PARENTDEAF-HH: TC and Bi/Bi Educational Theories

Key Words: Deaf education information, deafness related issues, deaf education

Subj: TC and Bi/Bi (long)
Date: 97-07-17 22:30:45 EDT
From: (Celeste Johnson)

On Thu, 17 Jul 1997 17:07:11 -0400, Philip N. Moos wrote: >By today's definition, Total Communication does not work. It's the Bi-Bi approach. Total Communication is talking and signing at the same time which has shown its failure. With Bi-Bi, you still have both, but not at the same time.

I'm not disagreeing with you, Phil, I just have a slightly different slant on it. In my opinion, the Total Communication Philosphy, as originally conceived, and as defined by David Denton, has tremendous merit. Admittedly, there is no one-size-fits-all for anyone's education. I believe that the original philosophy, to which I adhered at home with my Deaf daughter, JJ, requires the flexibility to use individual approaches with individual children, as determined by their individual needs. It was somewhat revolutionary at the time, because previously there had been Oral, or Manual, or the Combined Method, which was essentially SimCom (simultaneous communication.)

In practice, however, what generally occurred, particularly with the artificial creation of Manual Codes for English, was that contemporaneously, many educators espoused the concept of Total Communication, and the reputed virtues of MCE. So then, theoretically, it reverted back to SimCom, but using whatever brand of MCE the program embraced. (Shades of de l'Epee.)

In reality, teachers found the pure use of MCE virtually impossible to consistently use in practical classroom and real life situations. So some form of bastardized MCE was used simultaneously with spoken English. (Carol Erting's studies on this are fascinating. Teachers who swore they used every single feature of their chosen MCE, every single moment, were proven by videotape, to be wrong, much to their own astonishment.) David Stewart also has put extensive effort into documenting what really happens linguistically in the classroom, with similar results. The upshot of this is that among some there is agreement that children in TC classrooms do not get consistent language input from the language models they have at school, and possibly elsewhere. Obviously there are no rules for PSE (pidgin signed English), or any consistent production among individuals, as with any pidgin.

Having come to such a practice, the promise of Total Communication did not come to fruition, with any degree of statistical significance. It did prove to be successful with some students. Hence, the birth of Bi/Bi which eschews aritficial "languages" (okay, I admit it, I hold the same bias) and builds on the empirical data replicated in numerous studies over long periods of time, that Deaf children of Deaf ASL users have better literacy skills than any other group of prelingual, profoundly deaf students.

My understanding is that the Bilingual/Bicultural philosophy uses ASL as the language of instruction and face to face communication, and teaches Enlish as a written language. It places equal emphasis and value on both languages, as well as equal emphasis and value on both hearing and Deaf Cultures, recognizing that language and culture are inseparable. The degree to which spoken English -speech- is emphasized varies by program and individual preferances, though by definition, ASL is a voice-off language. (I visited the Indiana School for the Deaf last year, which has adopted a Bi/Bi philosophy, and all the children I saw used amplification.)

To my way of thinking, Bi/Bi is an option within the *original* Total Communication philosophy, if it meets the student's needs. That is the approach I took at home with JJ, while she was in a TC mainstream program, of the typical variety. While she is no more perfect than the rest of us, she is very literate as well as comfortable in both cultures. Her self-concept does not suffer, either.

I've loaned out my Bi/Bi books, so I don't have the precise references at hand, but if I recall correctly, two good books on Bi/Bi are, or close to being titled, "Educating a Deaf Child Bilingually," by Mashie and one published by Gallaudet University Press, "Bi/Bi, What's Up?" or something like that. The one book that had the most profound impact on me, and which shaped the approach I took at home with JJ, is "Psycholinguistics and Total Communication: The State of the Art," ed. T.J. O'Rourke, T.J. Publishers, 1966. I believe it is out of print, but can be obtained through interlibrary loan. I was not nearly as impressed with its sequel, "A Free Hand: Enfranchising the Education of Deaf Children," Eds.,Walworth, Moores & O'Rourke, T.J. Publishers, 1992, though I think it is well worth reading. (I might also be jaded.)

Sorry for the long lecture, it's the prof in me.


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