Last week, I joined the warm crowd who welcomed Dr. Paddy Ladd at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, California, where he treated us to a sneak preview of his new book that challenges the prevailing methods in Deaf Education, which have been invented and promoted by hearing people.
Dr. Paddy Ladd at CSD Fremont, October 8, 2013
His presentation, co-sponsored by CSD and the Deafhood Foundation, A Final Frontier: Can Deafhood Pedagogies Revolutionize Deaf Education? was live-streamed by the Deafhood Foundation, which promises to make the video available at a later date, but Dr. Ladd’s Power Point slides can be found on their website now.
Ladd provocatively engaged the audience with, “We’ve been colonized!” and continued, “Books on Deaf education are written by hearing people, and our perspective is not incorporated in the curriculum. This has the consequence that Deaf children show poor results. Then the blame is placed on the parents, on the child, on sign language–everywhere other than where it belongs.”
“Why not trust those who have been successfully educating Deaf children for generations,” Dr. Ladd proposed, namely Deaf educators. This topic, which Dr. Ladd has been researching for many years, is the focus of his new book, a 300+ page volume he hopes to have finished next year, tentatively entitled,
SEEING THROUGH NEW EYES: Deaf Pedagogies and the Unrecognized Curriculum.
Dr. Ladd acknowledged the inspiration and support received from Dr. Hank Klopping, retired CSD Superintendent, and CSD teachers Laura Peterson and Dee Kennedy. He praised CSD’s Bilingual-Bicultural approach and its excellent teachers. He also recognized his co-researcher on the studies that form the basis for his new book, Dr. Donna West, a hearing teacher, who “helped him see things he otherwise would have missed.”
Now that his Department of Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol is closed despite a public campaign to save it, Ladd cited the upside of having more time to write and finish this book.
Against a background of “Cultural Holism,” Ladd outlined six overlapping Developmental Stages, from ages 0-5 “Developing the Cognitive Engine” to ages 7-18 “Teaching how to live in Deaf and Hearing worlds.” One cultural point I especially appreciated was his suggestion of contextualizing “Deaf bluntness” or “Straight Talk” as it shows Deaf children that you care and that they are loved.”
His book draws parallels with other indigenous peoples and minority communities such Maori, African-American and Native American and he gave special recognition to Dr. Marie Baptiste of Canada, her work with Indigenous Knowledge and her assertion that cognitive imperialism by “others” inflicts “soul wounds.”
The anticipation is high for Ladd’s new book after the huge impact his first book Understanding Deaf Culture:In Search of Deafhood has made around the world.
Deaf Way II panel, with L to R: Thomas Holcomb, Theresa Smith, Anna Mindess, Ben Bahan, Paddy Ladd.
A personal note: I first met Paddy Ladd in 2000 in Amsterdam at the TISLR conference (Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research) where we both presented. My book had just come out and he was still working on his. We connected against the backdrop of extremely theoretical papers because both of us hoped that our work would result in practical changes. Then in 2002, at Deaf Way II, Tom and I were honored to be invited by Paddy to join him in a panel he chaired called Researching Deaf Culture, Liberating Deaf Community (with Ben Bahan and Theresa Smith). Here is a very old picture of us all.
And I just found that Gallaudet recently made available online a video of the entire panel presentation at:
Please be advised that Paddy signs in BSL (the rest of us in ASL). The video includes voice interpretation, but no captions.