools which is a really stupid question anyway. I am upset and stunned how these so-called experts took the front to speak for us it is about us without us so how dare NY Times selected these spokespersons. Really, you should be one of the spokespersons of that article and many other real Deaf experts. What the heck is NY Times thinking that we can’t think for ourselves?

When fighting for 4201 schools, I took several video clips of high school Deaf students explaining to the legislative members in their offices why it is better for them to be at a Deaf school and shared their frustrations in mainstreaming programs. Their testimonies touched many of these lawmakers and it does help affect their decision making to restore the fund. I got to revisit this video project and share their powerful messages how they had compared their experiences between Deaf schools and mainstreaming programs in regards to their educational and social experiences. As soon as I get it approved, I will send this clip to NY Times and publish online.

We all must must set up an archives to gather testimonies from students and parents why they benefit from Deaf schools and that mainstreaming programs are not for everyone. Too often, Deaf schools have been scapegoated for their low scores and it is commonly due to the fact that these students came to Deaf schools past their language acquisition stage. My two Deaf children grew up in a Deaf school and acquired ASL as their first language and they passed state tests with flying colors. It is so easy and natural to see them learn and all Deaf children deserve the same, not to fall into cracks.

Amy, you go girl!

To me, it’s a question of state funding of Deaf school or to do away without them by passing the burden to the local districts. We need to change our perception of the state school being a dumping ground in order to avoid low rankings in “No Child Left Behind” law. Is is the institutional mentality. Is it the ASL and oralism issues. We are now in the 21st century, there is no excuses whatsoever for our Deaf children to fall through the cracks, state schools are here to stay, then why the decreasing student enrollments. Do we accept the status quo that may lead to our dismise, or do we accept the challenges that lay ahead of us. It’s up to the admistration to change with the times, our survival is based on attracting future generations with a mission to be a magnet to attract the attention of parents that they have the best curriculum to prepare our Deaf children in a global economy. We can let the experts debate in the New York Times or we can do something about the quality of education in our Deaf schools, accepting nothing but the best.

See webiste – Baby sign language gains popularity as teaching tool. Are NY times interesting this story?


Can you or anyone answer Valhallian’s question? Are there anything that reveals these scores – breaking down on specifics other than speculations?

From my experience, ex-mainstream kids DO pull up the scores at deaf schools and then again there are certainly ex-mainstream kids that does not pull up the scores. I have not seen anything that points to the speculation that ex-mainstream kids are the cause of low scores other than hearsay and speculations. I think we need to see the actual break downs. Valhallian’s question is what I have been piqued about so long. I have my own perceptions based on my own experience, but that is not good enough.

Amy, or anyone, can you provide evidence of that?

Thank you for your review of my comments. You asked for more information as to why I am interested in the history of the deaf community, especially the African American deaf community. I am the step-mother of a deaf daughter. I married her dad 12 years ago when she was 9 years old (she will be 22 in October) and a student at Kendall School in Washington, D.C. She has two brothers and two sisters who are hearing and a hearing father and mother. I am very fortunate that I am close with and have the love of all of my children. I started to seriously study and learn American Sign Language immediately after I met her. I knew that my husband and the children would be my family and I wanted to communicate with everyone. I also started work on my MA degree in history. When our daughter saw the history book she wanted to know what deaf people were in the book and what African American deaf people were in the book. When I told her there were no deaf or African American deaf in the book she said it wasn’t fair. When II started work on my Ph.D. I knew then that my focus would be on documenting deaf history with attention to African American deaf history.

Our daughter uses ASL and is fluent. Mainstreaming would not have worked for her and she would not have been as successful academically. She attended NTID in Rochester, NY and is the mother of a beautiful 11 month old hearing son. We are teaching him sign language. She has always been anactivist and we have encouraged her to speak out and speak up. She knows he importance of making sure that she is heard and as a mother I will always support, encourage and advocate for her and the deaf community. As a scholar I want to make certain that deaf history, especially African American deaf history, is documented and included in the history of our country.

Dr. Jowers-Barber,

Thank you so much for visiting my website, and leaving a comment. It is a delight to get to know you bit more about how you got involved with the Deaf Culture, and your interest in the history of deaf community. I look forward reading your book, and please let me know when the book is published!

With your background and a personal involvement with your daughter, I am very proud of you that you have raised a fine young woman!

Amy Cohen Efron

Hi Dr. Jowers-Barber,

If you remember, I gave you the Audism Free America wristband on April 4, 2009 at the alumni awards banquet at Gallaudet in the Ole Jim (upstairs) after the ceremonies.

Thank you for your efforts!


Dr. Jowers-Barber, I echo Amy’s sentiments, thank you for sharing more about your personal experiences. I’m curious, what prompted these series of articles to be published in NYTimes?

Schools for the Deaf should not go away. However realities cannot be ignored either. Deaf schools are no longer quintessential placements for most children. Sign language will not go away. It is taking hold in mainstream society through second language learning options. Deaf culture will continue to exist only to the extent that it is willing to accept that the experience of most of today’s children born with hearing loss is not the same as the experience of the Deaf adult, or even the child born 5 years ago.
It was wrong to assume that no child needed a visual language in the 70’s- It is equally wrong to assume that all children need a visual language today. Fight to preserve continued ASL options even in downsized form. They are needed “for some”.

Spy, of all the comments, yours is very logical and not only that, It reflects REALITIES. And, the question is: What kind of “fight” should those advocate employ to preserve continued ASL or sign language, for that matter (even in downsized form)? The kind of fight employed, can (and the emphasis is CAN) make or break the continued ASL options in the future. Folks need to be less stubborn, it helps when we can step back and try to see things realistically.

Great comment, Spy. I agree with you TOTALLY!

Thanks Candy. I prepared myself to be bashed, so it’s nice to get some validation instead. I couldn’t claim to have all the answers but awareness building is probably a great step. People just automatically tend to overgeneralize things I guess. People at decision making levels. state Departments of Education, district level administrators, service providers and agencies, need to know that while many children with hearing loss do very well with listening and spoken language options today, there remains a need for sign based programs for others.
Ironically, the DC might find some support in the preservation of sign programming from the very people some have demonized- the SLPs, AVTs, and Auds. Most would want to insure that all language and modality programs stay available in some form (separate school, regional program, parent- child sign training ect.) If they’ve been around for a while they can attest to having a few children that needed to add more visual programming. Also, there are parents who might be willing to share reasons for keeping ASL based options with key people. I encourage parents of children with successful LSL skills to learn a repertoire of emergency signs together, although not all will.
I would love to see more native Deaf signers teach high school ASL as a language option. While I believe we are not ready to close all Deaf schools at this point, I do foresee a more mainstream existence for all d/Deaf children than existed in the past. I also see social groups for d/D/HOH strengthening and hopefully being more inclusive of all languages and modalities, but I’m being optimistic on that.

Confessions of a so called “audist”
I confess that I embrace communication for all people with and without hearing loss. I had the nerve to be happy when young children heard their first sounds, said their first words, interacted easily at their family reunions, went to school with their first local friends and got a their first job. All of this through various levels and degree of support in the form of services, supports, therapies, technology, self advocacy tips, ect. I am still happy for that, whether it be through a hearing aid or a CI and auditory development support.
I am also happy to know that there are communities that utilize sign language for social, educational, and in some cases vocational purposes. Had it not been for those programs, there would be some who would not have thrived. I have never seen signers as “less”, or methodologies as generically superior or inferior. The communication systems do however reach differing communication goals. Parents who pick one, are doing so because they value that goal, not because they are looking down on anyone that has other goals.
The only time I have ever witnessed disparaging remarks about the Deaf culture is when certain members were trying to create guilt in them by not choosing ASL or a Deaf school placement. It was the behavior, not the person, that upsets them.
I’m not saying that there aren’t people who look down on ASL users. There is discrimination and prejudice about avery subculture in the world, but anyone who remains truly proud and self confident does not have to criticize parents for choosing a different path than what worked for you. What is one person’s liberation, can be another person’s oppression.
I feel for the adjustment that the culture will need to make in the next few decades, but I can assure you that the AFA is still trying to hold a finger in a dam that has long since broken loose.
Best thoughts to all.

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