This has been on my mind for a while, so I’ll try my best in sharing my musings. I was born deaf and was raised by parents who are deaf too. We all graduated from the same school, ISD. Much of my sign language development came from my parents (in the early stages) and the deaf peers (later stages) at the school. Now, to bring this to a topic, it should be noted that ISD only employs 10% of its staff who are deaf. Which means most of my peers sign better than most teachers at the school. I can remember many times when my friends and I would make a little funny joke, teachers would ask what were we joking about but we wouldn’t want to bother explaining because we knew they wouldn’t get it anyway. It’s a cultural thing, you know. From time to time, I often wonder why hearing teachers would want to work at a deaf school anyways? wouldn’t their service better be rendered elsewhere, perhaps at public schools? They can barely sign. Yet they remain at the school, as I later learned, our school pays better than public schools, with the union protection and this is equally important, deaf students aren’t as vocal as their hearing counterparts, they become quite comfortable at our school, controlling things to their favors. Statistics has shown that sex crimes were committed higher at deaf schools than any other school.
Teaching jobs is a popular avenue for deaf students because it’s one of those few jobs where knowledge of sign language is a prerequisite. So, if a hearing person were to take the teaching job, it means a lost job opportunity for deaf people, as most of them aren’t likely to leave the school and stay there till retirement. Also, one most common difficulty for deaf graduates to get a teaching job is they’ll have to pass the teachers certification exam, which tends to be different in each state. So, for example, if a deaf student studied at Gallaudet University and got a degree in deaf education, it doesn’t mean they are ready to teach yet. They’d have to take additional courses in that state, and then pass the teacher certificate test. Whereas it’s a different case for hearing students, their path to becoming a deaf educator is marginally easier, as their in-state colleges have a closer designed curriculum, of what would be on the exam and by the time they’re seniors, they’re well-prepared to take the teachers exam with a relatively high success rate and they arrive at their goal much sooner than deaf counterparts. Then they take in one of the scarcest jobs for deaf people.
See this link – http://www.mac.edu/academics/catalog/current/education.asp – all set up nicely in steps 1 to 7, upon the completion of the Assessment of Professional Teaching test.
So, it’s not hard to see why the % for deaf employees remain historically low at the school.
That’s one thought I have. Another thought I have comes from a recent deaf event. Two years ago, I excitedly traveled to five different countries in the east Asia over the span of 17 days with my good friend, Bak. One of these highlights was attending the 2009 Deaflympics. I’ve had always wanted to attend the Deaflympics, after having heard from deaf peers, and ofc, I am a fan of sports. But I learned a couple of things while attending the Deaflympics. In my mind, I had thought that more than 10,000 fans would go to this event but not very many people went – I think only 500 fans or fewer. For the opening ceremony, the tickets were literally sold out. How so? were there that many interested fans? No, most of the “fans” were Taiwanese citizens who wanted to see the fancy grand performance by dancers and singers. Also, the president of Taiwan would make an appearance at the event. A deaf friend mentioned to me that there was a bit of politics and competition going on between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China, as the PROC recently hosted the 2008 Olympics. So, the ROC wanted to follow that up with its own grand show performance that ended with fireworks firing from the Taipei 101 tower. So, again, it’s in their own interests, doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or not. Though one deaf guy did mention to me that it was the best, most expensive opening show he’s ever seen. He’s gone to five Deaflympics before, so he has credibility.
The next thought I have, and the last one is a story told by my friend from South Korea. My friend recently flew to South Africa to attend the World Federation of the Deaf conference last summer. While there, she told me there was a big surprise visit made by someone. Guess who? It was four persons from North Korea coming to visit the WDF. However, none of them were deaf. As you may know, tensions between North Korea and South Korea still remain high, with no peace treaties formally signed, so technically, both countries are still at a war. It was the first time and an awkward moment for them to be meeting one another—there’s even a law that disallows citizens from meeting each other due to the risks of espionage. It was an interesting experience, she said, although it felt like something can go off at any minute and they rush to defend their ideologies and what they stand for their country. Patriotism, you know. Yet I’m not sure what’s their business visiting the WDF and it’s not like they are going to improve life conditions for their deaf citizens in North Korea after they go back. So, my question is what are their interests toward deaf people? and hearing people whose sign language skill is barely fluent enough truly want to teach to deaf children? and do they want to truly host an international event for the deaf people or for their own interests? To be, or not to be, that is the question, my friends.