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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Disabling Pedagogy: Power, Politics, and Deaf Education

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Sally echoed Brooke’s resistance to learning how to do things in their classrooms. She made a similar comment about the attitudes of hearing teachers of deaf students who had taught her children before she started work on her education degree. One day she exploded: “I had to do their degree to be respected!”

The universities represented in this study embrace a liberal view of inclusivity in which success is focused on the benefits to those who would not otherwise be involved in higher education. The goal of these programs is “simple equality,” in which “everyone gets access to the same thing in the same form” (Rizvi and Lingard 1996, 22). Brooke rejoiced in her equal treatment by instructors even if it meant not getting what she needed as a deaf student. The unwillingness of her instructors to negotiate alternate assessment and practicing teaching requirements is a disappointing example of educators’ resistance to the “broadening of curriculum choice and pedagogical practice” (ibid., 25). It is also a poignant example of how “conformity and obedience to rules . . . are based on the requirements of administrative convenience rather than moral principles” (ibid., 24).

A more critical concept of inclusivity is possible through “curricular justice” (Connell 1998, 94). This view of curriculum focuses on the relationships between students and teachers: “The problem is not so much in unequal shares of an educational service, as in the educational relationships embedded in that service which make its effects unequal or oppressive.” Another term for this is the “politics of incorporation,” (Bacchi and Eveline 1996, 79–80) in which women, for example, are added to “established institutional regimes without considering that these might need to change,” or, as Foster (1992) described it, “adding women and not stirring.” In much the same way, the deaf students in this study were accepted into universities with seemingly little or no attempt to consider or change the structures that serve to disempower and position them.

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