I might, too, have undertaken a study of the rhetoric of deaf education by surveying relevant terms and categories, by examining the production and utility of all the labels and landmarks in the vast land of "deafness." The topographical variety is certainly not lacking here: deaf; hard-of-hearing; hearing-impaired; the silents; deaf and dumb; dumb; mute; limited hearing; auditorially impaired; acoustically handicapped; disabled; handicapped; prelingually, postlingually, or prevocationally deaf; mild, moderate, severe, or profound hearing loss; binaural, sensorineural, conductive, mixed, or central hearing loss; the least restrictive environment; appropriate placement; special needs; full or partial integration; self-contained classrooms; inclusion; audiological, psychological, occupational, physical, communicative, and social "assessment teams"; parent education; aural/oral rehabilitation; speech therapy; lipreading; speechreading; cued speech; fingerspelling; simultaneous communication (SimCom); total communication (TC); Pidgin Sign English (PSE); Signed English; Signing Exact English (SEE); American Sign Language (ASL); bilingual-bicultural (Bi-Bi); support services—note takers, interpreters (oral or sign language), tutors, FM loop systems, closed and open captioning, telecommunications devices (TTYs/TDDs), telephone relay services, real-time transcriptions, light alarm systems, bed shakers; resource rooms; hearing aids—in-ear, behind-the-ear, digitally programmable; cochlear implants; mainstreaming; residential institute; day institute; technical and trade institutes.
Enough. To be certain, rhetoric is fond of terms, categories, division, classifications. We have Aristotle, first and foremost, to thank for that. But while I will be more than a little concerned with the production, reception, and utility of terms, I do not want to make them the focus of my discussion. Rather than turn to the text, as Aristotle might prefer, and analyze the terms on its page, I favor a more process-centered and person-dominated over a product-centered and strictly linguistic approach.
Michael Oliver and others in disability studies might call this a "sociological approach," and Kenneth Bruffee and others in composition and rhetoric studies might call it "social constructionist"; I choose to call it a rhetorical-cultural approach. I want to consider where (and who) the terms come from, the social and rhetorical milieu surrounding their inception and usage, how they are used, and, certainly, who they are used on as well as how those persons react to them.
I could have proceeded by conducting a critical rhetorical study of those who "serve" in the "deaf education system" (what Harlan Lane has called, disapprovingly, "the audist establishment"). That is, I could have looked at the acts, words, and values of any of the following who work with and depend for income on deaf persons: audiologists, hearing aid salespersons, ear-nose-throat specialists and surgeons, speech pathologists, speech therapists, aural (and/or oral) rehabilitation specialists, school psychologists and counselors, social workers, interpreters, parents with deaf children, special education teachers,