Saturday, 29 October 2016

Should Sign language be taught in all Schools ?

Image result for noInitially no, at least not in isolation.  This would totally undermine any attempt to educate the UK population in deafness, or hearing loss awareness. Would we not be endorsing the view 'All deaf people sign..' again ?

In asking the question how to raise real awareness ? at this time, we can't, because of polarised approaches to access, support, rights, and inclusion. Basically, any call for sign language tuition on the curriculum cannot proceed anyway, because the teachers do not exist to run a class nation-wide.

In raising 'global' awareness of issues of deafness and loss, we would require a major mind-set, and shift, and new vocational course to train up teachers who are aware themselves. Just because these people can teach sign, or lip-reading does not make them qualified to teach hearing children, or loss awareness because of their speciality..  Such teachers, tend to exist only in specialist schools at this time, and work only with the individuals who need that speciality.

Another problem is teaching sign language WITHOUT including cultural aspects, or obscuring hearing children's perceptions on grammar they are still acquiring.  A class could not be started until we were confident conflict on grammar acquisition, would not arise. The calls for sign language tuition is about more effective communications with 'Deaf' people only.  We would be doing 11m people with a hearing loss a great disservice by concentrating on just .00550 of their entire community.

Factually main access to daily hearing life, is text, not sign for deaf people, advances in technology also suggest, that apart from direct socialising, sign awareness isn't needed, as deaf prefer other deaf peers, not hearing, their entire social set up is based around that, would they cope with hearing in their world ? When they are claiming deaf areas are their 'refuge' from them. In educating hearing people, you are not educating deaf people for the changes.  It's a one-way approach...  That doesn't work in social terms.

There is no certainty that the minority of deaf sign users are fluent either in the 'language' they 'prefer'.  A lot have no direct knowledge of their 'culture' either.  With the dissolution of many deaf schools, those most experienced have drifted away and/or retired, so the expertise would have to be re-acquired, but, with modern-day inclusive process, because since the inclusion of many access and equality laws over the last 30 years have been updated, singular approaches would be difficult to proceed with.  Sign continues because they have card of 'Culture' to play.

Today, BSL is NOT fully recognised in law via the UK, (particularly in education), where the primary approaches are still mooted as all-inclusive. There are still primary issues of basic choices, expressed by parents.  Parents of hearing children may well feel, their child needs a higher priority put on other subjects and languages first, and wary of their children being taught different grammatical approaches at this critical learning phase.

Sign classes were introduced in some FE schools a while ago, and were abused by hearing students who used such classes to gain points to go to University, and never actually used sign anywhere else, or entered the supportive areas for deaf.   

Research into sign at infant/primary level, found a marked reluctance to continue with sign language after age 7. Opinion differs as to why, but consensus seems to suggest 'peer pressures' change as they go into areas where older children are and, who then, 'follow the herd'.

There was no appreciable gain between ages 7 to 17, the same areas they are suggesting sign should be on the curriculum.  Let us approach the question direct.  What is in it for hearing people, to acquire a signed language ?  How will it benefit them ?  The questions may appear contentious, but we have to ask them, we go to school to learn skills we need, when we leave.  

If we are to follow that to logical conclusion then the area most in need of communication support and awareness, are the 11m currently without it, not the BSL user.     Fairness and equality suggestions an holistic approach would satisfy us all.   

However, the UK lacks ANY course, vocational or otherwise, to train up the people needed to teach that awareness. You have sign courses, you have random lip-reading ones, sporadically placed, (mostly in city areas only), very few if any, operate a unified approach to awareness, because they are specialising. There is no such thing as organised 'deaf awareness' except as a sop to access and inclusion policies.  The fact the terms deaf or Deaf are used at every level, and often via a 'scatter gun' policy, identifies such areas as polarised, and very biased or random, already.

Deaf Culture and BSL are not even taught in unison with grass roots in many respects, as we see 'cultural centres' being set up to teach sign, but without the inclusion OF, 'Deaf' communities around them, they are DIY 'Jobs for the BSL boys and girls' who teach Hearing who want to work in the field, but, those they teach get no 'HI' or hearing loss awareness.    There is a lot of 'culture' thrown in with the sign, to flesh out  credibility, which is not entirely accurate either,and won't benefit a sign learner in real terms, to communicate more effectively..

You would be hard-pressed to find many in UK deaf clubs au fait with Mr Eepee' or Milan.  With deaf people or with HoH people, there is ONLY one issue to be addressed, communication.  Culture, is a side show, to that main event. On an equality, and idealistic level, yes, we should all learn to communicate with each other, but this puts all the onus on schools to do that, who are under huge pressures from many other areas of disabilities, and languages, as well as ethnic and cultural demands being made on them.

BSL is just 1, of 260 of them.  No-one is teaching children to lip-speak properly. Some faith schools will refuse to include sign language, they may have their own cultural norms, which would be reflected in any class make up these days.  E.G. recent deaf.read posts included e.g. Nigerians who hide their deaf children away because they feel deafness is a curse.   Some Asian communities who won't even let their deaf child go to school.  There is an Asian lady in her 70s in my deaf club, who never went.  

Our kids will struggle to cope, meeting all those demands, and so will already hard-pressed teachers, expected to accommodate 69m people who are different.  Unless communication awareness is taught as a basic, ATR would never support any singular approach, because that would unfairly discriminate by default.  We do think communication is vital, but everyone's is, not just that of the few.



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