The most popular handbook about the Deaf community

Q: “What do Deaf people think
of all this controversy about
methodologies and literacy
and all this criticism of Deaf schools?
If the old schools for the deaf were
doing something right, what was it?”

A: The old schools offered a no-frills education with heavy emphasis on reading and writing. There were no extracurricular activities, no sports, no video equipment, and no distractions. Materials used in class were simple and basic: slateboards, chalk, paper, quill pens, ink, pencils, and a few textbooks. Getting an education was a demanding process, but the rewards could be tremendous. And the students were highly motivated. Their ages ranged from 7 to middle-aged adults. Hungry for an education, they helped each other learn. The teachers were dedicated and enthusiastic. Everyone communicated in sign language. Nobody worried about linguistic politics or the purity of their signing. If they didn’t have a sign for a word, they invented one.

Today’s schools may not be able to recreate the ambience of the old schools (a futile proposition), but they can rededicate themselves to the task of encouraging and developing literacy skills.

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