Mark Drolsbaugh: Why I wrote a book about Deaf education called Madness in the Mainstream

Posted on March 9, 2016

Mainstreaming has turned education for Deaf and hard of hearing children into a confusing mess. There are a lot of things that make Deaf advocates wonder out loud: “This kind of thing still goes on? In 2016?”

Yes, it does.

I’ve seen Deaf kids intentionally separated in mainstream programs – which is absurd, because meeting other people who have a lot in common with you is precisely what empowers you.

I’ve seen the use of sign language strongly discouraged in spite of research that shows it improves language acquisition for all Deaf and hard of hearing students, including those who use cochlear implants.
Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 07.20.33As a Deaf person who grew up mainstreamed – and, for a time, had my own Deaf son go through a similar experience – I realized there’s a lot of information that’s withheld from parents of Deaf children. Even worse, there’s a lot of misinformation that’s shared with the very same parents.

This the driving force behind my book, Madness in the Mainstream. My passion for getting the truth out is so strong that a 2nd edition has recently been released. I’ve been moved to expose some of the flawed logic about Deaf education in a way that would make George Carlin proud. Among some of the rants:

“How can a school celebrate Diversity Day like this one did, while going out of its way to make sure a diverse group of Deaf kids didn’t get to know each other? What’s next, separate bathrooms for the signing Deaf and the auditory-verbal Deaf?”

“What do you mean, ‘don’t send a Deaf kid to a Deaf school because you might lose him to Deaf culture?’ My Deaf kid has thrived in a Deaf school. And I have two hearing kids. I send them to hearing schools, and… (smacking myself on the head)… they keep coming back! I don’t ‘lose’ them to hearing culture.”

“Research has shown that social life is correlated with longevity. So should we assume mainstreaming is hazardous to our health?”

“Sign language doesn’t hurt your English. Lack of language hurts your English.”

“Hearing people are enrolling en masse in sign language classes all over the country. Hearing parents are tripping over themselves trying to teach their hearing babies how to sign because they know it offers a head start in language acquisition. And yet… Deaf children are told, ‘No! Don’t do that!’ What’s the logic behind this?”

Yes, I’m a lot of fun at presentations. It’s all in the book, too, because something needs to be done about the madness going on in the mainstream.

I’ve given up on trying to talk sense into legislators and educational administrators because it’s like talking to a plank. But I’ve found that parents – who have their kids’ best interests at heart – are often the best allies.

Madness in the Mainstream is written for the parents. A lot of parents who read this book often ask, “Why didn’t anyone tell us this before?” and appreciate the behind-the-scenes reality that’s opened to them.

It’s also an enjoyable read for Deaf people who have been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. Many of them have shared the book with their parents and said, “This is what we tried to tell you before.”

One of the reasons the issues revealed in the book fly under the radar is because it’s possible for Deaf and hard of hearing children to succeed academically in the mainstream. But socially and in other areas, there are gaps that are rarely addressed, and can cause long-term harm if they’re ignored.

Some mainstream educators are excited by Deaf and hard of hearing students’ academic success because it gives the impression these students are fitting in with the hearing world. They rarely understand how hard these students are working to pull this off. And that’s worthy of another rant right there:

“Their minds are so full of who they want us to be, they don’t see who we really are.”

The only way to break out of this and create positive change is through awareness. Madness in the Mainstream creates that awareness. The stories are heartfelt, touching, and in some cases ridiculously funny… but ultimately, they reveal a hidden world that’s in need of change. Let’s make it happen.

Mark Drolsbaugh is the author of Deaf Again, Anything But Silent, and Madness in the Mainstream. A former columnist for DeafNation, Silent News, and SIGNews, he currently has a DrolzUncensored blog on Deaf Culture Online ( Madness in the Mainstream is back with a 2nd edition that’s also available in ebook format at

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