FIRST OPPOSITION SPEAKER
Joel Stark, Ph.D.
Queens College, CUNY
The proposition we are debating does not suggest a change in the
status quo. Undergraduate programs in Communication Science and Disorders
are pre-professional. But then, why should we even consider a change?
Enrollments in our programs are at an all time high. Administrators
love the FTE's we generate. We even have our own national accrediting
program. We are in a bull market. And as the old adage goes,
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it". We not only have survived.
We have thrived. In Kim Wilcox's words, "so far...so good".
Speaking against this proposition is speaking for the dissolution of current
undergraduate programs. Obviously this is not a popular position.
I shall manage to alienate all of you. However, let's shake things
up a bit--so it is in this spirit that I proceed.
First, we are often torn between our conviction that we need to provide broader and more rigorous interdisciplinary preparation and our self-serving desire to survive and thrive. For some time, we have been proposing resolutions to reaffirm the illusion that we are preparing scientists. Highland Park in 1963, New Orleans in 1969, and St. Paul in 1983. We have been attempting to address what Irv Hochberg so eloquently detailed as the professionalization of the discipline. In his thoughtful 1996 paper to the Council, he expressed his frustration that there has been no resolution and perhaps we just don't get it. As he said, there is something very wrong. Indeed he is very right.
Originally, we were the Council of Graduate Programs in Speech and Language Pathology and Audiology. However many in academia abhor professional programs. You see, the purpose of the undergraduate education is not to make a living, but to make life worth living? So, to give ourselves more dignity, we became Communication Sciences and Disorders. Are we really the Council of pre-, para-, and post professional and technical programs in speech-language pathology and audiology.
On our academy---Communication Sciences and Disorders. Have you ever told anyone that you are a communication scientist? A communication scientist is an engineer, not a speech-language pathologist or audiologist. Okay then, I'm a speech and hearing scientist, or a language scientist. But when I look at the staff of prestigious laboratories such as Haskins in New Haven, they have academic backgrounds in engineering, classics, physics, linguistics and experimental psychology. Or, the current brochure from the Harvard-MIT doctoral program in Speech and Hearing Sciences boasts that their student diversity is reflected in their undergraduate majors. Only 4 % came from traditional speech and hearing sciences programs. This is not to say that our programs have not produced some superb scientists. But the reality is that we are professionally oriented and lack scientific rigor. There is an appalling amount of time devoted to language, speech and hearing science instruction in both graduate and undergraduate programs. How many Master's programs require a thesis or research project? I won't embarrass us by asking for a show of hands.
A major concern is not only our lack of scientific rigor, but also the fact that our profession is rapidly becoming very mechanical and driven by clinicians who are embarrassingly ill-prepared. While current graduates know how to assist with swallowing problems, they are not able to talk to literate adults because they know pathetically little about history, the arts and life. They know how to order and use kits from Super-Duper Publications, LinguaSystems, Thinking Publications, and with the help of Word-Weaver, can write a diagnostic report. I have encountered so many so-called language clinicians who know pathetically little about language. Indeed, we are not educating Speech-Language Pathologists or clinical scientists. We are training speech and swallowing therapists and we begin this training far too early.
In other genuine professions, there is no pre-professional education.
Law schools insist that students major in liberal arts, medicine in natural and physical sciences. Students do not enter dental school with courses such as "Introduction to Dental Diseases". Let us stop pretending that is important to teach courses in clinical methodologies at the undergraduate level. Academicians also tend to demean clinical practice and demonstrate their lack of respect for it by assigning these students to do it? Further, it is unethical. Would you permit a dental student to do an extraction; a law student to argue your case, or a medical student to perform an operation? Would you have someone in your family receive services from a student even if they are being watched occasionally with videotape monitors? At what point to we dignify our conviction that we want professionals who are literate and scientific. Professionals who can read, write, speak, think, analyze, and problem solve. If we do, we must eliminate undergraduate pre-professional education.