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[xmca] Ways With Words

David (Kirshner) is of course quite correct to point out that narrative is not a necessary or sufficient element in his “enculturation” educational genre. But it does seem to me that the “enculturation” educational genre is distinguished by greater discursivity; it’s a much talkier model, and I think it is for this reason we often find it in traditional, more oral cultures. Unfortunately (I think) we also find it in foreign language classrooms, where I think it is fundamentally inappropriate. 
First of all, it seems to me that enculturation almost necessarily involves some kind of legitimate peripheral participation, non-essential but nevertheless participatory roles in an activity that can in theory be taken by children and outsiders. This clearly suggests a very hierarchical set of roles, which, since they are not set by skills or by knowledge must be set by some other criterion (e.g. being a so-called “native speaker”)
Secondly, it seems to me that enculturation models place a premium on doing fairly simple, general, everyday things with great adroitness, creativity, and confidence. An obvious example of this would be cooking, something which everybody has to do but which can be done either with routinism, or with verve and inspiration, or with the consummate mastery that is born of endless routines illuminated by flashes of inspiration.
Thirdly (and as David says, this is where narrative “kicks in”) enculturation means learning what Shirley Brice Heath calls “ways with words”. If it were simply a matter of “Watch this” “Now you try it”, then there would be no difference between the discursive model and the skills model. Even if we add “Now, what was the difference?” we only get a skills model plus explicit knowledge, and that is not what the enculturation model is really about.
That’s really all I have to say here. The rest of this post is just two anecdotes to illustrate. and if I had any sense I would just shut up at this point. I am sure that many readers will stop reading at this point, if not long before. But of course in the enculturation model, ways with words are very important, and sometimes anecdotes and illustrations are more important than the actual skills and concepts imparted.
The other day I was sitting here at this very table cracking newly imported American pecans for my mother-in-law, who has had a stroke and can barely speak. She was watching me intently, having never seen either pecans or the jar-opening device I was using to crack them, and began to make speaking sounds. I leaned over to listen and suddenly realized she was giving very precise instructions about how to use the device so that the meat would not be shattered. 
Her body no longer obeys her brain, and she has reacquired the skills that an infant must have in getting others to obey it instead. But in normal times this simply involves laughing or crying, not “ways with words”. The unusual thing about this was the objectivity, the precision, and efficiency of her instructions: as soon as I held the jar-opening device the way she told me to, my speed doubled, my efficiency tripled, and not a single nut-meat was broken.
I realized that cracking peanuts and pumpkin seeds with immense precision is something she has spent a large stretch of her non-working life doing (she retired from the textile mill where she worked at forty years of age) and she obviously had very developed views, transferable to entirely new products and even completely new tools, about how it should be done. In normal times (when we were both twenty years younger) she would have simply shoved me out of the way and done it herself. But in this situation, absolutely no other way of transferring her knowledge than a slurred mixture of Shaanxi and Henan dialects, to which I am normally fairly impervious. 
This circumstance is probably not unique; over thousands of years of human history there were probably many situations where knowledge had to be transferred in this highly imperfect way from disabled elders to not yet able juniors. And so ways with words turn out to be as important as skilled performances.
But unskilled performances also have to be included, first of all, to provide the contrast that we have in skills models (“Watch this” “Now you try it”) and the explicit knowledge we have in conceptual models (“See the difference”), secondly to allow the elders to show the mastery on which their authority must ultimately be based (we cannot always live off of the capital of social position), and thirdly to allow some means by which outsiders can teach insiders, as well as insiders teach outsiders, making the enculturation model not entirely a closed system and allowing the whole to develop new forms of knowing.
Yesterday my brother-in-law and I went to a wedding in a nearby village where he is doing some business with the local village head, whose friend had a son getting married. Village weddings in China are what I would call loosely scripted: certain things must be done, but they are not done to schedule; they happen when all the principals are accounted for and there is enough of an audience to make it worthwhile. In order to make sure that the audience shows up and stays, a huge tub of “saozi mian” (noodles) is kept on the boil all day, and anyone can eat as much as they like, whether they are related to the bride and groom or not.
There are lots of roles that call for little skill, but there are also roles which can be fulfilled very skillfully. For example, when we first arrived at the wedding, they were carrying the bride’s gifts to her new inlaws into a room where the inlaws sat before portraits of their ancestors to receive them.
My brother-in-law and I, along with some neighborhood children, took some of them in (I took a large, purple plastic thermos bottle) and in return the male adults were given cigarettes and the children were given milk sweets. 
While my brother-in-law was smoking his cigarette (I stuck mind behind my ear because I don’t smoke and I didn’t want another pressed upon me), the bride herself arrived. The groom’s sister barred and locked the door, and then the spy-hole was prized out so that negotiations could begin.  
The bride had to knock, of course. The groom’s sister, as per tradition, eyeballed the spy hole (she had to stand on tippy-toe) and then, in standard Chinese, told the bride’s family that the door was barred, and if the bride’s family really wanted to cross the threshold, they had to give a “hongbao” (a red envelope, with money). 
An envelope was produced, but when it the groom’s sister opened it she found it only had a light greenish one yuan note in it (I think that’s about twelve cents at current exchange rates). She complained that the bride’s family was “xiaochi” (stingy) and began to open the door.
My brother-in-law finished his cigarette and sprang to his feet. He barred the door with is wiry frame and let out a torrent of choice insults in the local dialect. Egged on by hilarious laughter (from both sides of the door), he finished with a rhetorical flourish based on slightly different emphases—he wants a BIG red envelope, and big RED one (one hundred yuan notes are red). 
Another envelope was produced (with a blue five yuan note) and my brother in law relented. The bride came in and bowed to the ancestors, and they went off to enjoy their new marital status, their sumptuous (by peasant standards) new lodgings and the spiffy new plastic purple thermos I had carried up the stairs.
As we left, we noticed that another wedding being held nearby. On closer inspection, this turned out to be wedding we had really been invited to—we had peripherally participated in the wrong wedding, and nobody cared or even noticed. And so the concept of party crashers was introduced to a remote village in Northwest China.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Sat, 1/29/11, Rod Parker-Rees <R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk> wrote:

From: Rod Parker-Rees <R.Parker-Rees@plymouth.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: [xmca] Folk Psychology from a narrative perspective
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Saturday, January 29, 2011, 9:38 AM

Children with older siblings observe the way they manage indignant parents and can quickly work out what works and when (back in the 1980s Judy Dunn found plenty of evidence of 2 year olds - who had older siblings - appealing to parents for support but not when they 'knew' that they were responsible for a conflict). They don't need to know HOW or WHY a particular appeal works before they start to use it and they 'join in' well before they develop this sort of understanding (a particularly clear example of the general genetic law). Only children have a tougher job to work out how to manage their parents but they at least have the advantage of plenty of practice.

All the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Robert Lake
Sent: 29 January 2011 17:23
To: lchcmike@gmail.com; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Folk Psychology from a narrative perspective

Yes, I appreciate your comments as well Greg.

I only have one thing to add and LSV might appreciate this.

My grand daughter was saying "It was an accident" when she was 3.  :-)


On Sat, Jan 29, 2011 at 11:17 AM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> An interesting elaboration of the idea of the retrospective construction of
> meaning, Greg. I had not thought about it in these terms before.
> mike
> On Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 11:55 PM, Gregory Allan Thompson <
> gathomps@uchicago.edu> wrote:
> > Yes, and the insistence on ascribing motive to practice starts early. My
> > favorite is the parent that looks at his two year old who has just torn
> half
> > the pages out of a cherished book of his (substitute lipstick all over
> the
> > dining room table or paint on the new carpet) and chastises the child
> "Why
> > did you do that?" or better "What were you thinking?"
> >
> > As if the child has some complex motivation and thought behind what they
> > did. The child can only stare back in shock wondering what is happening.
> >
> > But there is important work being done in those ridiculous questions. Put
> > together enough of these moments and by the time they are 7 or so, they
> get
> > it - "It was an accident" and "I didn't mean to do it" become stock
> > responses regardless of what happened. And by 12 they have become nearly
> > fully competent at manipulating the situation, intentions and all, e.g.
> "I
> > was trying to help my sister... and...". For each event, they are able to
> > reconstruct a philosophy of the act, so to speak.
> >
> > -greg
> >
> > >
> > >------------------------------
> > >
> > >Message: 2
> > >Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2011 11:53:27 -0600
> > >From: "David H Kirshner" <dkirsh@lsu.edu>
> > >Subject: RE: [xmca] Folk Psychology from a narrative perspective
> > >To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> > >Message-ID:
> > >       <731CECC23FB8CA4E9127BD399744D1EC02E0CDFD@email001.lsu.edu>
> > >Content-Type: text/plain;      charset="us-ascii"
> > >
> > >As with Tollefsen, who reviewed Hutto's book, I'm not quite sure what
> > >kinds of specialized narrative practices are supposed to be needed to
> > >establish our folk psychology's rational ascriptions. The ascription of
> > >motive to behavior is ubiquitous. Admittedly, it may take one a long
> > >time to get good at ascribing particular motives to particular actions.
> > >But our social/cultural frame demands such ascription, so presumably we
> > >all are going to get a lot of practice.
> > >
> > >It is one thing to look to narrative as a site for development of a
> > >particular cultural practice--the folk psychology ascription of
> > >motives--quite another to associate narrative with the fundamental
> > >process of enculturation, itself. My approach to enculturation does not
> > >take narrativization of one's identity as fundamental. That only kicks
> > >in in the specialized process of "acculturation"--intentional emulation
> > >of cultural practices to fulfill goals of cultural membership. But
> > >enculturation functions more fundamentally as a spontaneous adaption to
> > >the culture in which one is enmeshed.
> > >
> > >David
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >-----Original Message-----
> > >From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
> > >On Behalf Of Larry Purss
> > >Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 7:21 PM
> > >To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > >Subject: Re: [xmca] Folk Psychology from a narrative perspective
> > >
> > >Hi David Ke
> > >
> > >David
> > >Your distinction between history and narrative is interesting.  Do you
> > >think
> > >Bruner collapses the distinction. Hutto's framework on narratives is
> > >that
> > >they are forms of story-telling that give "reasons for actions" in terms
> > >of
> > >beliefs and desires which are the folk psychological frameworks that are
> > >culturally grounded frames of reference.  He suggests this form of
> > >explanation is socioculturally grounded.  My recollection of Bruner's
> > >work
> > >is he suggests it is one of the two basic forms of constructing meaning.
> > >Therefore, for Bruner, history would be a particular form of narrative.
> > >
> > >David, if Hutto's work interests you, I would also google his edited
> > >book
> > >"Folk Psychology Reassessed" which gives alternative theoretical
> > >approaches
> > >which are challenging the "theory theory" model and "simulation" model
> > >of
> > >folk psychology.  The edited volume situates Hutto's work in a larger
> > >stream
> > >of thought.
> > >
> > >On this topic of folk psycholgy I'm currently reading a book "Philosophy
> > >in
> > >the Flesh" by Lakoff & Johnson that posits BASIC or PRIMARY forms of
> > >cognition as fundamentally metaphorical. We imaginally compare a source
> > >concept to a target concept.   The SOURCE concept of these primary
> > >cognitive
> > >structures are ALWAYS based in our physical bodies. Lakoff & Johnson
> > >suggest
> > >from these primary metaphors more complex metaphorical meanings develop.
> > >If
> > >this perspective is accurate, then language is not the SOURCE of our
> > >most
> > >basic metaphors. The source is in the sensory-motor or somatic embodied
> > >cognition. Language expresses these basic metaphors.  If there is some
> > >merit
> > >in this position then education and developmental science should engage
> > >with
> > >basic primary metaphors as foundational in the emergence of cognitive
> > >capacity and in how these basic metaphors IMPLICITLY structure our folk
> > >psychology.
> > >
> > >>From this perspective of primary metaphor as embodied  it is not too
> > >big a
> > >step  to reflect on primary intersubjectivity as a precursor to
> > >secondary
> > >intersubjectivity.  I have a hunch these 2 constructs are intimately
> > >related.
> > >
> > >Larry
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >On Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 4:14 PM, David Kellogg
> > ><vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:
> > >
> > >> Wow--I have to get that book! Thanks, Larry.
> > >>
> > >> The way I understand David Kirshner's work is this: there is really
> > >only
> > >> ONE of the three meta-discourses in education that is narrative, at
> > >least
> > >> narrative in the sense of oriented towards the action of a hero in a
> > >problem
> > >> space who evaluates and achieves some kind of resolution.
> > >>
> > >> That's his THIRD meta-discourse, the one which sees education as a
> > >process
> > >> of becoming a participant, a member, a practioner and as mastering a
> > >> particular set of discourses that accompany membership.
> > >>
> > >> It seems to me that his first meta-discourse, which sees education as
> > >a
> > >> process of mastering skills, is not narrativist, because it focuses on
> > >> problem solutions and pretty much ignores the hero and the evaluation
> > >of the
> > >> problem space.
> > >>
> > >> His second meta-discourse, which sees education as a process of
> > >acquiring
> > >> conceptual knowledge, is not narrativist either, because it sees this
> > >> knowledge as being not embodied in a particular hero and because it
> > >sees the
> > >> knowledge as being quite separable from the solution of problems.
> > >>
> > >> I don't think this means that DHK would consider the third
> > >meta-discourse
> > >> the most complete. I think it's only the most complete if we view it
> > >from a
> > >> narrativist point of view, and that is no coincidence, since it
> > >co-evolved
> > >> with a lot of Bruner's work.
> > >>
> > >> I have a question about the difference between narrative and history
> > >(as in
> > >> "cultural historical"). It seems to me that everything we say about
> > >> narrative (its structure, it's "I-ness" and even its past-to-present
> > >> orientation) is radically UNTRUE of history (because history is not
> > >> structured around heroes in problem spaces, it is not "I" shaped, and
> > >it is
> > >> oriented present-to-past). Why, then, do people of our peculiar
> > >historical
> > >> epoch treat the two as synonymous?
> > >>
> > >> David Kellogg
> > >> Seoul National University of Education
> > >>
> > >> --- On Wed, 1/26/11, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> From: Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com>
> > >> Subject: [xmca] Folk Psychology from a narrative perspective
> > >> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> > >> Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 2:38 PM
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> I have attached a book review for others interested in a perspective
> > >on
> > >> folk
> > >> psychology that assumes a perspective inspired by Jerome Bruner's work
> > >on
> > >> narrative practices,  Hutto is positing a 2nd person dialogical
> > >grounding
> > >> for understanding "reasons for actions"  He suggests this mode of
> > >> understanding is most pronounced when actions are unpredictable.
> > >Hutto
> > >> suggests there are other more direct embodied forms of recognition and
> > >> engagement that are not narrative based.
> > >>
> > >> I see some affinity in this perspective to David Kirschner's approach
> > >to
> > >> learning theory as narrative based genres.
> > >>
> > >> Larry
> > >>
> > >> -----Inline Attachment Follows-----
> > >>
> > >>
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> > >>
> > >>
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*Robert Lake  Ed.D.
*Assistant Professor
Social Foundations of Education
Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University
P. O. Box 8144
Phone: (912) 478-5125
Fax: (912) 478-5382
Statesboro, GA  30460

*Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its
*-*John Dewey.
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