Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference
Edited By Peter Smagorinsky, Joseph Tobin and Kyunghwa Lee
Dismantling the Disabling Environments of Education: Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference challenges assumptions that view people of difference to be "abnormal," that isolate attention to their difference solely in the individual, that treat areas of difference as matters of deficiency, and that separate youth of difference from the mainstream and treat them as pathologized. As outsiders to mainstream special education, the authors of this collection take a more social and cultural perspective that views the surrounding social environment as at least as problematic as any point of difference in any individual. Most of the scholars contributing to this volume work with preservice and inservice teachers and grapple with issues of curriculum and pedagogy. One of the primary audiences we hope to reach with this book is our colleagues and practitioners who have not made special education or disability studies the focus of their careers, but who, like we, are determined to engage with the full range of people who attend schools. Dismantling the Disabling Environments of Education: Creating New Cultures and Contexts for Accommodating Difference can be a valuable text for undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, as it addresses key issues of inclusion, diversity, equity, and differentiated approaches to educating the full range of students.
Chapter Two: Vygotsky, “Defectology,” and the Russian/Soviet Approach to Human Difference (Peter Smagorinsky)
| 47 →
Vygotsky, “Defectology,” and the Russian/Soviet Approach to Human Difference
In this chapter I review the Russian and Soviet tradition in what corresponds to U.S. “special education.” To the Soviets, and to the Russia that both preceded and emerged from its dissolution, this field has been known by the unfortunate name of “defectology.” I have hoped mightily that this term is a product of an awkward translation, yet my Russian colleagues assure me that it accurately captures the original. McCagg (1989) reports that Russian academic ideas about anomalous children were heavily influenced by the Germans when the first special research and training centers were opened in the early 20th century. This influence included the use of the term “defective” to characterize children with special needs. The Latin origins of defectologia suggest failure, shortcoming, and other terms associated with deficiency. McCagg confirms what most people with 21st Century ears would think: “this term would not survive 3 minutes in a discussion of the handicapped in the Western world today because it carries too much negative connotation toward the disabled” (p. 40). Three minutes? I can only hope that it wouldn’t last nearly that long.
The term’s deficit-drenched connotations, however, bely the fundamentally empathic and nurturing approach that Soviet and Russian defectologists have brought to their education of children either born with, or having developed through life traumas, bodies and minds—entities that I do not...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.