Thanks for the Levitin reference, Mike. There are a couple of things about it that are passing strange, though.
First of all, Levitin never mentions that Helen was a militant socialist, that she spoke up for Debs and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, she hailed the birth of Soviet Russia and wrote a very moving paean to Lenin. It's not the sort of thing that a Soviet journalist would forget to mention unless he had good reasons to.
Secondly, it's very odd that he is so soft on Gibson's awful play, "the Miracle Worker". The version I have on DVD (with Ann Bancroft and Pattie Duke) is a shameless promotion of the crudest behaviorism. Ann Sullivan spends most of the play beating up Helen Keller (I suppose we would call it "tough love" these days) and at one point caterwauls that teaching is war, not love. For the crucial scene at the pump, she demands to have Helen sequestrated in an isolated cottage so that she is totally dependent on Ann for the food she eats and the clothes she wears and these can be bartered against folding her napkin and eating with a spoon. This is, of course, absurdly anachronistic (it's supposed to 1887; Pavlov is just getting around to raising his dogs). Not to mention a vile slander against Ann Sullivan, who was never a child abuser. According to Gibson, the main problem is not deafness or blindness, but discipline (and some of Levitin's remarks also suggest this!)
Finally, a source of bepuzzlement that has nothing to do with Levitin. Last night I re-read Chapter Six of "Thinking and Speech". On p. 155 LSV is talking about the persistence of complexive thinking and the lack of pseudoconcepts in deaf and mute children. He attributes this to lack of interaction with adults (!):
“The child and adult understand each other with the pronunciation of the word ‘dog’ because they relate the word to the same object, because they have the same concrete content in mind. However, one thinks of the concrete complex ‘dog’ and the other of the abstract concept ‘dog’.
Since verbal interaction with adults is absent in the speech of the deaf and mute, this factor loses its impact. These children are free to form different complexes designating a single object. The result is that the characteristics of complexive thinking are manifested with particular clarity. Thus in the language of the deaf and mute, the word ‘tooth’ may have three different meanings: ‘white’, ‘stone’, and ‘tooth’. Different names are linked in a single complex.”
This of course suggests that deaf/mutes have no parents or teachers, and only peers with which to speak "the language of the deaf and mute". It suggests that the condition of deaf mutes in Soviet Russia was something like that in Somoza's Nicaragua, where sign languages were utterly banned. I know that at one time Vygotsky himself considered "the language of the deaf and mute" to be no language at all, but merely a form of "mimicry". How did that happen and when?
Seoul National University of Education
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