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

[Xmca-l] Re: The ideal head



Helena,
Absolutely agreed. I see that as another way of saying that "culture"
matters (history too!).
I think this is where Lois Holzman's work is really interesting and
exciting. She is dealing with the problem of becoming - and the particular
problem of becoming that upper-class persons are not faced with. You can
hear it in the way that upper-class kids talk - they already ARE
upper-class. For the lower-class kid there is an added burden of becoming
that involves becoming someone who BELONGS in those places (whether schools
or board rooms or political governing bodies or whatever). I take it that
this is the problem that this girl is faced with she feels like she is
someone who does not belong there. Lois' work suggests that the metaphor
(and practice) of play can be particularly powerful here. By playing out
roles - even if the tired and overdetermined roles of lower class, Black,
inner-city adolescent - children cultivate an awareness of the play-fulness
of everyday life, the fact that "being someone who belongs" is a performed
role. And one that, with a little practice, they too can perform.
That's just my take on what Lois is up to. I'm sure there is more to it
than what I have described.
And it does seem like there is another narrative running alongside the
"nobility can do it with hard word" that says that "anybody can do it with
hard work". The former seems a more traditionally British mythos (nobility
are fundamentally hard working people) while the latter is peculiarly
American (whomever is hard working will become American nobility - i.e.
upper class). But having said that, it is hard not to feel that the logic
of the former is not still operating in the U.S. (as I suggested above).
Interesting mess. Lois' seems a good approach. Are there others? (and I
might also ask, moving from the individual to a more systemic question:
what is the larger problem that we are trying to solve).
-greg



On Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 12:46 PM, Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com>
wrote:

> But my point is that the "fictional" idea has power -- enough power to
> make people think that if a kid tries, and tries, and tries, they can
> overcome the lack of special resources that are symbolized by "English
> nobility," or, in the real world, a rich cultural environment in childhood,
> good food, safe place to sleep, attentive educated parents, nice schools,
> etc etc...
>
> Sometimes the "people" who believe that trying hard is enough are the
> parents. Sometimes they are the overseers of the school systems, who ought
> to know better.
>
> Helena Worthen
> helenaworthen@gmail.com
>
> On Jul 24, 2014, at 1:34 PM, Carol Macdonald wrote:
>
> > Peter
> >
> > Or perhaps that the writer of The Tarzan stories had no idea about what
> it
> > takes to become literate.  He had no-one to show him the arbitrariness of
> > language and reading.
> >
> > If you remember, the primers for reading had multisyllable words in them.
> >
> > Peter is right - only in fiction is this possible.
> >
> > And trying harder isn't necessarily the way to move forward. Trying
> > something *else *might do it.  Tell that mum.
> >
> > Carol
> >
> >
> > On 24 July 2014 17:53, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:
> >
> >> 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
> >> helenaworthen@gmail.com
> >>
> >> 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>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >
> >
> > --
> > Carol A  Macdonald Ph D (Edin)
> > Developmental psycholinguist
> > Academic, Researcher,  and Editor
> > Honorary Research Fellow: Department of Linguistics, Unisa
>
>
>


-- 
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson