What about Academic ASL?

Hello! In this vlog, I’d like to respond to the current debate regarding cued speech at the Illinois School for the Deaf, which is revising its pedagogic philosophy. My good friend, Kevin Smith, graduated from the ISD and has supported the ISD inclusion of cued speech. His rationale is that schools for the Deaf are seeing a decline in enrollment nationwide, and by including and supporting cued speech, those students would have the incidental benefit of exposure to ASL during non-classroom hours ie: in the dorms, during social events as part of campus life, etc… thereby opening the door to ASL use for these students.

In the midst of all the discussion currently going on regarding this topic, I think we are missing one important, actually two very important points: The first is that there is a long history of hearing people making decisions regarding Deaf people and their lives and educational opportunities. This is a common occurrence in regards to policy making. Hearing people making decisions for Deaf people and deaf children. This bothers me alot.
I have a question for Kevin Smith. How would you feel if white policy makers determined the curriculum for African American students and proceeded to teach those students accordingly? I know that you would be upset and society would not accept this form of curriculum imposition. The same holds true for other demographics such as Asian and Jewish communities and would be seen as inappropriate. This occurs regularly in the Deaf community as a status quo method of curriculum imposition by the hearing majority. The decision by the Illinois School for the Deaf to adopt a cued speech curriculum is just another example of this kind of inequitable policy making for instead of by the Deaf community.
The statistical success rate for cued speech is…very minimal. We already know that ASL is an effective means of instruction and communication. The issue isn’t ASL, the issue is the persistent efforts to minimize and marginalize ASL.

The second point I want to make and emphasize is critical. Take any language: ASL, English, Spanish, Russian…they all have two distinct functional subsets. For purposes of discussion, we will look at ASL and English. ASL has both of these subsets: Academic and Social language function and usage. English also has both an Academic and a Social linguistic capability. The term “Academic” refers to those linguistic features that are utilized in the classroom, with an emphasis on the structure and grammatical parameters of English. “Social” refers to language usage outside of the classroom, in the dorms, on campus etc…and the normal social interactions that occur naturally among students and the community as they chat, visit and spend time with one another socially. Academic English is well established and the specific grammatical constructs such as nouns, verbs and the acceptable forms of academic discourse are widely recognized. Social English encompasses the daily interactions via texting, FaceBook, email, blogging etc… as people network and share with one another socially. The forms and norms for these are well established in English.

Trans. S. Hansen

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