[xmca] a political test for need-based scholarships & college majors; + other topics

From: Tony Whitson (twhitson@udel.edu)
Date: Mon Aug 28 2006 - 18:40:27 PDT

The main topic of this post is not directly on point here, but I think it
comes within the scope of xmca discussions.

Apparently, some zealot in the U.S. Department of Education decided on their
own initiative to remove "Evolutionary Biology" from the list of college
majors eligible for financial aid to needy students under the SMART Grant

Congressman Waxman of California has demanded correction, and the Department
says the major will be restored to the list.

I think concerns remain, however, that threaten the integrity of free
inquiry (among other things) in the US. I think further investigation and
action are needed. If you're interested, see

This is on a blog where I also posted a version of the material below on
Dewey and the journey/map/territory -type relationships. See

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Tony Whitson
Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 12:34 AM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity'
Cc: mcole@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: [xmca] curriculum & human experience -- Dewey: map,
journey,territory RE: Wertsch, context

Mike, you write
Re Wertsch and context for a moment. p. 18. He is talking about two senses
in which communication is social (I think we could sub "human experience"
for communication, but he is heading to Rommetveit and Lotman, so
communication is just fine).

But it seems to me that (especially in the "context" of this book) Jim is
thematizing "communication" problematically and, in particular, pointing out
how some ways of conceptualizing what is meant by "communication" lack the
capacity to take into account the character of "human experience."

These are familiar issues for Curriculum Studies. Within the Curriculum
Studies field, "curriculum" is understood as the course of human experience
in which the formation of human being (at the levels of groups and
societies, and the practices of human communities, as well as the formation
of individual human beings) takes place. But the word "curriculum" is often
used in general public discourse as referring to official plans and printed
documents, which "communicate" the scope and sequence of the "information"
(knowledge, skills, etc.) that students in schools are intended to receive
(through the "conduit" of instruction as communication, in that sense).

These notions of curriculum and instruction as "communication" -- as
understood in a way oblivious to the character of the human experience
involved -- is common not only in the general public, but even among
professionals in education; so that even in our doctoral courses in
Curriculum Studies, we often need to begin by disabusing our education grad
students of such incapacious ways of thinking about curriculum.

I have found it effective to begin with the problem of someone confusing the
map for the territory (Korzybski, Bateson), and Bateson's extension of this
to somebody mistaking the menu for the meal (which conjures images of
somebody walking into a restaurant and chomping on the menu).

This helps people move from their idea of "curriculum" as State or National
Guidelines, District or Building-Level documents, or even classroom lesson
plans (which would be like the maps or menus) to an idea of the curriculum
as being, instead, the meal to be consumed, or the territory to be covered
(e.g., the math, the history, the biology, the literature, etc.).

That's only the first step, however, to preempt people from eating their
menus. As quickly as possible, we need to take the next step: realizing that
curriculum is NOT the territory -- it is, rather, the JOURNEY through the
territory; in other words, as Mike suggests, it IS the HUMAN EXPERIENCE. But
to get there, we need to clearly view how this is different from the more
commonly received ideas about curriculum (or communication).

on p. 18 Jim writes: ===================================
Cultural tools such as "language; various systems for counting; mnemonic
techniques; algebraic symbol systems; works of art; writing; schemes,
diagrams, maps, and mechanical drawings; [and] all sorts of conventional
signs" (Vygotsky, 198lb, p. 137) are provided by the sociocultural context,
on the one hand, and they are used by individuals as they operate alone or
in social interaction while carrying out unique, concretely situated action,
on the other. Because of their intermediary position in this formulation
cultural tools provide a mechanism for analyzing the relationship between
individual and sociocultural setting; in a sense they make it possible for
the sociocultural context to be "imported" into individual mental
functioning. =======================================

Since these things -- including maps -- are "imported" into the mental
functioning, they are not "contextual" in the sense of an "hors-texte" (as
in Derrida's dictum that "il n'y a pas d'hors-texte") or something outside
of the textuality (the woven textile formation, as it were) of the mental
functioning. This issue of textuality in the ontology of mental formation
and activity deserves more discussion than I can manage tonight (it's after
midnight here), but I will seize on _maps_ as an example, and just paste in
some excerpts from Dewey [I really am fading out, so I'll just paste in
Dewey's text and hope the relevant implications and connections are clear

In 1915 Dewey wrote: "No book or map is a substitute for personal
experience; they cannot take the place of the actual journey. The
mathematical formula for a falling body does not take the place of throwing
stones or shaking apples from a tree." (mw.8.255: The Reorganization of the
Curriculum - chapter 4 in _Schools of Tomorrow_)

In Dewey's _Logic_ (1938), he writes that a plan "... no more _is_ a
functioning division of labor than a blueprint is a house in process of
building or a map is a journey. Blueprints and maps are propositions and
they exemplify what it is to _be_ propositional. Moreover, a map is no less
a means of directing journeys because it is not constantly in use."

Both of these shorter quotations caution against mistaking the map for the
journey, while at the same time recognizing the map's crucial participation
in the journey. The complexities are elaborated in a longer passage that he
had published earlier, in his 1902 work, _The Child and the Curriculum_
(Dewey, John, 1859-1952. The middle works, 1899-1924:
Volume 2: 1902-1903 (1976) Southern Illinois University Press)

Page mw.2.283
. . . We may compare the difference between the logical and the
psychological to the difference between the notes which an explorer makes in
a new country, blazing a trail and finding his way along as best he may, and
the finished map that is constructed after the country has been thoroughly
explored. The two are mutually dependent. Without the more or less
accidental and devious paths traced by the explorer there would be no facts
which could be utilized in the making of the complete and related chart. But
no one would get the benefit of the explorer's trip if it was not compared
and checked up with similar wanderings undertaken by others; unless the new
geographical facts learned, the streams crossed, the mountains climbed,
etc., were viewed, not as mere incidents in the journey of the particular
traveler, but (quite apart from the individual explorer's life) in relation
to other similar facts already known. The map orders
[Page mw.2.284] individual experiences, connecting them with one another
irrespective of the local and temporal circumstances and accidents of their
original discovery.
     Of what use is this formulated statement of experience? Of what use is
the map?
     Well, we may first tell what the map is not. The map is not a
substitute for a personal experience. The map does not take the place of an
actual journey. The logically formulated material of a science or branch of
learning, of a study, is no substitute for the having of individual
experiences. The mathematical formula for a falling body does not take the
place of personal contact and immediate individual experience with the
falling thing. But the map, a summary, an arranged and orderly view of
previous experiences, serves as a guide to future experience; it gives
direction; it facilitates control; it economizes effort, preventing useless
wandering, and pointing out the paths which lead most quickly and most
certainly to a desired result. Through the map every new traveler may get
for his own journey the benefits of the results of others' explorations
without the waste of energy and loss of time involved in their
wanderings--wanderings which he himself would be obliged to repeat were it
not for just the assistance of the objective and generalized record of their
performances. That which we call a science or study puts the net product of
past experience in the form which makes it most available for the future. It
represents a capitalization which may at once be turned to interest. It
economizes the workings of the mind in every way. Memory is less taxed
because the facts are grouped together about some common principle, instead
of being connected solely with the varying incidents of their original
discovery. Observation is assisted; we know what to look for and where to
look. It is the difference between looking for a needle in a haystack, and
searching for a given paper in a well-arranged cabinet. Reasoning is
directed, because there is a certain general path or line laid out along
which ideas naturally march, instead of moving from one chance association
to another.
     There is, then, nothing final about a logical rendering of experience.
Its value is not contained in itself; its significance is that of
standpoint, outlook, method. It intervenes
[Page mw.2.285] between the more casual, tentative, and round-about
experiences of the past, and more controlled and orderly experiences of the
future. It gives past experience in that net form which renders it most
available and most significant, most fecund for future experience. . . .

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Mike Cole
Sent: Saturday, August 19, 2006 4:22 PM
To: Bremme Don
Cc: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Wertsch, context,deja vu: RE: LSV-& Dialogical Self --

Re Wertsch and context for a moment. p. 18. He is talking about two senses
in which communication is social (I think we could
sub "human experience" for communication, but he is heading to Rommetveit
and Lotman, so communication is just fine). He
contrasts "two or more people carrying out a process" or the
"interactional" ""level"" with "the broad sociocultural context within
which it [the two person interaction] occurs."

We ALL talk this way using the term context at times. But a few lines later
the term "sociocultural setting" has been substituted. So
setting and context are taken as synonymous? And we ALL make such
substitutions which often seem harmless and perhaps
inescapable (social situation of development/environment/situation). But
the way we make such substitutions worries me.

Most generally, I worry that we conflate interweaving, relational notions of
contexts for container notions (I will try to get some
relevant McDermott materials out about this in the next couple of days if
people wish to pursue the issue).
 I worry that we do not detect the slippage in our own thinking. What is a
"larger sociocultural context" if not some unit of human life that is made
up of. constituted by, many threads of people interacting? Is the Acropolis
a place of worship, a tourist attraction, or a fort to be blown apart if
your enemies are occupying it and you want them dead? (As it was a couple of
hundred years ago). Etc.

All of this of course relates to the issue of intersubjectivity in Jim's
paper. But that is for a later time, if....

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