Deaf Education: Elements of a Critical Pedagogy


Pope Gregory I forbidding bishops to real pagan literature in the Fourth Council of Carthage in 398 A.D.—

It has come to my attention that you, my dear Brethren, have been explaining pagan literature to certain individuals….We received this matter reluctantly and vehemently rejected it…because the praises of Christ cannot coexist in the same mouth with the praises of Jupiter.

Sociological topic: Can we discuss the concepts in ASL in the same “mouth” with the concepts in Spoken English?

For years, a controversy has raged over the use of ASL in schools. Some people believe that it affronts “spoken” English and should be banned. Others regard it as quite harmless. Still other claims that ASL is beneficial, that it helps develop cognitions and provide a means to strength ASL- Written English bilingualism. Apply your creative and critical thinking and resolve the below issues.

This week—200 years ago (1816), Laurent Clerc and The Reverent Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet were on a voyage that was believed to be the greatest story of all time in Deaf Studies. They were about to leave France for America on June 18th—what did they have talked about before the land of the freedom? What kind of questions? What kind of missions? What kind of goals?

Was it ASL-Written English interpretation that has been carried on mainly at Gallaudet University? The Reverent Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet introduces Laurent Clerc, a Deaf French educator, and together they set up the first American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.

Before this, Deaf Americans had no formal schooling, and, in only 47 years after the Hartford School, in 1864 (during the American Civil War), the first National Deaf-Mute College (known today as Gallaudet University) was opened on Kendall Green in Washington, D.C., by Edward Miner Gallaudet, the youngest son of The Reverend Gallaudet and Sophia Fowler (a Deaf woman) and a native ASL- Written English.

Please note that I do not support the idea of “spoken English”–this ASL- Written English Interpretation class has perceived itself as having three major roles in our world society: (1) providing information about the interpretation of signed and written languages through research; (2) educating the citizenry of the practices and principles of signed-written language interpretation; and (3) helping to develop public policies on signed-written language interpretation.

However, two major controversies, interwoven with each other, have sorely divided the profession from its inception. The first is the division between institutional traditionalism on one side and linguistic studies on the other. The second controversy is between idealism (Alexander Graham Bell insisted that Deaf children must forget that they are Deaf.) and realism (the Junior National Association of the Deaf motto: Promoting tomorrow of all the Deaf by working with the Deaf youth of today.).

As mentioned earlier, the first ASL- Written English Interpretation in the United States was heavily influenced by the French model, which emphasized education in English. Following this French model, the traditional approach to signed-written language interpretation is grounded upon describing Deaf Education and evaluating its effects upon the ASL- Written English Interpretation. The goal is to understand both languages in order to improve life and intelligence. Traditionalism therefore combines an interest in description with a desire to prescribe changes in education for the Deaf.

In the last half century, this approach was increasingly challenged by linguistics–science of language–, which looked for ways to use ASL to study and master the English language. ASL linguistics was based upon the philosophy of science known as positivism, whose basic premise is that scientific knowledge should be derived solely from positive data, that is, from information gained by observing phenomena with our senses. Positive data in ASL-Written English interpretation include linguistic claims such as linguistic aspects of signs and words.

Much controversy developed over the application of traditional versus scientific methods to ASL-Written English Interpretation. Alexander Graham Bell’s statement to forget the “Deaf” tells us nothing and therefore is nonsense. Any statement purport to describe reality, on the other hand, is positive, and may be refuted by observation.

That is exactly why Bimodality needs to be challenged and stopped in “spoken English” in Deaf schools, Lead-K (Language Equality & Acquisition for Deaf Kids) bill proposals and even Gallaudet University, too. It would be much healthier to switch to biliteracy.

Bimodality is the perfect example of linguicism: language oppression and….Audism: a racial term coined in early 1970s to suggest that it is better to hear and speak than not because of strong hearing supremacy that we need to be radicalized and will not be tolerated by being oppressed–to protect our Deaf roots. Two isms: Linguicism and Audism=Bimodality.

In other words, Bimodality is an important reason for the poor state of critical learning and thinking, which we have concerned year after year.

After all, a Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess once told a story as a kid, he was searching for two pebbles that needs to be exactly matched, but could not complete his mission then as an adult, he was looking for two summits that needs to be exactly the same, once again, failed—in other words, no two languages are alike and I am talking about ASL and Spoken English–no way they are alike.

If you want to know more what radical is all about:



Copyright © 2016 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.

Why Bimodality Is Important Today


Back on July 15, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the mandate, that public school textbooks include accomplishments of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans, into law. In his written statement, Brown said, “History should be honest.”

Are we honest about ASL? About ASL in schools? About ASL in higher education? About ASL in Deaf Education? About ASL in our state and federal governments?

I had learned a great deal of information from Swanhilda Lily and Dan Gough about Bimodality–an academic freedom that needs to be examined in Deaf Education today and tomorrow. I’ve given a lot of thoughts about this. I recognized that ASL-English bilingualism is a great importance for Deaf Education, to be a student in the context of this ASL-English bilingualism was, for me today, is a noble gift. It is also a labor of love to do ASL, which means perpetuating in ASL.

As a student of Sociology, I have personally and professionally witnessed that ASL began to be adulterated. The role played by the general American and Canadian societies in making ASL impure by adding English elements to signs for educational purposes is responsible for the fact that it launches the language bigotry, generating the hegemony of English (listening and speaking) over ASL, though today this stands implicitly and tactically speaking only for the choice of the hearing parents of the Deaf for language development and communication. I would take note of the considerable difference that exists in doing ASL.  Although ASL has its capacity of language borrowing, a person who signs in the English word order runs the risk of “speaking like a book.”

Why ASL-English bilingualism matters: the subject is so huge, so complex, and so dear to my heart that I have decided to begin my approach to it by answering the implicit question with another question, using the technique of query-as-response–a traditional, perhaps time-honored method of indicating the almost impenetrable difficult of a subject, and certainly, as every Deaf individual knows, a good way to confound the questioner until you can think of an acceptable answer that has least a glimmer of coherence.

The answers that emerge may really depend on how the Socratic questions are formulated: Why, for example, is ASL-English bilingualism good for the Deaf? Why does it not matter to most people and governmental agencies? What is its relevance to the literary tradition in our world society? What is its contribution to the civilized life of the world? My attempt to devise a response to these various elements constitutes a kind of preliminary appraisal of some of the thorny, ongoing, apparently never-to-be-resolved problems that surround the question of ASL-English bilingualism.

That is exactly why Bimodality needs to examine and discussed more in Deaf Education today.


Copyright © 2016 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.