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Deaf Education: Numbering Our Flaws

This is an article about numbers.  It does not purport to be anything else.  I will delineate numbers that varying researchers spent quite a bit of time gathering, and then I will discuss them briefly and draw connections to the potential political consequences of having the numbers listed define our reality.  It is my personal opinion that the energy of our community is wasted on dithering about identity politics, such as whether or not an individual is little “d” or big “D”.  The focal point of the deaf community’s discourse should be the numbers listed below and their devastating impact on all of our futures.  Our education is poor; our prospects are poor, and the path ahead is even bleaker.  Blue-collar opportunities given to our predecessors are no longer available to us.  Fortune is a lovely combination of the right amount of language acquisition, with the right amount of support, and the wherewithal to choose a field accommodating to the deaf.  At best, we toil in obscurity while hearing people use our work to advance in fields rightfully ours.  At worst, we scrap with the government bureaucracy of our colonizers for meager checks and benefits. 

The numbers that brick our paths are not new.  I’ve seen them bandied about in intense discussions.  The numbers hang there, unchained and improperly defined; they are wasted opportunities to seize the crux of the deaf community’s failure to educate itself and unbind our prophesized failures.  My hopes are that having some numbers listed with points to sources will provide a foundation for future discourses, on this site and elsewhere…

[Editor’s note: The remainder of Jonathan Henner’s article appears at Deafpolitics.org. We urge you to visit this website to finish reading this piece and to gain access to some eye-opening statistics. Meanwhile, Henner’s reference list is offered below.]


Anderson, D. (2006). Lexical development of deaf children acquiring signed languages. In M. Marschark, B. Schick, & P. E. Spencer. (Eds.). Advances in the sign language development of deaf children. (pp. 135-160). New York: Oxford University Press

Blamey, P. J., Sarant, J. Z., Paatsch, L. E., Barry, G. J., Bow, P. C., Wales, R. J., Wright, M., Psarros, C., Rattigan, K., & Tooher, R. (2001). Relationships among speech perception, production, language, hearing loss, and age in children with impaired hearing. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 44,  264-285.

Dolman, D. (2010). Enrollment trends in deaf education teacher preparation programs, 1973-2009. American Annals of the Deaf, 155(3), 353-359.

Henner, J. (2010). Audism in the American annals of the deaf: An assessment of volumes 154 and 155. Final Paper for DE572.

Hoffmeister, R. (2010). Language, bilingualism, & literacy instruction in deaf children. DE572 Psychology and the Deaf Lecture PowerPoint.

Hoiting, N. (2006). Deaf children are verb attenders: Early sign vocabulary development in dutch toddlers. In M. Marschark, B. Schick, & P. E. Spencer. (Eds.). Advances in the sign language development of deaf children. (pp. 161-188). New York: Oxford University Press

Johnson, H. A. (2004). U.S. deaf education teacher preparation programs: A look at the present and a vision for the future. American Annals of the Deaf, 149, 75-91.

Kyle, F. E., & Harris, M. (2006).  Concurrent correlates and predictors of reading and spelling achievement in deaf and hearing school children. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11(3), 273-288

Luckner, J. L., & Handley, C. M. (2008). A summary of the reading comprehension research undertaken with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. American Annals of the Deaf, 155(1), p. 8-35

NetSignNews.com (2008). Unemployment rates in the deaf community.  Retrieved from http://www.netsignnews.com/Opinion_-_Discussion/Unemployment_Rates_In_The_Deaf_Community.php

Young, G. A., & Killen, D. H. (2002). Receptive and expressive language skills of children with five years of experience using a cochlear implantAnnals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, 111, 802-810.

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