Many Ways to Be Deaf: International Variation in Deaf
THE CHIYING SCHOOL IN THE EARLY 1990s
The Physical Appearance of the Chiying School
The two-story school was constructed largely of cement. It was roughly U-shaped, with classrooms, dining area, and dormitory space on two wings and the administrative offices on the other. There were a few air conditioners and fans in various locations, and an old automatic washer. Some of the classrooms were carpeted, and the teachers and students entered those classrooms without their “slippers”—plastic or rubber sandal-like footwear. Most of the classrooms had prominently placed televisions and VCRs. The school owned a computer, which one or two teachers used regularly.
The school had a well-worn appearance that bespoke a proud but difficult history. The privately controlled and funded Chiying School was indeed struggling, and this struggle was not the first financial challenge it had faced (Smith 1999). Its current travails, I learned, contrasted the situations of the better-funded government-run schools for the deaf in the other Taiwanese cities of Taipei, Tainan, and Taichung. The Chiying School somehow continued its work in the face of difficulties. The school was apparently known for accepting and attempting to educate some of the most unfortunate of Taiwan’s children.
The Setup of the Classes
The Chiying School began as a school for the deaf, but over the years, enrollment of deaf students had declined, necessitating that the school also accept developmentally disabled students. Everyone in the school—members of the administration, staff members, and students themselves—perceived the deaf students as having very different educational needs from the developmentally disabled students, who, thus, were taught in separate classrooms and on separate floors. The deaf students were often scandalized by some of the behavior of the developmentally disabled children and were blunt about their disapproval. However, the deaf children seemed to take the view that the developmentally disabled children were not as responsible for their behavior as they themselves would have been.
Smith (1999) reports that about 100 students per year enrolled at Chiying in the 1970s. The school that I saw in the early 1990s greatly resembled his description of the school in the 1970s, except for the fact that, by the 1990s, enrollment had gone down to about 65–75. The Chiying School offered classes for deaf children and developmentally disabled children from first to sixth grade. Occasionally, students who were much older than the appropriate age for the grade appeared in the classrooms. Several of the deaf staff people told me about friends and acquaintances who had, for example, begun school at age 13 and graduated from sixth grade at age 19. Ten to 15 students boarded at the school during the time that I was there; perhaps another 55 to 60 children from the Kaohsiung area commuted to the Chiying School daily. Some students took a bus sent out by the school, and others arrived at the school by means of public buses and alternate means of transportation. Many of the people in the Tsoying area, such as shop owners, were familiar with the school, partially because over the years, the school had maintained a bakery that supplied baked goods to eating establishments in the area.
When I was at the Chiying School, both deaf and hearing teachers worked there, which, I was told, had been the case since the school’s inception. In fact, the descriptions of the faculty compositions at not only the Chiying School but also the other schools that Chiang Ssu Nung established suggest that this situation was correct (Smith 1999).2 The Chiying School apparently took care of its own, hiring some graduates for positions such as teachers and bakers. Over the weeks, as I met the people at the school, I observed that all of them had a conscious appreciation for Chiang Ssu Nung’s contribution to deaf life with the establishment of the Chiying School. Although they did not see him regularly or often, they seemed to feel respect and fondness for him.