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Vygotsky and the Promise of Public Education


Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur

Vygotsky and the Promise of Public Education recontextualizes the scholarship of educator and psychologist Lev Vygotsky, highlighting its relevance to contemporary issues in public education. Emphasizing the historical, social, and cultural formation of conscious awareness, Jennifer A. Vadeboncoeur advances Vygotsky’s project with current research in psychology, enabling the redefinition of central concepts such as learning, teaching, and developing. This attention to how we conceptualize learning and teaching is vital to the project of crafting schools to fulfill the promise of public education. Written for teacher candidates, educators, researchers, and policy-makers, this book both recognizes the complications of teaching and learning in public schools and contributes to the scholarship on the critical possibilities of schools as social institutions. The significance of public education for each and every child and teacher, and the future that is created in each student-teacher relationship, is re-centered as, perhaps, the most worthwhile project of our time.

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Chapter 10: Crafting Schools for Unknown Social Futures


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Vygotsky (1926/1997a) identified central issues in psychology and education and was creating a unified theoretical and practical approach to address these issues based upon an integrated research program when he died. He also highlighted persistent concerns, in particular, regarding inequality in access to education—including cultural concepts and tools for thinking—and educational outcomes. Central to his body of work was an emphasis on the significant promise of public education as an opportunity to expand everyday lived experiences, to compensate for differences in learning and experience through cultural tools and—through mediated learning-teaching in human development—to conceive of public education as a generative space of imagining and creating social futures. As noted earlier, Vygotsky was fascinated by and challenged his contemporaries to consider “all the possibilities which public education can provide” (p. 291). This challenge continues to be a powerful reminder for us today, to continue to engage in deliberation and dialogue regarding “all the possibilities” and how we can better provide these possibilities for all children and youth.

Building from Vygotsky’s legacy is an expectation that the social institution of schooling will change over time in response to changing historical, social, and cultural conditions. To undertake the important work of crafting ← 283 | 284 → schools for social futures that only our students will see, we have merely to look to his unified approach to garner advice. This legacy offers ways of approaching learning,...

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