Mainstreaming of Deaf Education in the Republic of Ireland: Language, Power, Resistance
Mathews, Elizabeth S. (2011) Mainstreaming of Deaf Education in the Republic of Ireland: Language, Power, Resistance. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
This thesis examines the mainstreaming of primary level deaf education in the Republic of Ireland. Following legislation in 1998 and again in 2004, parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing (D/HH) children are now facilitated in sending their child to the local school. As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of D/HH in those settings and a subsequent decline in enrolment in schools for the deaf. No examination has been conducted, however, into the impact of mainstreaming on the situation in Ireland, in spite of serious concerns raised internationally about the inappropriate nature of mainstreaming for this cohort. As a result, this thesis explores the changing geographies of deaf education in the Republic of Ireland. Drawing on interviews with parents, teachers, and D/HH children, it unpacks the policy, practice, and ideological foundations of mainstreaming in the Irish system. It is particularly concerned with the power relations at play in the system. Using theories on power by Michel Foucault and John Allen, I analyse the changing geographies of power and resistance at play in mainstreaming of deaf education. Historically, the field of deaf education has been an ideological battleground between medical and social models of d/Deafness. Changes in educational practice have typically seen a shift in the dominance of one model over the other. With the mainstream movement, the changing geographies of deaf education and the subsequent spatial dispersal of D/HH children from their peers has provided an opportunity for the mass ‘normalisation’ of this cohort through assimilation with hearing children. As a result, it threatens a social model of Deafness by hitting at the source of traditional resistance against medicalization of D/HH bodies: the use of Sign Language and the collective resistance facilitated by congregation of D/HH children at residential schools.
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