For­mer prin­ci­pal ques­tions ‘new’ technology rea­son­ing

The Compass - - OPINION -

Dear Edi­tor:

Since re­leas­ing a state­ment to the press about the clos­ing of the New­found­land School for the Deaf (NSD), I have tried to monitor com­ments made by the Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion, Darin King, to the me­dia. It is clear to me the Min­is­ter is not well in­formed.

First, the Min­is­ter claims new technology like ‘cochlear implants’ have had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on en­roll­ment at NSD. Cochlear implants have been avail­able com­mer­cially since 1972. That was five years be­fore the first per­sonal com­puter (Com­modore PET) be­came com­mer­cially avail­able in 1977.

Most of us would not think of technology in­tro­duced that long ago as new technology. Like the per­sonal com­puter, cochlear implants have evolved and im­proved, but to claim they are ‘new technology’ gives a dif­fer­ent mean­ing to the word ‘new’.

In New­found­land, chil­dren trav­elled to On­tario for cochlear implants as far back as 1996, and in 1997 the New­found­land School for the Deaf was of­fer­ing spe­cial­ized pro­gram­ming for stu­dents with cochlear implants which in­cluded on site Au­di­tory Ver­bal Ther­apy and on site au­di­o­log­i­cal ser­vices in the best class­room acous­tic en­vi­ron­ment in Canada.

The op­er­a­tion of that pro­gram was taken from the School for the Deaf by the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion in 2001. Cochlear implants did not re­duce en­roll­ment, can­celling the school’s pro­gram did.

The Min­is­ter also claims there was more de­mand for ser­vices in an in­te­grated set­ting. The School for the Deaf ini­ti­ated sup­port for deaf and hard of hear­ing stu­dents to at­tend classes with their hear­ing peers when this was ap­pro­pri­ate.

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