17 SES 03 B, Educating 'The Other'
The education of left-handed children in the Soviet Latvia (1945 – 1991) as well as in the Soviet Union in general is considered terra incognita, because the Soviet ideology in education did not envisage either specific attitude or any particular pedagogical strategies for the work with left handed children who had, as it was pointed out then, “the pathology of the right hand”.
It is very difficult nowadays to find historical sources about the topic under research – about the peculiarities of the left-handed students and the particularity of their teaching and learning as it is not discussed either in the pedagogy or psychology and physiology textbooks intended for the future teachers or other publications devoted to educational issues published during the Soviet period. Yet the opinion prevailed in the Soviet society that left-handedness was a defect that had to be overcome as quickly as possible so that the student joined successfully the general educational process. Statistics created by the Soviet propaganda is available that “proves” that people who are left handed most frequently turn out to be criminals, that they possess homosexual tendencies and different psychiatric illnesses. Therefore the opinion dominated both in the Soviet Union and Soviet Latvia that schools and preschools should do everything to teach children to use the “right” hand – until the perestroika period a mass-scale breaking of the left-handed children took place in the Soviet Union. The positional statements changed only in the second half of the 80s of the 20th century- Health ministry of the USSR in 1985 and Ministry of Education in 1986 adopted the decision to stop breaking the left-handed children in schools. However, it should be admitted that teachers’ conviction about the harm of using the left hand lasted long after the adoption of these laws.
The above mentioned allows explaining the disciplining of the left-handed child’s body in the Soviet school that expressed itself also in the use of different methods (also violent) to make the child write and use in other ways and activities his/her right hand instead of the dominating left hand. When analysing the education of left-handed children in the Soviet Union it has to be taken into consideration that the totalitarian ideology sustaining the Soviet Union laid claim on acquiring the absolute power using hidden mechanisms with the help of which the traditional political and cultural elements were violently modified that significantly influenced the educational processes on the whole. Also in the process of breaking the left-handed children the hidden mechanisms were applied – they were not publicly revealed and the developmental peculiarities of such children were ignored.
The educational process all over the Soviet Union was identical, i.e., pedagogical theories and methods were exported from the centre to all the soviet republics. Thus, data gained from analysing the education of left-handed children in the Soviet Latvia theoretically could be generalized and attributed to the whole Soviet Union. However, the researchers assume that probably during the study some educational features exactly characteristic to the cultural environment of Latvia will be discovered.
How was breaking the left-handed children implemented in Soviet Latvia in the time period from 1962 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991?
Is it possible to state some specific culturally social features in the education of left-handed children in Soviet Latvia?
1. Arendt H. (1951) The Origins of Totalitarianism, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 2. Baader M. S., Esser F., Schröer W. (2014) Kindheiten in der Moderne. Eine Geschichte der Sorge, Frankfurt, NewYork: Campus. 3. Bertrand P. M. (2001) Histoire des gauchers : Des gens à l'envers, Albury: Imago. 4. Bühler-Niederberger D. (2011) Lebensphase Kindheit. Theoretische Ansätze, Akteure und Handlungsräume, Weinheim, Basel: Juventa. 5. Cash, T. F. & Pruzinsky T., eds. (2002). Body Image: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice. New York: Guilford Press. 6. Durkheim É. (1956) Education and Sociology, IL: Free Press. 7. James A., Jenks C., Prout A. (1998). Theorizing childhood, Cambridge: Polity Press. 8. Ķestere I., Krūze A. (Eds.)(2013) History of Pedagogy and Educational Sciences in the Baltic Countries from 1940 to 1990: an Overview. Riga: RaKa. 9. Russell B. (2009) Education and the Social Order, Routledge Classics. 10. Shapiro, S.B. (1999). Pedagogy and the Politics of the Body: A Critical Praxis. New York: Garland. 11. Qvortrup J. (1994). Childhood matters: social theory, practice and politics, England: Avebury.
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