Deficit Thinking – Paralysis by Analysis

Courtesy: Springs – The latest furor within the Deaf community now involves yours truly. I have been called every name in the book, from a sicko towards being a jerk. And, many people are jumping into the flaming bandwagon that’s called, “deficit thinkers,” in Deaf culture, and inserting their own definitions of the concept.

When John Egbert launched his indirect accusation that I was a deficit thinker, he set off a firestorm of angry protests by many in the Deaf community. Initially, complaints that Egbert wanted to censor certain bloggers from DeafRead gave way to redefining the concept of “deficit thinker.” In fact, a number of bloggers and vloggers are now suggesting that Deaf culture should listen to deficit thinkers.

Well, call me a jerk, but what’s funny is the way the concept has been mutated for the singular purpose of creating yet more political barriers for people wanting inclusion into Deaf culture. Or rather, more barriers are now erected to keep people out of Deaf culture, by passive-aggressively assigning terms to people to both mock them and deride them for not conforming to the select few in Deaf culture that maintain they hold a throne over all other Deaf people – such as Egbert.

Even more funny is Ella Mae Lentz‘s vlog, in which she tries to explain that deficit thinking is more about people who do not properly speak of Deaf culture. This is the new version of “not Deaf enough,” because now Lentz and Egbert have included a new provision of “deficit thinkers” – a person who speaks negatively of Deaf culture.

Before we go further, let me restate what the concept of deficit thinker means: an educator who is a deficit thinker believes that minority children lack something – or have a deficit. Black children, for example, would be believed to be incapable of performing well in school because they are black, and also because it is assumed the child comes from a poverty-stricken area, such as the ghetto. In short, deficit thinking lays the blame for the child not doing well in school directly onto the child because there is a deficit (being black and poor) that causes the child to not learn, or at least do as well as white peers in school.

As it relates to Deaf education, let’s consider what the concept means: people who subscribe to the theory that deaf children have a deficit (hearing loss) also believe that these children cannot and will not perform academically on par with hearing peers. Deficit thinkers will either suggest deaf children attend mainstream or Deaf residential schools for the same reason: the deaf child has a deficit that the general public cannot address, therefore, whatever academic failings that a deaf child incurs is a direct result of the child being deaf.

Got that? And it also involves educators “rescuing” minority children from their own deficits. Deaf residential schools are one form of “rescuing” deaf children from the larger hearing society because in the first place, such a school logically infers that a deaf child cannot do well in a public school setting because the child has a deficit (hearing loss). The blame is inevitably traced back to the parents – especially by those who are anti-oralists.

Of course, we could say the same about public and mainstreamed schools who modify their educational processes for children with hearing loss. Again, educators address the deficit (hearing loss), and blame whatever shortcomings the child might have on either the deaf child and/or the family.

Now, back to Egbert’s egg-splattered attempt at labeling me a “deficit thinker.” He himself is a deficit thinker, primarily because he endorses the view that oral deaf children are deficit themselves, and that any educational failure (or even social failures) are a direct result of the parents, the school (AG Bell Foundation in particular), and most notably, the child. He insists on rescuing oral deaf children because they are deficit (have a hearing loss), and need to learn American Sign Language (ASL) and that all failures the child endures is a direct result of not having learned ASL, or even the bi-bi method.

Aidan Mack herself is a deficit thinker, too. She tried to rescue an oral deaf boy by signing to him in ASL, and completely ignored the parents’s choices in terms of how they wanted their child to be educated. And since some quarters of the Deaf blogosphere subscribe to the notion that oralism is child abuse, more rescuing is needed because deaf children have a deficit (hearing loss) that needs to be addressed through ASL, while ignoring other variables that should be considered. This is a classic definition of deficit thinking.

Egbert’s initial complaint against deficit thinkers was one borne out of his own dislike for my articles. He continuously believes my articles are hateful towards him, or more specifically, my style of writing. And now Lentz has suggested that anyone with a negative comment, statement, article, or even clothing against Deaf culture is now a “deficit thinker.”

This is no longer about Deaf culture; this is now about creating a Deaf cult, full of people who must conform to leaders’ requirements. I’ve mentioned “Deaf cults” repeatedly in my satires, and I’ve poked fun at some of the behaviors I’ve seen both in DeafRead and from my own experiences. If that rubs some people the wrong way, well .. too bad. It is how I see it, and I know many others also feel the same way, too.

And if you wanted further proof of the cultist mentality that too many are adopting towards Deaf culture today, then you need not look further than the latest furor regarding “deficit thinkers.” Besides, one editor of DeafRead compared the uproar to a military “war,” and suggested readers to “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

How exactly is that constructive, positive encouragement towards the Deaf community? Sounds more like a person shaking the hornet’s nest to keep things buzzing, and why not? DeafRead wants more readers. If you seriously thought that DeafRead was inherently neutral, you’ve been duped. DeafRead – at least based on that editorial – is more about driving dissent and disagreement through military-like adjectives, which are reflected in many blogs and vlogs. Heck, DeafRead promotes deficit thinking – at least according to Lentz and Egbert’s definitions.

So, the good thing about it is that now I have evidence that there are Deaf militants out there. Thanks to DeafRead, they have solidified the fact the great white elephant of Deaf culture exists – it is run by Deaf militants.

Egbert is one. There are plenty of others out there, too, and they use words like, “hate,” “oppress,” “sickos,” “hearing supremacy,” “audists,” and now, “deficit thinkers.” There is something that few people have mentioned with regard to deficit thinking: it causes oppression.

Egbert wanted to suppress my participation on DeafRead. Or more precisely, he would like me to go away so he can get back to the business of being a deficit thinker in trying to save oral deaf children from himself, and other Deaf people who reject and compare oral deaf adults to foreigners. And Lentz wants people to all be uniformly equal with regard to how they discuss Deaf culture and other issues relating to Deaf education, politics and by extension, Gallaudet University. Sure sounds oppressive to me.

What does all this mean, anyway? It points to the long-known, but rarely discussed aspect of Deaf politics: people analyze certain things obsessively, while ignoring everything else. In fact, this is called, paralysis by analysis, and that is the state of Deaf culture today. Progress remains elusive not because of my articles, but because people obsessively worry about what I, and other writers, such as McConnell discuss.

One common complaint many Deaf vloggers/bloggers have against me is that I routinely laugh at and mock those same people. Well, it is true, although few seem to know why: more often than not, any person who criticizes Deaf culture finds themselves the target of a witch-hunt, or a harassment campaign. So, to politely disagree makes no difference because in the end, what matters to people like Egbert is that dissenting opinions have to be wiped off the planet, or harassed into submission. We already know about Egbert’s previous, “Who is Paotie?” fun-ride, in which he published as much personal information about me as he could possibly create.

Anyway, the fuss regarding “deficit thinkers” is comical because too many have misunderstood the concept, and have twisted it conveniently to mean something it is not. Even more funny is the hypocrisy shown by the same people in applying the term to others. Projection is often the easiest thing to see when it comes to how people respond/react to others who have a different perspective, or are simply different than themselves.

So, I ain’t worried if people think I’m a deficit thinker. I think it’s hilarious and I’ve been watching the DeafRead lists with amusement because this whole furor is based on me – Paotie.

Finally, what’s really ironic is this: for so many people to become so upset and angry about one person and his ideas suggests one thing.

I must have been right all along.

Be good .. or be good at it.


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