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Cole’s ‘Cross-Cultural and Historical Perspectives



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Commentary Human Development 2005 48 223 226 DOI 10 1159 000086857 Cole s Cross Cultural and Historical Perspectives on the Developmental Consequences of Education James V Wertsch Washington University in St Louis St Louis Mo USA Key Words Embedded schooling Word meanings This article is the work of a master at the top of his game For decades Michael Cole has been one of the world s leading scholars on how literacy education and development are related so it is perhaps to be expected that he can go through these issues with such insight Evoking more wonder however is the enthusiasm he still manages to bring to the task after decades of work For all the complaints we hear about ineffective schools it is important to remember that they have consistently been shown to have a powerful impact on human mental and social life This impact has been documented in numerous ways over the years indeed it is one of the few examples we have in social science of a genuinely robust finding Cole provides a big picture of these issues He does so by bringing to the task a powerful interdisciplinary framework and he wields this framework expertly on the way to imparting one insight after another One of the talents he has displayed throughout his career is the ability to invoke a broad range of perspectives with facility in order to take on complex issues all the while avoiding the temptations and pitfalls of oversimplification My goal in what follows is not to comment on all the points Cole raises Indeed neither I nor anyone else but Cole has the ability to provide such a broad commentary Instead I wish to focus on a couple of issues in an attempt to elaborate them and raise further questions I begin with Cole s section on The Consequences of Schooling in PostColonial Societies It is perhaps easiest to see the consequences of schooling in societies as they undergo rapid change but analysts such as Ernest Gellner 1983 have argued that understanding the consequences of schooling is the



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