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Re: [xmca] The social and the emotional
I tend to err on the side of nonredundancy; I delete everything and change the subject line to something totally obscure (e.g. "Acorns Don't Grow on Trees") and this is (often correctly) seen as off topic, so it disappears (rightfully) like a pebble into a pond seething with higher forms of aquatic life.
In conversation what often happens is what Nystrand calls "uptake". That is:
T: How are you?
T: Fine? You look terrible.
I like Nystrand's term "uptake" because it means both "taking up" as a topic the rheme of the last utterance ("Fine.") and because it effectively suggests the upness of the intonation with which we usually uptake. "Take" is volitional, it's prehensile, it's very obviously interpersonal.
So I'm going to uptake Jay here. Voila:
"But what I wonder about is how to understand the nature of (a) social emotions in the sense in which ALL emotions are social-interactionally derived and socio-culturally inflected, (b) pro-social emotions such as solidarity, feelings for social justice/fairness, etc., and (c) higher emotions more generally, which are developmentally later, more culture-specific, more fully inseparable from higher mental functioning, but which may or may not all be pro-social in a moral sense (e.g. intellectual curiosity, honor, face, contemplative harmony, indignation, complacency, scorn, alienation ...)? Your conclusion, below, seems very right about (a) and (b), but is it maybe a little too optimistic or over-generalizing regarding (c)?"
When I read this at first I was both humbled and grateful that after many years of trying, I appeared to have finally convinced Jay Lemke to use the term "higher emotions" without scare quotes. But the humility (if not the gratitude) soon subsided, and I began to wonder if Jay's original position was really so wrong.
I guess I believe that higher emotions are never transcendently higher, but always higher in a developmental, genetic, that is a relational sense only; they are higher with respect to the emotions they restructure and redescribe and they are higher in the historical functions they fulfill. There are times and places where self-sacrifice is simply stupid or even miserably self-interested. and there are moments and epochs (and ours is one) where rage is a higher emotion.
When we re-read our discussion (now deleted) we realize that for most people on the list, "culture" is more or less universal and more or less positive. Yet when we look at the things in culture that are more or less universal (a tendency to devalue the poor, the female, the homosexual, glorification of organized violence) we find things that are not very positive at all. It is tempting to conclude that although every human has culture, it is almost always anti-human and developmentally negative, and in fact I think that IS the implicit conclusion in Heidegger, in the "Not Not" poets of Sichuan, and even in the writers on this list who despair of the culture of public schooling.
So I was also very grateful to Larry for the opportunity to uptake here the issue of school cliquism and bullying and "fitting in", and that for two reasons. First of all, it seemed to me that a lot of the discussion of the supposedly anti-educational aspects of public schooling (boredom, routine, discipline, etc.) veers dangerously close to Heideggerian ideas about the supposed sterility of the "present to hand" and the greater authenticity of the emotional "ready at hand". My point was that what we think is emotionally "ready at hand" is very often derivative; it is handed down from BOTH the "ready at hand" and the "present to hand" of others.
But secondly it seems to me that by raising this issue Larry takes us much closer to what it wrong with public schooling today: it has almost nothing to do with the curriculum of academic concepts, the semi-proletarianized teachers, or the restricted codes that parents use at home, or any of the usual scapegoats. It is something that reflects very powerful class forces which are fundamentally alien and hostile to all of these things.
Consider the most salient facts that Gordon Wells uncovers in his brilliant study "The Meaning Makers". Sometime in elementary/primary school, class destiny appears to become more or less fixed for the vast majority of children; they do learn their place in the pecking order and most of them will never escape.
But by middle school, children no longer talk like their parents; they talk like their peers. So it seems to me that it is precisely in these relationships, in peer relationships, that we have to look for the mechanisms by which class attitudes from outside the school are reproduced.
When we do this, we find that a lot of the attitudes of young adolescents are, to put it mildly, atavistic: there is a worship of physical strength and attractiveness, a strong preference for the rich and the powerful, and even a vicious tendency to victimize the weak and vulnerable, easily summed up with emotionally charged and very vague words like "popular", "cool", "lame", "loser".
But LSV (in his chapter of ethical education in the early work "Educational Psychology") points out that there is really no such thing as a "bad" impulse or a "good" impulse. It seems to me that what is happening here is precisely the social determination of affective inclinations: what was previously "I like" or "Mommy and daddy and me like" has now become "we like" where "we" represents a sociocultural and not an interpersonal group. What is new is volition and, for better or worse, creativity (our first creations are rarely skillful ones, and this is probably more true of ideology than of other spheres of creativity).
I guess that this is the kind of restructuring and redescription we have to expect and even assist (in the French sense of bystanding and handwringing rather than the English sense of putting our shoulders to the wheel) in emotional development. And while it may look for all the world like proto-fascism, there is also the promise of something much more interesting therein.
I think that Michael Levykh's article avoids this whole problem of clearly distinguishing between the interpersonal and the sociocultural by obscuring the distinction between learning and development, at least as far as language teaching is concerned. Yet it's in language teaching that the distinction seems most inescapable to me.
For example, over the weekend I had to correct two sets of homework from my two different grad seminars. Both were concerned with the technique of "Total Physical Response" created by the psychologist James Asher in1967. This is a fancy name given in the USA to good old fashion "Listen and Do" where one person (usually the teacher) issues imperatives like "Stand!" "Walk!" "Stop!" "Jump!" and the other (usually the student) obeys.
One seminar, learning skill based teaching, interpreted the task very SENSUOUSLY, or interpersonally in a bodily sense, beginning with the moves ("Look! Listen! I stand. I walk.I stop. I jump. Now, YOU stand. You walk. You stop. You jump.")
But the other seminar, learning a more integrative approach based on a book I wrote with my wife called "Text and Talk", interpreted the task SOCIOCULTURALLY, in an ideological sense beginning with roles. ("This is a girl. Her name is Shimcheong. This is a pirate. Listen! "Stand, Shimcheong. Walk,Shimcheong. Stop, Shimcheong. Jump....splash!"
Of course, both methods will work. But only one will really answer the key question in language teaching: Who says what to whom? It is only when we answer this question, and answer it socioculturally and not just interpersonally, that we can explain how and why. And it's in that "why" that we invariably find ethical concepts and can develop them.
Seoul National University of Education
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