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RE: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act

I think your ideas on the three metaphors are salient in terms of common sense, but I also think that what is wrong with the Learn Act is that it doesn't really connect up with any of them.
Near as I can tell (and perhaps somebody can set me straight here) this idea that children should learn knowledge in preschool of basic letters, numbers, vocabulary so they can be ready to learn immediately (and if they are not doing this something is wrong) is a sort of mash up of nativism (the idea that humans are programmed to recognize certain types of information and once they are exposed to it they will integrate it into their thinking), cognitive architectures (the idea that you should build specific types of architectures in the brain early which will allow children to make connections with new more complex information later), the efficacy of direct instruction (see nativist), and a realist perspective (that there is specific type of information in the world that the child needs to know that will make them more successful - once they are able to recognize and process this information they will be able to use it to their own and society's advantage).  Underlying these assumptions is the idea that the child is basically a passive learner, and that once the mind recognizes important information it will take over.  I find the arguments confusing and circular, and in some ways dangerous (suggesting that there is a specific type of knowledge that is valuable and should take precedence, and that this knowledge can be used to control nature).  It is also opposite of what early chilhood educators such as Friedrich Frobel, Maria Montessori, the people who have been working in Piagetian, Deweyan, and Vygotskian paradigms have been doing for over a century.  All of that work has simply been swept aside for this new - it isn't even a paradigm.  I don't know what it is.
I don't think there is any strong logical argument that can be made for this position.  And I think there is really no empirical evidence that suggests this leads to better learners (unless some great breakthrough occurred while I was asleep).  And yet over the last couple of decades it seems to have become gospel in some very important circles (especially in the government).  The only answer I can think of is that it fills some social and/or economic need.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of David H Kirshner
Sent: Mon 12/14/2009 2:26 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act


I think our discourse fails to sway politicians because it fails to
connect up with our cultural commonsense about learning.

Broadly speaking I see our cultural commonsense involving 3 main
metaphors of learning corresponding to 3 major kinds of learning goals
informed by 3 major theoretical thrusts in psychology:


Habituation               Skills
Behaviorism/some cognitive science

Construction             Concepts
Developmental / Piagetian

Enculturation            Dispositions                    Sociocultural

The problems arise from the sociological imperative of psychology to
become a paradigmatic science. Rather than elaborate these alternative
notions of learning in a way that highlights their distinct conceptual
foundations, psychologists of all stripes are bent upon extending
outward from their basic intuition about learning so as to incorporate
the interests and concerns of the other camps. In this way, eventually,
one school succeeds in capturing the field and paradigmatic psychology
is achieved.

In the meantime, (1) theories of learning become intractably complex
even as the intuitive underpinning of each psychological thrust becomes
increasingly opaque, and (2) values decisions about which form(s) of
learning should be pursued in education become absorbed into theoretical
discourses about learning.

The legacy for education is a pedagogical discourse that is
simultaneously confused and conflicted. The real alternatives that COULD
be framed for pedagogical practice toward diverse goals become
homogenized within a shapeless, integrative discourse. Sloganeering
substitutes in for intellectual foundation; competing camps attest to
the strength (i.e., influence) of the psychological schools whose
theories have inspired the slogans.


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
On Behalf Of Michael Glassman
Sent: Sunday, December 13, 2009 11:05 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act

I really think that this legislation is, among other things,
historically insensitive.  Do people really think, given our society's
history with assessment tests, that these tests are not going to be
geared towards middle class values?  Do people really think that these
tests are not going to be used to label and differentiate groups?  Do
people really think that these assessments are not going to be used to
in some way reinforce a deficit model for children who don't do well on
the tests?  The fact that these tests are being conducted at such a
young age makes these ideas even more painful.

These senators Brown and Franken and Murray have their hearts in the
right place, but our discourse on education in the United States has
become so convoluted and narrow and so dominated by a faux realist
perspective (actually an unholy combination of realist and idealist)
that even legislators who mean well are I think making thoughtless
mistakes.  It still pains me that Ted Kennedy and George Miller were
major forces behind NCLB.  There are many reasons for this I think, not
the least of which is control of public discourse by a relatively small
group of educators - but just because you are giving money towards
education initiatives does not mean that you are helping the cause of
universal education.



From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of cconnery@ithaca.edu
Sent: Sun 12/13/2009 10:10 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act

Hi Peg and others:

Here is the specific language under section 9, e,1,c of the LEARN Act:


(1) IN GENERAL.-An eligible entity that receives a subgrant under this
section shall use the subgrant funds consistent with the plan proposed
in subsection (c) to carry out the following activities:
(C) SCREENING ASSESSMENTS AND MEASURES.-Acquiring, providing training
for, and implementing screening assessments or other appropriate
measures to determine whether children from birth through kindergarten
entry are developing appropriate early language and literacy skills.

The question is, "WHO will determine what is appropriate and HOW will
they assess it?" This goes to the heart of Vygotsky's work.


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