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The impact of differing onto-epistemological stances toward plurilingualism and the implications for posthumanist plurilingual policies in education for deaf students

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The binarization of language choices for deaf children and youth—that is, spoken English or American Sign Language (ASL)--encourages competition in deaf education for resources, personnel and spaces. Saskatchewan Ministry of Education policy
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  1 The impact of differing onto-epistemological stances toward plurilingualism and the implications for posthumanist plurilingual policies in education for deaf students Joanne C. Weber  1   Abstract The binarization of language choices for deaf children and youth  —  that is, spoken English or American Sign Language (ASL)--encourages competition in deaf education for resources,  personnel and spaces. Saskatchewan Ministry of Education policy documents contain language  planning discourses that subscribe to the cognitive-imperialist ideological frame concerning language acquisition in deaf children. Within this frame, plurilingualism is threatened by language hierarchization, linguistic prejudice, and structuralist approaches to language teaching which are often decontextualized and devoid of consideration of multiple semiotic resources that contribute to plurilingualism. Some researchers are beginning to explore the development of educational policy documents within a posthumanist frame. Posthumanist discourses concerning the flattened ontologies of humans, animals, and living and nonliving matter aim to bypass objectification of the “other” in  terms of deaf people, immigrants, and people with diverse abilities. Alternative artistic texts set a posthumanist frame for language planning and may  provide more expansive guiding principles for deaf children’s language access and acquisition. 1   University of Regina, Canada e-mail: joanneweber49@gmail.com    2 1.1   Introduction In this chapter, I explore monolingual and plurilingual language planning discourses embedded in policy and artistic texts produced in Saskatchewan, Canada that represent two epistemological frames: cognitive imperialism (Battiste, 2013) and posthumanism (Barad, 2007; Braidotti, 2013). First, I will explore plurilingualism within a cognitive-imperialist epistemology and how it limits possibilities for plurilingualism in deaf education in a government policy text. Cognitive imperialism supports the notion of the individual as the primary site of learning and cognition (Battiste, 2013) and draws upon the Enlightenment’s hegemonic theme of universality , freedom and autonomy of the individual regardless of context. I explore the discourses of cognitive imperialism in the 1990 Deaf Education Advisory Forum report, which promoted oralism and mainstream education environments and engineered the diminishing of the deaf community (Saskatchewan Deaf Education Advisory Forum 1990). Secondly, I will position an alternative critical text in the form of arts-based data from the theatrical play  Deaf Crows  that was performed in Regina, Saskatchewan in 2016 and that illustrates plurilingualism within a posthumanist frame (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). The text articulates the ways in which the use of material, spatial, social, and cultural semiotic resources can support plurilingualism in deaf children and youth. Posthumanism highlights the rhizomatic  performativity of deaf people in intra-action with humans, animals, machines and earth (Barad 2007) and suggests ways in which posthuman applied linguistics can contribute to a plurilingual language policy (Pennycook 2018) within the field of deaf education. I first provide an overview of plurilingualism and then explore the implications this from a cognitive imperialist epistemology and then a posthumanist onto-epistemology.  3 2.2   Plurilingualism Plurilingualism occurs when people with multiple linguistic resources communicate with each other, thereby expanding their own linguistic repertoires and knowledge of multiple cultures (Canagarajah 2013). Plurilingualism aligns with terms such as code meshing, crossing, and polyglot dialog, in which phrases from multiple languages are traded back and forth to enhance meaning and resolve the task at hand (Canagarajah 2013). Plurilingualism considers the individual ’s  linguistic repertoire that is used to construct meaning. Such a repertoire includes language varieties and degrees of linguistic competency in multiple languages (Council of Europe 2001). Plurilingualism signals a shift away from structuralist views of language learning toward a more dynamic view of language learning (Council of Europe 2017). The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) promotes the building of communicative competencies that incorporate all languages, experiences, and cultures of the individual (Council of Europe 2017). Co-construction of meaning and action-oriented learning is at the heart of language learning and teaching (Council of Europe 2017). The primary strength of the CEFR lies in its view of learners as social agents acquiring language within a socio-cultural milieu, allowing for their use of multiple linguistic resources in contexts relevant to the learner. 2.2.1 Plurilingualism Within a Cognitive-Imperialist Frame Within cognitive imperialism, the striving for universality promotes Eurocentric knowledge, experiences, cultures and languages to the exclusion of other, non-European languages and cultures (Battiste 2011). Cognitive imperialism, srcinally defined to describe the oppression of First Nations through the suppression of language and culture, is also an epistemology applicable to non-western indigenous cultures (Wu, Eaton, Robinson-Morris,  4 Wallace, and Han 2018). While deaf studies scholars eschew the use of postcolonial metaphors to describe linguistic oppression of deaf people, there is a documented confluence of racism and ableism within Canadian government policies (Peers 2015). Scientific and medical classification, and the creation of the “defective subject” managed through European colonialism extended to Canadian immigration laws and treatment of non-white, disabled applicants for entry into Canada. Moreover, such scientific and medical classification emerged in publicly funded and compulsory education, declaring who was classed as intellectually deficient following the results of IQ tests (Peers 2015). Cognitive imperialism’s long reach into the education system is manifested in public schooling’s production of wh ite skilled Canadian nationals and the differentiation and exclusion of populations known as the “other” (Peers 2015). The confluence of racialization and ableism has also been noted in United States (Artiles 2013). In the following section, I will discuss features of cognitive imperialism as applied to the context of deaf learners, the use of sign language, and reports guiding policy in deaf education. 2.2.1.1 Linguicism Linguicism is a cognitive-imperialist practice where an Eurocentric educational system  perpetuates colonial practices by using English to propagate erroneous assumptions about subjugated peoples, and shape educational curricula to favor monocultural knowledge over knowledges held by minoritized communities (Battiste 2013, Pennycook 1998). Linguicism supports the ongoing colonial enterprise promoting English as an universal language to be learned throughout the world and therefore supporting trade, tourism and capital exploitation (Pennycook 1998).  5 Language deprivation in deaf chldren and youth is an outcome of linguicism. Language deprivation syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder with sociocultural orgins (Hall, Levin, and Anderson 2017). This challenges cognitive-imperalist approaches to language acquisition by suggesting that socio-cultural biases against sign language incur cognitive deficits. Furthermore, educational and medical policy developers do not consult deaf people and exclude sign langauge as a viable languge intervention that can generate positive futures for deaf children (Hall, Levin, and Anderson 2017). 2.2.1.2 Language Hierarchization Cognitive imperialism as an outcome of prevalent neoliberal forces also imposes English as the dominant language upon indigenous and marginalized populations (Pennycook 2018, 1998). Language hierarchization is not restricted to spoken languages. In the case of deaf education in Canada, language hierarchization often precipitates language deprivation in deaf children and youth, by aligning with public schools’ mission of teaching English or French to hearing, white, nondisabled Canadian nationals. In this way, English is viewed as a power language and therefore takes precedence over other languages. Many advocates for plurilingualism invoke a call for language hierarchy-free  policies and practices and point to cognitive-based evidence in favor of plurilingualism, such as increases in visual presentation and processing, audio processing, cortical activities in each brain hemisphere, right hemisphere engagement, lateralization and heterogeneity in brain activity in users of multiple languages (Mehmedbegovic, 2017). Cummins (1976; 1978; 1991; 2000) developed the interdependence hypothesis predicated on the notion of a common underlying  proficiency (CUP) that serves to support multiple language acquisition. Language
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