“I can study Vygotsky later,” said Tayo Adeeko, a 24-year-old third-grade teacher at Empower Charter School in Crown Heights. She was referring to another education school staple — Lev Vygotsky, a Soviet theorist of cognitive development who died in 1934. “Right now,” she added, “my kids need to learn how to read.”
Sure she can. The problem is that while those kids may learn to read, they will be pulled, pushed and prodded into shapes not meant for young children.
Charter schools like KIPP spend a lot of time taking the child out of childhood. Silent halls, enforced eye contact, upright posture and lots of drills - all done in uniform - may make for an excellent test-taker. The student may be able to parrot back any number of reading strategies. The child will have limited ability to get along with peers in unstructured environments, intuit rules for social conduct in new situations, and play imaginatively.
The problem with not studying Vygotsky is that the merry KIPPsters and their ilk don't understand childhood. They see deficient, not different communities. They see disorder, not youth. And they have no business teaching kids to read until they've been taught what a kid is.
I'm not a fan of charter schooling in general, but as it enters more elementary and ECE environments the more nervous I get. It's too easy to forget that children aren't little adults. Even the most experienced Kindergarten teacher is going to need to remind him or herself of this over the year, because the teacher is an adult and operates within an adult world. The child's world is different.
And the current approach to education is destroying it entirely.
ETA: Just because Vygotsky was a "Soviet...who died in 1934" does not mean his work is invalidated. Also dead: Maria Montessori, Loris Malaguzzi (Reggio Emelia), John Dewey, Marie Clay and Jean Piaget. They all had something important and true to say about children.
Similarly, I believe that those tired, dead old guys like Euclid, Plato, Einstein, Darwin, etc. are still considered relevant to their fields.