[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] Bruner on Vygotsky

Can I just add a nuance to Bill's post for non-Australians. Bill refers to his admiration for Noel Pearson. Pearson was our combination of MLK and Malcolm X in the 1960s. I remember hearing him speak in my student days, when he was recruiting for the Freedom Rides. He was indeed electrifying.

In recent decades he has become known as an ally of John Howard - our equivalent of George Bush (though not as dumb). In other words he is on the right-wing of Indigenous politics. The trouble is that what he says makes a lot of sense. The way the Settler community dealt with the Indigenous people since the 1970s, with the idea of Aboriginal land rights, preservation of Indigenous culture and (on the left) Aboriginal sovereignty, has made the situation of indigenous people incomparably WORSE, not better. It has destroyed what was already an oppressed and downtrodden, but nonetheless, vital and cohesive community. For the Indigenous kids who are the subjects of these discussions, the future generally holds nothing better than life on the dole, drunkenness, violence and an early end.

So the solution of the problem of literacy has to be seen in this light. The question of motivation is overlaid on the question of cultural difference.


Bill Kerr wrote:
hi Mike,

Thanks for description of Engelmann's approach. It's not a distraction from
Bruner or Vygotsky. I did introduce Engelmann's approach at the beginning
since I'm very interested in the comparison b/w AL and that approach.

Your earlier comment implied a critique of Engelmann. From the extracts you
provide now I can't see that critique so you will have to spell it out for
me more.

Sorry, I'm not familiar with the nitty gritty details of the Cape York
Pearson / Engelmann implementation. I did write up the details of a recent
speech by Noel Pearson in which he claimed it was working. I posted that
link in my reply to Helen and will repeat it here:

Pearson has written an essay called "Radical Hope", which provides the
background to his choice of Engelmann's DI. I do have it as a pdf so let me
know if you want to read it. I'm a huge fan of Pearson but of course his
primary area of expertise is in indigenous affairs, not education. I find
his writings on indigenous matters quite electrifying. I'm not so sure
however that his principle of the radical centre has been applied to the
educational sphere.

 This section of Engelmann's bio, "Teaching Needy Kids in our Backward
system" goes a long way to explaining his theoretical basis, Theory of
Instruction, pp. 259-266. I'm definitely interested in continuing this

On Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 12:08 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

Bill-- Interesting that an indigenous teacher is using Direct Instruction.
In writing about the cultural deprivation controversies of the 1960's
Engelmann and Bereiter played a special role. Here is the context for my
query in the form of a long quotation with a little
of my own words in it. The rest is an article by Bereiter which seems
succinctly to capture the strategy and its rationale.


"The speech of the severely deprived children seems to consist not of
distinct words, as does the speech of middle-class children of the same
age, but rather of whole phrases or sentences that function like giant
words. That is to say, these "giant word" units cannot be taken apart by
the child and re-combined; they cannot be transformed from statements to
questions, from imperatives to declaratives, and so on. Instead of saying
"He's a big dog," the deprived child says "He bih daw." Instead of say­ing
"I ain't got no juice," he says "Uai-ga-na-ju." Instead of saying "That is
a red truck," he says "Da-re-truh." Once the listener has become
ac­customed to this style of speech, he may begin to hear it as if all the
sounds were there, and may get the impression that he is hearing articles
when in fact there is only a pause where the article should be. He may
believe that the child is using words like *it, is, **if, *and *in, *when
in fact he is using the same sound for all of them-something on the order
of "ih." (This becomes apparent if the child is asked to repeat the
state­ment "It is in the box." After a few attempts in which he becomes
con­fused as to the number of "ih's" to insert, the child is likely to be
reduced to a stammer.)

If the problem were merely one of faulty pronunciation, it would not be so
serious. But it appears that the child's faulty pronunciation arises from
his inability to deal with sentences *as sequences of meaning­ful parts. *Even
a sophisticated adult will have difficulty pronouncing a very long word if
he is unable to deal with it in parts (the reader might take a try at
EMPIANASROFLALILIMINLIAL, reading it aloud once and then trying to repeat
it from memory). In the Cognitive Maturity Test, children are called upon
to repeat sentences of varying degrees of complexity. The severely
disadvantaged child will tend to give merely an approximate rendition of
the over-all sound profile of the sentence, often leaving out the sounds in
the middle, as is common when people are trying to reproduce a meaningless
series-this in spite of the fact that the words themselves are often very
simple, like "A big truck is not a little truck." Bereiter and Engelmann
(1966, p. 34-35)

            Bereiter characterized the underlying logic and practical
application of the approach in the following terms. (Again we quote at
length because the way issues were being discussed is so revealing of
underlying assumptions.)

The language program we have used was originated by my colleague,
Siegfried Engelmann. His outstanding achievement in this program, I
believe, is a bold simultaneous solution to the problem of time, and the
problem of priorities. As Engelmann saw it, the child's primary need was
for a language that would enable him to be taught. Once the child had that,
you could go on and teach him anything else you pleased. Such a language
did not have to be distilled from a recording of actual verbal behavior but
could be constructed, much as Basic English was constructed, by a
consideration of the needs it had to serve.  Such a language could be
taught to children in a relatively short time (in practice, two to six
months), and it would then be possible to add the refinements of complete
English and also to teach other things in a more direct and normal manner.

Teaching disadvantaged children a miniature language that someone else has
made up for them may sound a bit 1984ish to the doubters among us; but
realize that it is regular English, just a stripped-down version of it, and
that the principle of starting with a miniature system which is part of,
but more easily grasped than, the entire system is

a respectable and widely used pedagogical device. Methods of reading
instruction that begin with a limited vocabulary t hat follows a few
consistent spelling rules are an example, as are physics lessons that begin
with consideration of a homogeneous frictionless environment.

To describe the basic language program briefly, it presumes nothing more
of the child at the outset than that he be capable of making some attempt
at imitating what is said to him. Only two basic-statement forms are
taught, the first being the identity statment, "This is a ___ ," and "This
is not a ." Once this statement type is mastered (and mastery of the
not-statement is a major challenge to many seriously deprived children),
the remainder of the beginning

language program is devoted to work with the statement form, "This ___ is
," with its negative and plural variations, introducing several different
kinds of concepts that are used in the predicates of these statements:
polar sets (big-little, hot-cold, and so on); nonpolar sets, such as the
colors and prepositional phrases; and subclass nouns, as in "This animal is
a tiger."

What part of all of this has been imported into Australia? Does it come in
a red or a green bottle?  :-)


PS- sorry if this is a distraction from the topic of JSB and LSV.

On Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 12:31 AM, Bill Kerr <billkerr@gmail.com> wrote:

On Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 2:24 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

Bill-- A shocker the Englemann is peddling DE. Just been reviewing its
origins in Toronto, lo these 50 years. Chilling.

My impression of Engelmann, Mike, is that his practice is good or at
least worth a close look but theoretically he shoots from the hip without
much discernment. I know a few home schooling families who have used his
materials to good effect in teaching their kids to read and write. Also
have been on other lists and heard parents with disadvantaged kids say his
was the only approach that worked.

With disadvantaged students the teacher has to take much more control of
the programme than is possible with middle class students, provide
additional detailed scaffolding etc.  (The reason I found the AL course
great was that it outlined a pathway to do this for language
teaching) Engelmann has worked with disadvantaged students his whole career
and developed an approach that seems to work but at the same
time indiscriminately criticises good educators such as Dewey and
educational approaches such as constructivism, which have both good and bad
implementations. I half read his bio, "Teaching Needy Kids in Our Backward
System: 42 Years of Trying". He's a practitioner, not a theoretician. But
possible a very good practitioner.

At any rate I'm very interested in the fact that Noel Pearson, an
indigenous leader in Australia, is using Engelmann's approach here.

xmca mailing list

*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/hmca20/18/1
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857

xmca mailing list