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

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Mon Aug 28 2006 - 19:24:45 PDT

Right on topic(s) Tony

On 8/28/06, Tony Whitson <> wrote:
> 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
> program.
> 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: [] On
> Behalf Of Tony Whitson
> Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 12:34 AM
> To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture,Activity'
> Cc:
> 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
> enough]:
> 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."
> (lw.12.138)
> 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: [] 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 --
> context
> 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....
> mike
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