Mitch Daniels vs American Sign Language

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but it’s always interesting to read about a new issue:

Here, the clash began this spring, when Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, filled four empty slots on the board of the Indiana School for the Deaf, which was founded more than 165 years ago and promotes what it calls a bilingual, bicultural philosophy that includes American Sign Language and English. Some 340 students go to the school, which provides outreach services to hundreds of others.

Parents complained that three of the appointees were not themselves deaf. Two of the new board members (both of whom have a deaf or hard-of-hearing child) drew particular anger because families said they were dues-paying members of Hear Indiana and were perceived to favor an educational approach of amplifying sound and encouraging speech over sign language.

The appointments, they said, signaled that the state was now picking sides — against American Sign Language and deaf culture.

I know that hear in DC we’ve had a version of this controversy around Gallaudet University. In essence, technological methods of helping people to hear are improving and that’s tending to undercut the bases of support for traditional deaf language and culture. It’s not clear that Daniels actually intended to stumble into this contentious issue or was just looking for ways to slash spending and thought a 13 percent cut to the School for the Deaf’s budget sounded smart as a fiscal matter.