Sunday, 5 October 2014


L. S. Vygotskii in London

Conductive World has often remarked how little Western 'Vygotskians', 'neo-Vygotskians', and 'socio-culturals' actually know or understand of L. S. Vygotskii and his works. What they preach in his name may often fly straight in the face of everything that he stood for. Only rarely does there even begin to emerge the possibility that there was once a human being behind all this, with passions and beliefs, fears and concerns, values and priorities that were of pressing importance.

With respect to Vygotskii this is now changing, with a new generation of scholars beginning to emerge on both sides of the one-time Iron Curtain, making new enquiry into original resources. And a further fresh new factor,, the published results of such enquiry may generally be found on line, open-access and free of charge, in direct contrast to much of the publication of the earlier generation of investigators in the West. This is people's knowledge, and I suspect that LSV himself might have approved of this. Examples of such new scholarship include:

This development is well worth stating here, not merely because Vygotskii is often to be found cited to support aspects of Conductive Education itself (if one is to have him cited in this way it would be nice to have have his ideas correctly stated) but also because of analogies and insights that might be drawn between the historical fate and functions of these two approaches in the years that have followed their founders' deaths (1934 in the case of the short-lived Vygotskii, 1967 in for András Pető).

Below is a short extract from the third of the above examples, from which one may derive several points.

From Russia with love...

In 1925 L. S. Vygotskii travelled to London on his one trip outside his native land, to attend the  8th International Conference on the Education of the Deaf. He left Moscow on 7 July for the long journey by boat and train, via Berlin, and was probably back around 4 August. He was fairly recently married and he pined and worried desperately about his wife Roza and their little daughter Gita.

We know this because he kept a detailed diary of his trip, and this has been meticulously decoded and edited by the authors of the article cited here.

He did the four-day conference, where he was a fish out of water, and some touristic sites like the National Gallery, the Egyptian Collection at the British Museum, the Palace of Westminster, and the Abbey – and he wrote his often anguished diary. Here is a taster. A. Hansen of Denmark had just read a paper about the classification of deaf children, claiming among other things that the Danish system was both 'the oldest and the most scientific one.' Vygotsky seemed neither convinced nor interested –
Loss of strength. I am tired. Indifference, almost despair. My trip yesterday revealed to me its main contradiction. I am extremely tense (the language, the responsibilities, the suit, the foreign countries), on the other hand — I am outside time and space and free of everything as never before (aloof)... In essence, Russia is the first country in the world. The Revolution is our supreme cause. In this room only 1 person knows the secret of the genuine education of the deafmutes. And that person is me. Not because I am more educated than the others, but [because] I was sent by Russia and I speak on behalf of the Revolution. 

András Peto

Oh to be able to hear and partially know Andras Pető in such a way. When oh when will Conductive Education experience its new wave of Pető studies?


van der Veer, R., Zavershena, E. Yu. (2011) To Moscow with Love: partial reconstruction of Vygotsky’s trip to London, Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, vol. 25, no 4, pp.458-7

(I cannot fathom the authors' motivation in choosing the particular pronoun that opens the title of this paper and I speak as one who has faced just this problem!)

1 comment:

  1. "The position that Vigotsky defended in his paper for the congress was that it is the secondary, social effects of a handicap that are most important and that it is essential to engage children in meaningful social activities". From the introduction to the paper by van der Veer & Zavershena.