Lessons from History
Lessons from History
The adage “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is a powerful one for parents and teachers of deaf students. Myths that have grown from ignorance have dogged us in this field as far back as we can see, and faulty assumptions and overgeneralizations have been sustained through time. A study of history also reveals what at first might seem like a series of random events, but which actually manifest patterns that have influenced today’s educational policy (see Fischer & Lane, 1993; Van Cleve, 1993). These patterns are related to several themes critical to the emphases of this book. One such theme is the importance of parental involvement in the education of deaf children. History provides us with factual accounts and anecdotes that enrich our understanding of the advocacy roles parents have played, especially with regard to the establishment of school programs. As we shall see, research clearly supports the role of parental involvement in both formal and informal education, as evidenced in studies demonstrating the long-term influence of mother-child relationships and early communication and the need for providing deaf children with a variety of experiences during the early years. Another theme that emerges from a historical perspective relates to how deaf people have taken an increasingly greater role in influencing their own education. Histories have been published that describe how deafness was perceived in ancient times, how various societies changed with regard to their attitudes toward deaf people, and that highlight the turning points in the education and acceptance of people who are deaf. In most published histories of deaf education, we see the long-standing conflicts through the centuries pertaining to sign language and spoken communication philosophies and the contributions of the individuals who founded school programs or attempted to teach deaf children. Often, however, writers have neglected to examine how deaf people themselves have overcome barriers in many periods of history and under a wide variety of conditions to make important contributions in education and other fields. A history of the education of deaf individuals thus should be more than just a study of changes in educational practices.
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