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Re: [xmca] the Stakhanovist turn in education

Thanks, Anton, for very timely materials (which I will undoubtedly misconstrue and misuse in my future work) and thanks to Steve, for starting the rumpus that made this possible.
It seems to me that a whole range of factors, domestic and international, contributed to the sharp decline of pedology after 1931. The pedologists's patroness, Krupskaya  supported the “Leningrad opposition” to Stalin after Lenin’s death, a number of prominent pedologists were associated with Deborin and criticized for “idealist” deviations (including stressing semiotic activity rather than labor as a factor in child development).
But I think the main reason was that the Soviet economy, confronted with technically advanced and belligerent rivals to the west, went into overdrive, dragging education more or less reluctantly behind it. Steve is right to say that the Stakhanovite movement had the side-effect of stratifying the working class, but the reason why it was possible to sell this to the said working class was the perceived external threat.
We saw this kind of panic in China after the Sino-Soviet split, when every commune had to set up various forms of production-enhancing "satellites" to emulate the Sputnik programme (one peasant, who was later elected to Politburo as a result of his contributions to the "satellite" Dazhai movement, pointed out that a lot of these "satellites" were merely "blowing air under the cow's skin to make it seem fat"). Of course, on the other side of the world, the USA set up the Education for Defense Act for much the same reason.
Even though Vygotsky’s own version of pedology had always emphasized development rather than merely child  well-being, he was probably more reluctant than most to go along with a programme that basically involved treating second graders like fourth graders, and fourth graders like middle school students. 
Vygotsky and  Sakharov had spent a lot of time and effort in showing how even in adolescents concepts had to be built in much the same way that foreign language meanings are built initially on those of the native language. You couldn't directly teach concepts, as Vygotsky warns in Chapter Six--yet just a few pages later, he says it is possible to "work directly" on the concept.
How do we reconcile THAT contradiction? Well, Chapter Five of T&S argues that the schoolchild builds conceptual meanings onto the “functional equivalents” of the adult concept revealed through Sakharov’s version of the blocks test. These “functional equivalents” of the concept were initially purely subjective “heaps” formed “egocentrically” by the child’s own actions. By school age they became based on objective, usually perceptual, criteria, and a heap became a “complex”, that is, a complex, generalized representation based on family resemblances. 
Now, in Chapter Five, Vygotsky essentially argues that each complex is sui generis, and it is related, not to other complexes, but rather to the child's activity. For example, the associative complex is related to the activity of heaping, but it uses a "model" as a central exemplar, and then fits other objects perceptually to different facets of the model. 
On the other hand, a collection “complex” might consist of objects chosen not for their similarity but rather for their perceptual differences, subordinated to some functional similarity. For example, a triangle, a square, a trapezoid, a cylinder, etc. might be grouped into a collection, like stamps or in a collection or random objects in a child’s pocket. 
Vygotsky thought that collections were based on a particular daily routine, such as eating a meal ( knife, fork, spoon, plate) or getting dressed (shirt, pants, shoes, and socks), and in this way they were rather like the “complexes” which had formed the basis for instruction in the labor schools. 
Similarly, a chain “complex” might consist of a yellow square, a blue square, a blue triangle, a blue trapezoid, a blue circle, a red circle…where the last object really had no objectively perceptible common feature at all with the first. It's easy to see how such chains could arise in everyday conversation, and of course games like “Tag”, where the next round is always based on the random outcome of the previous round, are naturally occurring chain complexes. 
A “diffuse” complex might consist of a yellow square, a greenish yellow one, a bluish green one, and even a black one—it was a kind of chain in which a single trait became gradually diluted, rather like a family which dilutes its gene pool through exogenous marriage. 
Vygotsky associates the “diffuse complex” with the tribe of Abraham in the Old Testament, but it is possible to find diffuse complexes in the place of concepts in a good deal of child literature (e.g. the notions of “cute” and “cool” and even ideas of “good” and “bad” in morally relativistic popular movies based on revenge). 
Now, suppose all these complexes are NOT, or NOT SIMPLY related to activities like heaping, or daily routines (getting dressed/undressed/bathing/having meals), or playing tag, or telling and being told stories. Suppose they are actually related to EACH OTHER. 
For example, suppose that just as the associative complex is a kind of reorganization of the heap, the complex collection is a kind of NEGATION of the associative complex, and the chain is a kind of sublation of the associative complex AND the complex collection, because it involves both ONE facet of similarity and ONE facet of difference.
The diffuse complex is then a chain that is non-directional, and the pseudoconcept is nothing but an externally bounded diffuse complex. The true concept, then, is merely a pseudoconcept whose bounding limit is determined by the speaker himself or herself.
THEN it seems to me that it's possible to think of the whole of complex formation as being preconceptual; the formation of concepts is the "generalization of generalization", and the application of selection to the child's own thought processes.
You know that the most advanced form of complex was a “pseudoconcept”. In Hegelian terms, the pseudoconcept was a concept for others, but not a concept for the child him or herself. Generalization of perception is not enough to create a true concept, because generalization of perceptions does not in itself allow the discrimination and selection of particular qualities rather than others. 
For example, it's quite possible for a child to achieve a correct solution of Paula's version of the Hanfmann-Kasanin test without ever consciously realizing that it is based on the concepts of diameter and height. It is only when the child consciously abstracts these two qualities and is able to generalize them to other objects (Paula's glasses and her candles) that the pseudoconcept can shed the prefix "pseudo".
This process of generalization has to work hand in hand with the reverse process, that of abstraction, the subordination of some essential qualities and the superordination of others. Vygotsky hypothesized that although all of the raw materials needed for concept formation the process itself requires the abstraction provided by classroom instruction. 
I still think this is a reasonable hypothesis, but I also think that concepts are simply one particularly systematic form of idealized grouping evolved in classrooms and laboratories, and not some kind of microcosm of scientific truth.
In Paula's presentation on concept formation she provides some evidence that Vygotsky was coming to this realization--the realization that complexes are linked to each other and do not simply arise sui generis from the child's activity; something that Sakharov had not realized. 
(Those who have not hear Paula make this argument should check out: 
She's got some evidence to support this that even Anton might not have seen!)
I think that although Vygotsky was probably more reluctant to go along with the Stakhanovist turn in education than other pedologists, he was also a lot cannier, and his predisposition towards DEVELOPMENT rather than simply being, his bent towards the child's FUTURE rather than the past, made it pretty easy to reformulate his idea of complexes as "preconcepts". And that's why I think it wasn't so hard for him to reformulate the Zo-pedology as a Zo-pedogogy.
But I also think we need to recognize that the Zo-ped is in some ways a DEFENSIVE tactic on Vygotsky's part, and it is not inherently progressive or even child centred. It was a brilliant defensive tactic, and I believe it is a real discovery in its own right, but it was, partly as a result of its origins, open to abuse, and not just in Soviet times.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Thu, 1/6/11, Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com> wrote:

From: Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] the Stakhanovist turn in education
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Thursday, January 6, 2011, 3:56 PM

2) We know that the term 'pedology' and its scientific pursuit was condemned by 
the Soviet government in 1936.  Why did the term 'pedology' go into disrepute in 

the **West** as early as WWI? --

For the destiny of "paedology" in the West I would suggest a really good paper 
by  see Depaepe "The heyday of 
paedology in Belgium (1899–1914): A positivistic dream that did not come true" : 


(just in case, see attached). I guess the point is that neither there were 
spokesmen of these nascent discipline there, nor anybody needed the weird term 
after WWI any more. In other words, paedology--as well as several other 
psychoneurological disciplines in the West--calmly died out. 

By the way, in a recent paper of mine I made this observation that several 
disciplines similarly--relatively quitely--died out in the Soviet Union in the 
1930s. Among these are a number of victimized and lamented social movements 
as paedology and psychotechnics (typically discussed under the rubric of the 
"oppressed science"), or the largely forgotten psychohygiene. Indeed, all of 
these were either formally closed down by a decree or lost support from the 
patrons in power and underwent considerable budgetary cuts, whereas their 
agents fairly easily switched to other disciplines and practices like pedagogy, 
psychology, psychiatry, physiology or medicine. In fact, it was the decree of 
1936 that suggested that paedologists convert into pedagogues (or, implicitly, 
psychologists) and continue their work. Which no doubt most of them did :).  The 

decline of these disciplines in the interwar period was followed by their 
reemergence--mainly under the banner of psychology--during and after the WWII, 
in the West and the Soviet Union alike. Which suggests a fairly universal rule, 
independent of the specific localities, I believe.

Hope this helps...


P.S. Btw, never heard of "Stakhanovist turn in education". Sounds funny 

----- Original Message ----
From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Thu, January 6, 2011 11:13:09 AM
Subject: [xmca] the Stakhanovist turn in education

Thanks, David.  The Wikipedia has helpful articles on several of your points - 
zebra crossings, pedology, and the "Stakhanovite movement."  I changed the 
thread name because some of the questions your points bring up for me on these 
topics may bring us beyond the aspects of zoped theory that are usually 
discussed on xmca.  The last two questions are especially wild cards, getting a 
bit into political theory and history.  On certain levels all these questions 
are related, of course.  I think I ask 4 questions.

1) How does a zebra crossing capture the idea of the crisis for you?

2) We know that the term 'pedology' and its scientific pursuit was condemned by 
the Soviet government in 1936.  Why did the term 'pedology' go into disrepute in 
the **West** as early as WWI?

3) What specific relationship do you see between the "Stakhanovite movement" and 
the increasingly Stalinist policies in education in the late '20's and early 
'30's?  That is, what was the "Stakhanovite turn in education?"

According to the wkp, the Stakhanovite movement dates back to 1935, and was 
about adulating Alexey Stakhanov and his reputed accomplishments as a miner to 
encourage Soviet workers to exceed their quotas.

Just a little bit more on Stakhavonism, since you bring it up, and it offers us 
a view of the USSR in the mid-30's.  As you know, Trotsky and others were very 
critical of this charade - but not all aspects of that movement.  His son and 
close comrade Lev Sedov (1906-1938), writing under the pen name N. Markin, wrote 
an article entitled "The Stakhanovist Movement," published in the New 
International in Feb 1936, available online at
http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/ni/vol03/no01/markin.htm .

Sedov said: "We believe that the Stalinist leadership is putting the 
Stakhanovists in a very privileged position not only in order to encourage the 
rise in the productivity of labor, but for the purpose of favoring, just as 
deliberately, the differentiation of the working class, with the political aim 
of resting upon a base, much narrower no doubt, but also surer: the labor 

Sedov explains " ... the transition is beginning – and it will indubitably be 
quickly effected wherever it has not been made as yet – to a differential 
piece-work rate, that is to say, each worker will receive pay in proportion to 
what he produces. In proportion as the new technology [modernized machinery, 
such as the pneumatic drill in coal mining -sg] has created the pre-condition 
for the Stakhanovist movement, the piece-work wage, under the conditions of the 
monetary reform, has effectively brought this movement into being. And in the 
contradictory Soviet economic life with its elements of socialism and 
capitalism, the Stakhanovist movement has not only become economically necessary 
but to a certain extent also progressive – in that it raises the productivity of 
labor. It is of course not progressive in the sense that it [supposedly -sg] 
“prepares the conditions for the transition from socialism [?] to communism 
[!!]” (Stalin, Pravda, Nov. 22, 1935).

Sedov continues "Piece-work wages were defined by Marx “as the form of wages 
most suited to the capitalist mode of production.” (Capital) And only a 
bureaucrat who has lost the last shred of Marxian honesty can present this 
forced retreat from the allegedly already realized “socialism” back to money and 
piece-work wages (and consequently, to accentuating inequality to the 
over-exertion of labor power and to the lengthening of the working day) as 
“preparing the transition to communism”."

So that is a little on how Trotsky and his close colleagues were viewing 
Stakhanovism at the time, to offer some political history.

An aspect that especially draws my attention with regard to Stakhavonism, and 
how it might relate to the question of Stalinist changes to education policy, 
was the motion toward creating a highly privileged sector of the working class.  
Sedov, as quoted above, suggested this was politically aimed at creating a labor 
aristocracy, a social base for those in power, which Trotsky analyzed as a 
petty-bourgeois bureaucratic caste, led by Stalin.  This raises interesting 
questions about how education policy may have been specifically bent to serve 
this and other bureaucratic perspectives.

4) Which brings me back to my questions.  More generally, David, how do you see 
Vygotsky's theory of zoped as a response to Stalinism?

- Steve

On Jan 6, 2011, at 12:45 AM, David Kellogg wrote:

> I have no excuse for my use of "zebra crossing" except that "zebra" is the term 
>the Brits use for a pedestrian crossing. It refers to the stripes on the road, 
>and it captures, at least in my mind, the idea of the crisis.
> But I intend to use Mike and Peg's "Zoped" from now on, not simply for the 
>inside joke that he gives ("zo"), but for an inside joke of my own.
> "Ped" stands for "pedogogy" in Mike's term. But for me it will always stand for 
>"pedology", the martyred once-and-future discipline for which Vygotsky and 
>Sakharov sacrificed their lives.
> I think this is the real secret of the "Zoped". It was a brilliant tactical 
>maneuver, which allowed Vygotsky to pursue his pedological ideas under extremely 
>unfavorable, actually REACTIONARY "pedagogical" conditions (the Stakhnovite turn 
>in education, which was forced by Stalin on Vygotsky and his collaborators in 
>the early 1930s).
> By appealing to the future in the present, he was able to continue using the 
>same idea of building on the child's own logical creations under the guise that 
>it was not complexive pedology but pre-conceptual pedagogy.
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education.
> --- On Thu, 1/6/11, Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com> wrote:
> From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch@me.com>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] zpd zbr zedpd and zoped
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Thursday, January 6, 2011, 12:25 AM
> So I have a few questions prompted from recent threads on zpd and Mike's video 
>on zoped.
> First, what does ZBR mean?
> Wondering this got me to try to do some catching up of some xmca posts in 
>recent weeks, figuring I'd missed something obvious.  It may be more of a case 
>of subtle humor.  ZBR seems connected to a Nov 16 post by David Kel where he 
>said: "PS: I think we should refer to the Zoped as a Zebra Raising, or maybe 
>just a Zebra Crossing. But what we really need is a new name for the functional 
>method of dual stimulation. The Fumedvastym? Fume Distillation?"  Some of this 
>had come up in some joking between David Kel and Mike a few days earlier about 
>Mike's use of the term "zoped" instead of "zpd" ... but it gets lost for me 
>beyond that.
> So ZBR seems to mean ... ZeBra Raising or ZeBra cRossing ... and has become a 
>joking substitute for zpd and zoped.  But I seem to be missing something.  It 
>sort of spoils jokes when you have to explain them, but you know how e-mail text 
>can be ...
> On the use of the term 'zoped' (as opposed to 'zpd,') which David had asked 
>Mike about, there is some subtle humor in that term, too.  Mike explains his 
>preference for the term zoped in the post copied below, where he adds a reason I 
>hadn't heard - or more likely, recalled.  "Zo" is a term used in Liberia for a 
>village shaman, who among other things, is highly respected as a teacher.  
>Thinking about this, and knowing Mike's penchant for playing, "ped" derives from 
>Greek for "child," so the pronunciation of "ZPD" as "zo-ped" has some word play 
>going on - "teacher + child" (a combination of meanings to which one might 
>further ask, who is teaching who?).  But this playful pronunciation of an 
>acronym seems to have taken on some seriousness, in the form of the connection 
>between 1) Vygotsky's proposition that learning leads development - which is at 
>the heart of the concept of the zone of proximal development, and 2) Vygotsky's 
>theoretical approach to
> play, both of which are emphasized in Mind In Society.  And this resonates not 
>just theoretically, but also pedagogically.  As Mike says, "when I organize 
>obrazovanie [education -sg], I like to mix serious stuff with play ..."  And so, 
>among some Vygotskian scholars and teachers, these plays on words from other 
>languages have entered English as a technical term, a two-syllable **word** - 
>zoped - with its subtle reference to playfulness (if you know the playful 
>etymology), in place of the flat, three-syllable **acronym** - zpd, or worse, 
>ZPD.  Besides, as Mike points out, 'zoped' IS easier to say ... :-))  As has 
>been pointed out on xmca before, the concept deserves a word.  Just when the 
>concept and a word for it winds up in Merriam's, of course, remains to be seen.  
>It is still both a concept and a word in the making.
> What provoked some of that joking about zebras and ZBR, ZPD and zoped seems to 
>have been Mike's video "Mike Cole On Zoped"  at
> http://vimeo.com/groups/39473/videos/16714151
> which Andy posted Nov 10.
> This is a talk with slides that Mike recently gave in a live feed to the Nov 
>2010 Vygotsky Memorial conference in Moscow, which I just listened to.
> Some highlights:
> Mike suggests that Vygotsky's concept of zoped is different from the 
>"scaffolding" concept, a term first initiated, to Mike's knowledge, by Robert 
>Wood in 1966.  Mike asks how is the scaffolding metaphor different from the 
>usual 'N, N+1' approach to understanding teaching situations.  Mike suggests 
>that this and some of the other varieties of Western learning theory that limit 
>the zpd concept to this "construction" perspective do not sufficiently take into 
>account the **dynamics of change**.
> Mike then distinguishes Vygotsky's concept of **learning leads development** 
> 1) Piaget's concept that **development must precede learning**, and
> 2) the views of many American learning theorists that take the position 
>**development equals the amount of learning**.
> Another question Mike addresses is can zpd's or zopeds appear outside the 
>classroom, for example, in children's play - or does this process **only** apply 
>to school, to instruction.  Connected to this question of where can the zoped 
>occur is the sometimes perplexing meaning of the Russian word 'obuchenie', which 
>Vygotsky uses in his explanation of zoped.  Mike explains that 'obuchenie' can 
>mean two different but related concepts - 'instruction' or 'learning' - and that 
>this term has been translated from R to E both ways - and in reverse, the 
>English terms 'instruction' and 'learning' have both been translated from E to R 
>as 'obuchenie' - creating some confusion about Vygotsky's original meaning over 
>the years in both languages as Vygotsky has been translated back and forth.
> Whatever meanings Vygotsky intended in his brief but influential writings on 
>the zone of proximal development, Mike, of course, has strong suspicions that 
>learning can indeed lead development in many kinds of situations outside of
> formal instruction in school.
> Which leads me to my next question - which I am taking the long route to get 
> One of Mike's concluding points is the challenge of how to generalize on 
>Vygotsky's principle of dual stimulation, which Mike argues underlies Vygotsky's 
>concept of the zone of proximal development.  Mike points out that he, Yrjo, and 
>other researchers have been focused on this aspect of zoped for some time.
> Mike's slide on this reads:
> "Generalizing Dual Stimulation.
> * The ur characteristic of higher psychologically (culturally mediated) human 
>action is that it operates indirectly, through the environment.
> * DS method is the ur model of human action incorporates the environment as 
>tools for action.  But it must be generalized into group as well as individual 
> Mike urges the non-Russians at the conference to ask their fellow Russian 
>attendees what 'ur' means.
> So - to our fellow Russian speakers - what does 'ur' mean in Mike's slide?
> And, Mike, if you have a moment, could you spell out your statements in that 
>slide a little - such as what the referents "it" refer to in the first and last 
>sentences, what you mean by "operates indirectly, through the environment," 
> Finally, Mike, could you post up your whole ppt slide set?  You mentioned in 
>your talk there was a larger ppt set than could be presented in the 20 minute 
>talk.  Really good talk, by the way - thank you much for putting it on Vimeo.
> - Steve
> On Nov 12, 2010, at 5:23 PM, mike cole wrote:
>> Subject:     zpd zbr zedpd and zoped
>> I am answering David's question about "why zoped." I did not include it in
>> my talk because I am uncertain of the audience's national
>> backgrounds and was assuming "mixed but mostly Russian speakers". The talk
>> was supposed to be about 20 minutes long and I was
>> uncertain of the time. And I was also mindful of the fact that on Tuesday
>> following its showing at the Vygotsky readings, I will be discussing the
>> issues raised, and whatever people feel like talk about via skype, sooooooo.
>> As many know, when i organize obrazovanie, I like to mix serious stuff with
>> play. Also, I have a long term interest in the the enculturation
>> practices and processes of peoples for whom literacy has not been a central
>> part of enculturation until, perhaps, recent times. And, I enjoy
>> participating in the forms of activity that emerge when zopeds are created
>> as a part of our research and educational practices.
>> With that context (add or subtract to taste) the notion of a zoped came from
>> two sources. First of all, it IS easier to say! :-)
>> Secondly, it involves forms of pedagogy -- arranging for the young to
>> acquire valued skills, knowledge, belief, behaviors, etc --
>> Third, when it works, it seems like "something happened," a qualitative
>> field that sometimes can be like flow, sometimes can be
>> triggered by timely juxtapositions, montage-like. And it seems to lead to a
>> more inclusive, more integrated way of relating to the world at least
>> in that setting. Whatever this "something" is, it has a magical quality to
>> it.
>> In Liberia when and where I pretended to work once upon a time the most
>> respected, revered, and feared members of the community were
>> shamen, a concept referred to in Liberia at the time (across language
>> groups, so far as I could tell) as a Zo, what popular culture refers to
>> as "witch doctors." They were THE teachers. But they worked through magic.
>> That about sums up my idea of the zone of proximal development. It requires
>> sage pedagogy and a touch of magic. When those are combined,
>> they, of course, constitute a zo-ped.
>> I personally recommend spending time in such third spaces. :-))
>> mike
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