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Re: [xmca] Play: A Really Useful Way to Turn Kids into Cops
Thanks for the note. I'm afraid I don't know very much here. Can you recommend something, or better yet post a pdf for me?
I know and I like Elkonin's work on speech development in preschoolers, which is where I learned that fully one percent of the vocabulary of a Russian four year old is swear words and obscene imprecations. (That's the kind of realistic detail I am missing in Leontiev!)
On the other hand, I really loathe and detest what Leontiev writes about play. He can't really figure out what the "motive" and the "goal" of play is (because obviously winning the game is not exactly a commonly shared goal, even if it is a generally held one). So he decides that all games are role plays and that all role plays express the thwarted desire of the child to grow up and become a model Soviet citizen--a Stakhanovite robot.
Mike has said (both on and off list, and also in print, specifically in his preface to Luria's autobiography) that he once resisted the attempts to depersonalize the ideas of Vygotsky and Luria and Leontiev, but that now he understands these attempts better.
Anna Stetsenko has also said that we need to think about the ideas of Vygotsky and his colleagues as collective productions, and stop looking too hard at their disagreements and their quarrels.
I guess in an ideal world, I would go along with this. But I just read that book that Phil was telling us about: the one that says that Bakhtin actually plundered the literary corpse of his benefactors Medvedev and Voloshinov and then claimed their works as his own. (I have a review of it coming up in MCA.)
I think Leontiev is open to the same charge. In this book in which he trashed paedology, we find ideas and even whole examples lifted straight from Vygotsky's works without a whisper of credit. Leontiev credits Narziss Ach for the work on concept formation and says absolutely nothing about Vygotsky and Sakharov!
This is unkind, ungenerous, and ungrateful. But perhaps it is not intellectually dishonest. Vygotsky's work on concept formation takes the development of word meaning as absolutely central, and free, autonomous, chosen use of concepts as the outcome towards which development reaches. Leontiev, in contrast, takes collective aims and shared goals as the key factor, just as Ach did. (Ach eventually decided that Hitler was what provided the aim and goal for Germans as a collective, and Leontiev apparently feels pretty much the same way about Stalin.)
Many of us here at xmca have spent a decade or more (in MIke's case, many decades) fighting against revisionist attempts to "Brunerize" Vygotsky (e.g. the scaffolding model of the ZPD). I think it will take at least another decade to see through the terrible STALINIST distortions of his work coming out of Leontiev's version of activity theory. I guess if the process of naming names helps us do that, we had better start naming them.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--- On Sun, 12/11/11, Wagner Luiz Schmit <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Wagner Luiz Schmit <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Play: A Really Useful Way to Turn Kids into Cops
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Sunday, December 11, 2011, 4:09 AM
Thank you for your thoughts on this... And in this light, what do you think
about Elkonin works on play?
Wagner Luiz Schmit
2011/12/11 David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> I have been reading, inter alia, "Soviet Psychology: A symposium" (1961,
> Vision: London). It is mostly about Soviet criticisms of the "Two Factor"
> theory (Gesell's idea that child development could be explained,
> ultimately, by reference to heredity on the one hand and environment on the
> However, there are two articles by A. N. Leontiev. The first one I have
> read before in an edited version; it is his defense of Lysenko. But the
> first version I saw read like a confession elicited with a gun to his head.
> In THIS version he is the one with gun.
> "Darwin inaugurated the scientific treatment of these problems. He was
> interested in the importance of instinct in the life of the species and
> reached the realization that the development of the species can only be
> understood by assuming the inheritability of the changes made under the
> influence of new conditions of life that did not correspond to the existing
> instincts." (p. 32)
> (Really? I thought that was Lamarck. Silly me!)
> "The theories of Morgan, Weissmann and Mendel were much quoted and applied
> in the Soviet Union until the Central Committe of the Soviet Union passed
> the resolution of July 4, 1936. this resolution which condemned paedology,
> i.e. the science of the special psychology of the child, also put an end to
> the 'two factor theory' which proclaimed the equal role of heredity
> and environment....' (p. 33)
> (No kidding? I thought it put an end to Vygotsky and cultural historical
> psychology for the next twenty years.)
> "It is even assumed that the most important needs and emotions are
> immutable in man--as is emphasized by John Dewey." (p. 35)
> (Imagine that! Now where exactly does Dewey say this?)
> On p. 44 we learn that paedology is based on bourgeois theories which
> "deny the formative character of education" because they imagine
> development is based only on the natural abilities of children.
> (Surely we are talking about an extreme form of behaviorism?)
> On p. 40 we learn that all attempts to periodize child development are
> "essentially paedological" and thus "pseudo-scientific". "The solution of
> this problem was made possible by the investigations, already mentioned, of
> individual mental processes in the child and by studies of the development
> of various kinds of child activities--play, learning, work."
> (At least Leontiev recognizes that children play and that play has some
> kind of formative quality, though of course we mustn't imagine for a single
> moment that play is based on the natural abilities of chldren. Right?)
> Not quite. Here is what Leontiev says in "The Intellectual Development of
> the Child".
> "Creative play is, as a rule, collective. As the roles are distributed,
> certain definite relations are created between the children which condition
> their behavior towards each other. The accepted role determines the child's
> behavior. 'The daughter' 'must obey 'the mother'; 'the mother' must be
> loving; 'the policeman' strict but courteous. We must not forget that the
> main thing for the children in these games is action and in particular an
> action which comes closest to reality. The children always take seriously
> the content of the actions performed in the play. Therefore, a remark
> thrown in incidentally is sufficient to direct the behavior of the playing
> child. it is enough to say, for example: 'Does it really happen that a
> policeman on duty is uncourteous?', and the quarrel among the playing
> children subsides." (p. 63).
> Notice how ANL transmogrifies the collective activity into a kind of
> animate subject ('"the roles are distributed", "certain definite relations
> are created", the "accepted" role determines the child's behavior). The
> child has a purely passive role, but never mind: the environment more than
> makes up the deficit, assuming the active role of a kind of superhero, or
> super-nanny, or super-cop.
> Play is a really useful way to turn kids into cops. No wonder Gunilla
> Lindqvist hated this stuff.
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studiees
> xmca mailing list
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