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American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Learners: Developments in Curriculum and Instruction

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No skill statements address academic content. “Communication” was mentioned in 17 of the 66 standards, but mathematics, social studies, science, and literature did not appear. We strongly support an emphasis on the importance of communication for deaf learners but believe that the standards reflect an imbalance. A review by Moores, Jatho, and Creech (2001) of all 130 peer-reviewed articles that appeared in the American Annals of the Deaf during a 5-year period further illustrates the lack of emphasis placed on academic content. Only 3 articles dealt with mathematics, 2 of which were contributed by Pagliaro (1998a, 1998b), who is the author of the chapter on mathematics in this book. There were no articles addressing science or social studies. This lack should astound the reader.

Although the situation is improving, the field is hampered by low expectations for deaf children. Many teachers of deaf children lack skill and training in the subject matter that they teach. There is evidence, for example, that teachers of deaf children spend less time on mathematics areas than regular classroom mathematics teachers with deaf children integrated into regular classes in the same school building. The regular classroom teachers provide higher level material, give and grade more homework, and ask higher level questions (Kluwin & Moores, 1987). We strongly believe that teachers of deaf children are as capable as any teachers in facilitating high levels of educational achievement and that deaf learners are capable of meeting rigorous standards of proficiency. This book is dedicated to help achieve those goals.


The landscape in our field has changed to the extent that any discussion of the curriculum for learners who are deaf must take place within the larger context of general education. In the past, that general education context was <i>not</> considered important because deaf education was in large measure a thing apart from the general educational area. However, today, with the advent of inclusion and raised expectations for learners who are deaf, that context becomes highly relevant and serves as a backdrop against which deaf education trends are played out.

It is well recognized that the American educational system as we know it today, separate from whatever educational system was practiced by native peoples before the advent of the Europeans, had its roots in the early colonies. Some of the first schools were “dame schools” in which a woman of a village would give reading instruction using the Bible around the hearth of her home for children from nearby. This system evolved gradually into schools that were organized around local interests and needs; we know that when the colonies became states in a new nation, they reluctantly gave up some of their autonomy to the good of the new nation as a whole. However, they clung tenaciously to the right to make local decisions in relation to education (and in other matters) and to maintain local and then state control over education. It is true that we have never had a national system of education and probably never will, although a large federal “intrusion” into education occurred in 2001 with the passage of the national No Child Left Behind Act.

The foundations of the American school system, which also affect the roots of deaf education at least indirectly, rested on several important principles and beliefs. Freeman Butts, the historian of American education, provides a most helpful schematic design in his Triform Foundations of the American School System (Butts & Cremin, 1953). {AU: title of the book in the reference list is A History of Education in American Culture. Please clarify if “Triform Foundations . . .” refers to a section of that book.} He proposed a three-dimensional model consisting of cohesive values, social characteristics, and segmented pluralisms. The cohesive values of America include liberty, equality, popular consent, and the public good; the social characteristics include secularization, industrialization, popular participation, and the central power of the state (not the federal government) in education; and the segmented pluralisms that characterize America include multiethnicity, multiple races, multiple localisms, and multiple religions. Today, we would add a fifth pluralism—that of multiple languages—and a sixth one—that of different kinds of disabilities that the schools must serve. Thus, taken together, the interaction of these different factors along the three dimensions serves as a means of understanding the complexities faced by the American school system in a national “experiment” that had never before been attempted by any country in the world.

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