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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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Currently, a small but growing number of books explicate and extend the ideas of Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896–1934). Many of these books focus on early childhood and elementary education, in part, because his most widely known ideas seem to be more appropriate for younger learners. This quantity of books will surely increase over the next few decades given the publication of The Collected Works of L. S. Vygotsky in English between 1987 and 1998 and the wealth of knowledge these six volumes represent. Indeed, with access to the majority of Vygotsky’s writing in English, it is a generative moment in history. Scholars have noted that there is still more to be translated into English, including some of his early literary work. Access to these translations may further situate his ideas along with the philosophical commitments that motivated and shaped them. My interest is in how his writing addresses contemporary educational concerns and how it may be elaborated to better speak to our particular historical moment.

In writing this book, I had two overarching purposes. The first was to contribute to the ongoing conversation on the significance of Vygotsky’s work to learning, development, and teaching today. This significance derives, in part, from his emphasis on attending to the unity of opposites and his remarkable capacity to approach educational and psychological issues holistically and to “think things together.” His body of work offers refreshing insights into ← xix | xx → many long-acknowledged problems facing educators in schools on a...

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