Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vygotsky and Gramsci

Do you recognize those names? If you earned your teaching credential in at least the last 20 years you probably do. I certainly recall encountering them in my credentialing classes as well as my CLAD (cross-cultural, language, and academic development--think "bilingual") courses. Here's an interesting article that links them:

Months ago, an email from a teacher spurred me to investigate the theories of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). My research revealed starry-eyed academics enamored of collectivism.

Vygotsky contended that "creative play" could provide relief to children dealing with "tension" caused by unsatisfied desires.[2] The psychologist expounded on Soviet activity theory, an offshoot of "cultural-historical theory."[3] Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist whom I've discussed in previous articles, also drew on cultural-historical theory. Gramsci's "cultural Marxism" called for the intentional erosion of Western society. Since the 1980s, early childhood education has increasingly incorporated Vygotskyian techniques that answer Gramsci's call...

Two prominent psychologists find that Lev Vygotsky's "Marxist orientation" determined "his scientific preoccupations," in other words, his education theories.[9] Revealingly, nine years after Vladimir Lenin violently seized power and fathered the USSR, Vygotsky lauded "the cleansing threat of social revolution." Furthermore, Vygotsky cheered the crumbling of "the very foundations of bourgeois morality," insisted that the achievement mentality "be swept clear out of our schools," and anointed educators with the job of instilling a new morality. To Soviet Vygotsky, the best morality was Soviet collectivism.

Vygotsky intended to "create the new Soviet Man, the kind of being that would be needed in the Soviet society of the future." The psychologist conceived the "Zone of Proximal Development" (ZPD), a tool for reconditioning young minds and forming a new society from the old. Vygotsky aimed to deliver young collectivists to ruling class elites intent on "societal reconstruction."[10]

Ignoring Vygotsky's motives, the authors of America's early childhood education curricula train teachers in techniques based on the ZPD. A bit of investigation shows that education students are fed "grand" arguments and kept in the dark concerning "numerous underdeveloped ideas and contradictions."[11] The Tools of the Mind organization even admits that Vygotsky's theories are but "a specific set of beliefs." [Emphasis added.] The TOTM curriculum's effectiveness was tested only by a "quasi-experimental study" plagued with sloppy methods.[12] The truth is that there is simply no trustworthy proof that Vygotskyian techniques develop superior cognitive skills in children. Indoctrinated and misled, America's teachers are unwittingly using tactics conceived by a Marxist to spawn USSR-minded kids in the USA.

Teachers are also not informed that Vygotsky detested "capitalist culture," rejected Western society, and cherished the "tribal village." The psychologist prescribed a "moral education" blended "imperceptibly into all those general modes of behavior that may be established and regulated by the social environment." To accomplish the blending, Vygotskyian-trained teachers rigidly control the classroom environment and allow only authoritatively prescribed behaviors. Individualism is verboten. Gene by gene, the collectivist virus erases children's predisposition for achievement. Neuron by neuron, the bug weakens traditional morality. And teachers aren't even aware of having injected the pathogen.

Indeed, teachers faithfully condition children in Vygotsky's "new ways of interacting with people," unaware that those "ways" conform to totalitarian visions.

In one of my classes once, we were given a talk by someone who'd worked directly with Paulo Freire in Brazil. When I asked her a question relating Freire and Gramsci, her response was something along the lines of how much she "enjoyed" getting questions about Italian communists from American Republicans, and that she'd get back to me. Of course she never did.


Ricochet said...

So, to rephrase (and, oh, this gives me another place to go on some research): the push in American education to have students work in groups (rather than the old boring [but it worked for some] way of teaching in a traditional manner)is based on Vgotsky?

Darren said...

Is that what you got out of that article?

Ellen K said...

Makes me long for Piaget.