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Hearing the Unheard

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“We need to stop thinking of the deaf as disabled and start thinking of them as bilingual!” –Dr. Joseph Valente
My reflection on “Hearing the Unheard” by Dr. Joseph Valente, is that deaf education and oralism needs to be reformed. Deaf education today has drastically altered the future of the majority of deaf persons! The lack of education and knowledge of basic education is astounding to the hearing world. As Dr. Valente said, “At high school graduation the average reading level is equivalent to the fourth grade.” How can this be? How can a hearing and deaf world expect a fourth grader to understand engineering, biochemistry topics, advanced English literature from the 18th century, etc. if the student is graduating 12th grade with a 4th grade reading level? How can this fourth grader be expected to attend college, and graduate with the other 25% of deaf people who do so? - The answer is that they cannot! More importantly how can this deaf person earn a living, provide for themselves and possible a family surrounding him or her? Today, 60% of all deaf adults are unemployed! This number of 60% deaf unemployment is astronomical compared to the national unemployment rate of 7.7% in February 2013. Dr, Joseph Valente said, “We need to stop putting deaf people in special education, and we need to put them in bilingual education” How can a country mixed with: bilingual persons, immigrants, cultural differences, poverty, wealth and many more factors, expect to prosper with one culture being neglected?
“Oralism- the theory, practice, or advocacy of education for the deaf chiefly or exclusively through lipreading, training in speech production, and training of residual hearing.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/oralism?s=t) The nature of oralism is telling children and other deaf individuals to become hearing in any way possible. Ways to associate with hearing people are receiving cochlear implants, learning to lipread, learning how to mimic others behavior, etc. But if the oralistic hearing culture wants there to be a hearing/oralistic/deaf culture, then there is no difference in their eyes. The problem with oralism is that deaf people are being neglected, the fundamentals of their deaf culture are abandoned, and the hearing culture is implemented. If the majority of deaf people are mainstreamed, given hearing aids, and learn lipreading; there is no difference physically between the hearing and the deaf. The difference is mentally, and emotionally. If the oralism approach is working today then why is the literacy rate so low, why is deaf unemployment rate so high, and why is the graduation rate so low? If the deaf were excelling then these crazy numbers wouldn’t be an issue, but the statistics do not lie. Oralism is not working for the deaf community, reform to the education system and oralistic approach need to be addressed.
How many parents of deaf children know American Sign Language? According to, http://news.softpedia.com/news/Only-a-Quarter-of-Parents-to-Deaf-Kids-Know-Sign-Language-158192.shtml, only 25% of all parents to deaf children know American Sign Language. How can a child be nurtured during a rocky time, consoled when he or she is picked on, given advice during a teachable moment, etc.. if the parents do not know how to communicate with them? How is a deaf child expected to succeed if they are not given proper education, social skills, and parenting advice? The answer is that this child will not succeed in todays’ world, and apparently a world that does not make room for a culture trying to live in it.
Can deaf people participate competitively in sports? I have always played sports and have played against Deaf people before. I wonder if there are national sporting games for the deaf? Yes, The Deaflympics are a worldwide Olympics event for deaf persons who choose to participate. The Deaflympics are held every 4 years and the recent one was held in Salt Lake City, Utah. During the previous Deaflympics over 4,000 individuals competed from 77 countries. The Deaflympics continues to grow and even today a few deaf athletes have participated in the Olympics to earn medals. You bet I will keep an eye out for the deaf in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.



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