The construction of deaf children as marginal bilinguals in the mainstream

Autor/a: MCKEE, Rachel
Año: 2008
Editorial: International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 11, nº 5 (2008) pp. 519-540
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Comunidad y cultura sorda, Educación


The political discourse of Deaf ethnolinguistic identity has empowered Deaf people in recent decades to deconstruct a pathological model of deafness and the deficit pedagogy that centres on acquisition of speech and social assimilation. The engagement of Deaf community members in consultation and employment in the New Zealand (NZ) education system has progressed the ideological recognition of Deaf claims for a bilingual identity and pedagogy in the education arena. However these priorities sit uneasily within the special education discourse which assumes an individual needs-based approach to accommodating diverse learners in regular school settings. The recognition of sign language and Deaf experience as valid cultural capital raises questions about the sociolinguistic status and educational needs of deaf children individually enrolled in mainstream schools, contexts which do not currently afford the interactional conditions for a sign bilingual education. Based on a larger study of deaf children in NZ mainstream primary schools, this paper analyses an illustrative case study of a 10-year-old deaf boy with a cochlear implant, to critically consider the extent to which mainstreamed deaf learners are constructed as potential bilinguals in the discourse that defines and addresses their needs. Analysis shows this learner to be positioned as a marginal bilingual or defective monolingual by the aggregation of beliefs, decisions, interactions and resources that construct his educational context. Finally, the paper reports the vision of Deaf informants working in the mainstream school system for changing learning outcomes, from a construct of deaf children as members of a collective with a heritage of cultural adaptations that should inform appropriate educational responses.