Re: [xmca] Helen Keller

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Thu Feb 01 2007 - 19:50:40 PST

Gee David-- Great you could get the whole article there! I thought I would
have to make a pdf which I am in the process of arranging. But
Karl is alive and perfectly able to respond for himself.


On 1/31/07, David Kellogg <> wrote:
> 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?
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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