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RE: [xmca] Culture & Rationality
Martin, I see you taking a different direction with this new post. It's less about teaching writing, and more about, broadly speaking, writing.
I am not confident that all of LSV's views on writing hold up in the digital era where you can text back and forth and get immediate response, almost as in conversation, from which he differentiates writing. He was really talking about handwriting for abstract audiences where there were delays between writing and reading by others. But you and I can critique one another to death, and Andy can do it from Australia, in some circumstances in real time (e.g., we could use the "share screen" function of skype and coauthor a doc from remote sites).
I think that what LSV writes is right for what he was talking about. His views of schooling, though, were from a different time, place, and culture. So controlling the basic elements (e.g., letter formation) isn't necessarily even part of learning to write anymore, although it's probably how most people start.
It's true that "these abilities develop during the process of learning to write" although not without feedback, I'd say; and not without something frontloaded.
Writing instruction is still an open-ended question. There's still a belief in immersion, for instance: just immerse them in rich print environments, get out of their way, and let them write, lest we interfere with their unfettered development. I don't buy this approach, but it's out there among people who teach writing from kindergarten to grad school. I'm more comfortable with the idea that you can teach people how to explore and refine ideas through writing, and do so in ways that help people learn appropriate conventions and strategies. See e.g. http://www.heinemann.com/products/E03397.aspx (a total of 7 books in the series).
I'm not sure how well I can capture the nuances of writing pedagogy in a one-screen medium, but I hope that at least provides some clarity. p
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: Sunday, July 01, 2012 2:32 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality
Help me figure this out, please. LSV emphasizes that writing requires specific kinds of conscious awareness that are necessary for speaking. The following are some rough notes on this. Would you say that they are true of both types of writing that you have described, or only one?
Written language is not simply a transcription of oral speech, it is something altogether more abstract. Writing not only abstracts from the sounds of speech, it also abstracts for the situation of spoken language. The language a child speaks is regulated by the dynamics of the situation, and directed towards a specific other person or people. Speech, for the school-aged child, has become automatic, spontaneous, and unconscious. Written language, in contrast, is communication without an interlocutor. We don't usually write about the here and now, to someone who is present. We write for a reader who we may not even know, who will read our words in circumstances we cannot anticipate.
In learning to write, then, the school-age child learns a new kind of communication, one that is abstracted from the world around her. Writing deals not with words, but with representations of words. Writing lacks the music of speech, and the writer must make up for this lack with various grammatical and rhetorical devices. Writing is, for the school-age child (and for many adults), a deliberate, conscious process, one that involves making careful, considered decisions. The child must develop voluntary control of the basic elements (letters in the case of writing), of syntax, and semantics - whereas in the child's everyday speech these have been mastered and have become unconscious, spontaneous, and automatic.
In short, the mastery of writing requires conscious awareness and voluntary control of various aspects of language. It might seem that in order to teach a child to write we would need to wait for these abilities to develop. But Vygotsky said no, these abilities develop during the process of learning to write; they have "an indissoluble internal link" with the teaching of writing.
On Jul 1, 2012, at 5:23 AM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
> Just one thought that occurred to me while reading these posts, and offered from an old English teacher and on-and-off writing researcher:
> Martin says, "Or how teaching writing contributes over and above teaching scientific concepts."
> I should note that not all writing instruction is the same. In fact, one thing that occurs to me is that one type is oriented to academic writing with formal, genre-based conventions. Another (and not "the" other) is really based on personal exploration of life experiences. This approach was very popular in the 80s, and perhaps even dominant in many circles, and remains around, although the Common Core Standards, etc., will surely diminish its availability. Anyhow, one seems dedicated to teaching academic (scientific) conceptions of formal expression--although in fact, it tended to be so form-oriented that conceptions would seem to have a hard time emerging from the writing process. The other seems dedicated to providing an environment for exploring everyday (spontaneous) concepts, with "direct" or explicit instruction not only eschewed, but viewed as violent to the students' personal development.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
> On Behalf Of Martin Packer
> Sent: Saturday, June 30, 2012 7:17 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality
> Hi Larry,
> Good questions - the first is one of the main motivations for me trying to figure out the details of LSV's argument. One starts to wonder, how specific is this to cultures in which there is schooling? Would some other kind of deliberate instruction be equally effective? What about cultural circumstances in which no deliberate instruction by adults take place (Peter F. brought this up)?
> And then, what counts as a scientific concept? Can different cultures
> have different kinds of scientific concepts, equally adequate to
> grasping the necessities of reality? Could the Chinese - to go back to
> Nisbett's work for a moment - have concepts that are different from
> those in the West, but that are equally scientific? (It's odd, come to
> think of that, that LSV never wrote - to my knowledge - of Oriental
> culture, given that the Soviet Union stretched all the way to the
> And then your second question comes to mind. We tend to think of scientific inquiry as an unfinished process; perhaps as one that never finishes. But if so, in what sense do current scientific concepts grasp necessities? And could the process that LSV is describing continue, to achieve higher forms of consciousness and higher kinds of knowledge? Or does the history of ontogenesis have an endpoint?
> But I think to be able to take a shot at answering these questions we need to get clearer on the details of the argument. I'm still not clear on how the 'intellectualizing' takes place in adolescence. Or how teaching writing contributes over and above teaching scientific concepts. And much more!
> On Jun 30, 2012, at 5:59 PM, Larry Purss wrote:
>> Is THIS hierarchical movement of developing scientific concepts as
>> conscious awareness a universal human potential or is this form of
>> conscious awareness a historically and culturally situated phenomena?
>> If awareness is a reflective phenomena of making what was implicit
>> more explicit and more volitional [and therefore higher] is there a
>> universal human potential to *see through* or *unveil* [NOT reveal]
>> the implicit historical formation of earlier forms of consciousness,
>> including scientific consciousness?
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