Let me tell you a story (and I suck at telling stories offhand):
We meet at the state senators committee room to discuss the closing of the deaf school on basis of two importance – budget and low standard test scores.
(We all know that the economic situation here in the States remain unstable.)
Senators: We are now going to discuss the closing of the school for the deaf. The main rationales in the consideration of the closing is because of the budget and the fact that the students at the school continue to achieve lower testing scores according to the (state’s) testing process. We will hear from both sides of the discussion. We will have ground rules to ensure that we will respect each other. (goes over ground rules)
Discussion continues from both sides – arguing the merit of testing, language foundation, education ethics, fiscal matters and legal ramifications. Points of interest are the fact that the school is a dumping ground for children with multiple disabilities (also deaf) and coming into the school with little language foundation, “oral” failures, lack of standardized quality of deaf education statewide, and quality of interpreting in K-12 settings as well as bi-lingual/culture application in the system. Proponents of closing the schools would argue that the expenses of sending the kids to the school for the Deaf is expensive, low test scores, separation of families, more communication choices and IDEA.
The senators, each receive a box. A woman comes in from the audience.
Reisa: Each of you have received a box. I would like each of you to open your box and put it in front of you. (Each senator opens his/her box, takes out their items and places it in front of them.) Each item is representative of a part of your life that you hide from the public, something that has helped define who you are and helped you reach to your position today. Those are the rocks that you put together throughout life that gives you strength, endurance and the ability to observe or judge people. Each of you can move that rock from your path with resources, support and understanding.
(examples include a letter-sized sentence that show dyslexia, pictures of bikes, cancer, etc)
Reisa: Each of us in the audience and around the world have rocks. We can open or move them to create opportunities, to allow for life enriching experience whether education, home life, or employment. Deaf people and children have such the same; however, it is the attitude of society that prevents us from being able to open or move our rocks. We all talk about test scores…basically numbers. We forget that each of us are humans.
We cannot move those rocks ourselves because of suppression of self, lack of true language access and building a bilingual-bicultural environment. Everyone tells us what to do but us, this is because people in general do not understand…honestly, will never understand who we are, not WHAT we are. You can see the WHAT but will not allow the rock to be open or moved to see WHO we are. You are willing to use Pandora’s Box or in this case, Rock to open a peek and see the bad stuff and close it to prevent the good stuff from coming out.
Closing the school for the deaf will do more harm in various avenues. We will be losing a resource for deaf children to attend with a strong language foundation that will bridge into a bilingual background. We will not be able to enhance educational opportunities for future students to make a difference. Have we analyzed the test scores to compare between deaf students statewide? What do the facts tell us about the quality of education at the deaf school between deaf/hard of hearing programs? Do we acknowledge that the quality of interpreting in the school systems have an impact on the education of the same children we are talking about? Do we acknowledge that there is a fiscal impact on the future of deaf children if we remove or modify the budget to suit the majority’s ‘needs’?
Society is running on assumptions, attitudes and educational barriers that are a part of the very rock that are a part of us as individuals or as a group. You say that hearing children can learn ASL, but deaf children are denied access to their native language at the start of hearing loss identification. We have yet to observe our rocks, open them and see if we can make a difference by being a part of the world that you are a part of as a human being. We are told that we cannot open them because there is stigmata tied to our rocks.
I want you to look at your ‘rock’, a symbol of your whole being, while our rocks are our ‘whole identity’ rather than a part of us. How did you defy the ‘rock’ into becoming a part of your identity? How were you able to access that or those resources to defy the barrier? Think about how we as a people with varying hearing loss can overcome those barriers the same way you can. Removing a resource will further degrade our ability to interact in the real world, become productive citizens, contributing educators, business people, athletes and whatever possibly can be imagined.
These rocks are our essence, the soul of each being. Politics is not something you should play with, nor are the lives of people born to this world. Those rocks deserve the human capacity to be opened or moved to pave a way for a whole human being who happens to be deaf or hard of hearing.
(Let me say something… low test scores by deaf students have various rationales; you have limited language use (whether L1/L2 (ASL/English), the quality of education and interpreters in the school system have a factor in that as well as parent involvement in the education and communication use at school/home).