Front Page

From the President's Pen...

Although we are an organization of teacher educators, it is deaf and hard of hearing children-not universities or school programs-which are our raison d etre. In the courses we teach, the programs we manage, and our association itself, we must keep the needs of these children at the forefront of what we do and why we do it.

The term deaf and hard of hearing implies a dichotomy, but often is used as if referring to a single homogeneous group. In reality, deaf and hard of hearing students comprise a tremendously complex and heterogeneous group. In at least 3 dimensions, their diversity is significantly broader than the American school-age population: (a) their hearing loss, of course, with all of its implications for language, literacy, and content acquisition; (2) their ethnic diversity; and (3) their disabilities and special learning needs not directly related to hearing loss.

In deaf education teacher preparation, we have erred in two opposite ways in preparing teachers for such a complex population. One error pattern is to act like the diversity does not exist-to perform as if all of the children have the same language needs and the same ethnic backgrounds, and as if none of them have any other disability or special needs. Programs following this error pattern are attempting to prepare teachers for a hypothetical average deaf or hard of hearing child-someone the programs graduates may never encounter in their classrooms.

In the opposite error pattern, we have tried to give our students doses of information and skills to help them meet the broad range of deaf and hard of hearing children. They may take courses in multiple disabilities, multiculturalism, bilingual education, speech development, auditory training, cued speech, American Sign Language, etc. Such programs may even minimize their pedagogical components in order to cover all of the specialized areas pertinent to deaf education, and risk graduating individuals who are deafness specialists but not effective teachers. A related risk is that the great breadth of such programs may not give their graduates enough knowledge and skill in any area to succeed with even one of the children for whom they are responsible.

As work on the new CED program approval manuals progresses, two directions are emerging which have the potential for reversing these error patterns. First, programs will have the option of a focus-either bilingual-bicultural or auditory-oral education-preparing educational specialists who have in-depth knowledge and skills and who know the limits of the services which they are qualified to provide. Second, other comprehensive programs may elect to prepare generalists, individuals whose knowledge and skill in a range of areas will be much more thorough than it has been in the past. Although most programs may choose this option, it also may present the most difficult and complex standards for programs to meet. Further, as ACE- DHH gets stronger and we communicate and collaborate more with one another, it will be increasingly possible to focus our programs to prepare increasingly skilled specialists who will transcend state lines, rather than attempting in a single program to prepare professionals to meet- perhaps superficially-every need of every deaf or hard of hearing child in one geographic region.

It is hard to believe that my year as your President is nearly over. In a difficult year for teacher education programs and universities, the health and effectiveness of our association is greater than ever. We are a strong voice in shaping the direction of our field through CED and the ways we communicate to improve our work. We also are leaders in the use of technology, and have an emerging voice in the legislative processes affecting deaf education. It has been an honor to have been your president for the past year. I am confident of the continued success of ACE-DHH as we continue to improve our profession to meet the needs of the heterogeneous group of children who are called deaf and hard of hearing.

...Tom Jones