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[Xmca-l] Re: The ideal head

I'd say that working harder worked for Tarzan because he was fictional.

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Helena Worthen
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2014 12:40 PM
To: lchcmike@gmail.com; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: The ideal head

These views are persuasively bound up in the story of Tarzan, an incredibly popular book published in 1913 and still being sold. Tarzan, abandoned in infancy in the African jungle, comes upon his dead parents' cabin and their library and, without ever hearing human speech much less English spoken, manages to teach himself to read. Why? Well, 1) he tries hard and 2) he's English nobility. The generations of kids and their parents who read the Tarzan story (or see the movies) never question this train wreck of ideas -- on the contrary, it provides support for the idea that learning is the result of trying hard and being born smart (except that that's a code word for upper class). 

I had a heart-wrenching experience the other day that illustrates how this works in real life. We're spending the summer in a small town in Vermont -- working class, very dependent on big ski area tourism. A friend of mine, a working class woman, is paying big bucks to send her 12 year old daughter to an academic summer camp at a very high-level hotshot prep school nearby. The hope is that, with this extra boost, the girl will be able to speed past the pitfalls of the local high school (which has a 30% dropout rate, drug problems, etc.). The other students at the summer camp are prep school kids repeating classes they didnt' ace plus rich kids from all over the world, especially Asia. My friend's daughter did fine the first week, then seemed to just freeze. Now daughter wants to quit and is refusing to eat, etc. Her mom's idea is that the girl just needs to try harder, try harder, try harder.Mother has moved down there and is starting to attend classes with her.  Mother and daughter are about ready to hit each other.  

My opinion: trying harder worked for Tarzan because he was English nobility, and someone forgot to make sure my friend and her daughter were English nobility (meaning, someone forgot to prepare her daughter with all the class advantages, including self confidence, that the other kids brought with them, along with their iPhones and designer swimsuits). 

Where do you start, in a situation like this?

Helena Worthen

On Jul 19, 2014, at 6:38 PM, mike cole wrote:

> Hi Peter. I had a similar experience regarding the accidental 
> discovery of literature containing those colonialist-era books. My 
> example was written for high level scholars over a century ago, but 
> it, like this piece, expresses views that have not by any means 
> disappeared in the intervening century.
> Nor has the resulting violence seemed to have eased.
> Attached.
> mike
> On Sat, Jul 19, 2014 at 12:03 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:
>> http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/07/the-ideal-head-b
>> izarre-racial-teachings-from-a-100-year-old-textbook/374693/#comments
>> I wrote this very short essay that some might find interesting, and 
>> have linked to the page that includes reader comments, which are 
>> prolific and edifying for those who believe in the progress of human 
>> thinking. p
> <Drummond- Ascent O fMan.doc>