The Great Depression brought widespread unemployment to forty thousand deaf adults and continued educational failure to fifteen thousand deaf students in the United States. Economic downturn illuminated the inadequacies of vocational programs. Deaf people engaged in frustrating and often unsuccessful negotiations to secure work from either increasingly disinterested private employers or the recalcitrant state and federal officials who managed the era's governmental work programs. Deaf teachers and community leaders again sought to revamp technical instruction, and the continued determination of oralists to suppress sign language at public schools spurred broad and, in some instances, unprecedented opposition.

Efforts of deaf people to upgrade secondary-level vocational instruction were largely in vain in the 1930s. Deaf teachers, although persistent, had little power now that their numbers had been reduced to less than 10 percent of the overall teaching force and less than half of all vocational instructors. The frustrations of Iowa's J. Schuyler Long, one of the nation's few remaining deaf administrators, underscored this collective powerlessness. At the 1931 convention of school administrators, Long appealed to his hearing peers. "Do you know the world as the deaf man finds it?" he asked. "The place to test the success of an educational system is not in the schoolroom nor in the conversations over the social teacups," he explained, "but out where men toil and earn their daily bread."

In addition to their efforts to upgrade vocational programs, deaf critics praised the few school administrators who successfully expanded instruction. Next Page

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