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American Annals of the Deaf

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Ethical Considerations in Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
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Part Two: Educational Decisions

The fourth chapter lays the foundation for an honest discussion on the most apparent ethical challenges present in decision making in the field of education of the deaf. I argue that the logical starting place for these discussions is at mandated Individual Educational Program (IEP) team meetings. As educational decision makers approach the task of choosing among the options for education of deaf and hard of hearing students, they must consider the complexity of the issues faced by these students and their families. The vast array of situations includes understanding the needs of individuals who are culturally Deaf; American Sign Language users; cochlear implant users; those who use hearing aids/FM systems; those who use signed English, sign-supported speech, contact signing, and nonverbal communication in various educational and social settings; those who are hard of hearing; and those who experience deafness after they have acquired spoken language. The dynamics of families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, along with the world of innovation and technology, are issues that overlap the broad topic of educational decision making. A framework based on situation ethics is suggested to treat all educational issues with justice, respect, dignity, and care, above all treating each person as an individual with unique strengths.

In chapter 5 Wendy Harbour expands the concept of partnership to include categories other than deaf or hard of hearing. She breaks the dichotomy and includes persons who do not identify with either group even though they are members of the larger Deaf community (e.g., those with changes in hearing levels over time). An “either/or” mode of thinking can be harmful on many levels to deaf and hard of hearing students. “Both/and” thinking is more advantageous as substantiated by a carefully described rationale. Using a bricolage approach, Harbour examines her own biases and challenges readers to do the same. She provides clear definitions of terms, discusses hearing loss as a social construction, and explores ways in which disability studies may expand thinking beyond the deaf/hearing duality.

Chapter 6 evokes thoughts of civil rights law and other laws that prohibit discrimination against historically underrepresented groups. Melissa Herzig and Kary Krumdick, both teachers in a self-contained program for deaf and hard of hearing students, challenge the assessment practices proscribed by the No Child Left Behind legislation and describe the need for assessments designed for and validated with the deaf school-age population. They offer the ASL Scale of Development as an alternative process for ethical assessment of visually oriented deaf and hard of hearing learners, many of whom use ASL as their primary means of access to the educational curriculum.

In chapter 7 James J. DeCaro and Patricia A. Mudgett-DeCaro share stories that frame a general discussion of ethical leadership. They challenge educational leaders to provide an environment in which deaf students can learn to take full responsibility for making the best decisions for themselves in life and find the energy to overcome the momentum of the status quo . . . to surmount barriers.

Part Three: Interpreting Decisions

Chapter 8 paints a broad-brush view of the overall situation of educational interpreters in various settings. We see interpreting through the eyes of the interpreters who bring to light issues of how they are assessed, how they participate, and how they are valued in the total educational process. The findings from Rico Peterson and Christine Monikowski’s research can inform not only the fields of effective interpreter training and teacher preparation but also the larger field of education of deaf persons in general, particularly with regard to collaboration among interpreters, teachers, and administrators.

Have you ever wondered what actually happens in a classroom where one deaf student is mainstreamed with an interpreter? In chapter 9 Melissa Smith places the reader directly into a mainstream science lesson in a public school classroom. She compares the work of the educational interpreter to a choreography of visual movement. Smith describes the competing visual demands on a deaf student in a mainstream class and emphasizes the need for a well-defined working relationship that involves the student, the educational interpreter, and the general education teacher. The reader is left to draw conclusions about the benefits of a mainstream situation with a highly qualified educational interpreter. This chapter could serve as a primer for general education teachers and administrators with regard to the challenges faced by educational interpreters on the job.

Chapter 10 concludes the book with a justification of the benefits of a “both/and” approach to the education of students who are deaf. I present a model for “eventual bilingualism,” along with an identification of the over-arching themes explored in this book. It is my hope that these themes will challenge readers to seek common ground and to get to know someone whose views differ dramatically from their own. While opinions may not change, educators and other professionals will see other perspectives and, in so doing, learn important information that can help them make decisions that will enhance the lives of deaf and hard of hearing students. As a result, we can reduce the biases that so often undermine even the best intentions of our professional discussions and “ensure that all of today’s children are adequately educated and nourished, that they reach adulthood untraumatized and able to face the future with resilience and a willingness to learn” (Bateson, 2000, p. 157).

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