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[Xmca-l] Re: All Stars and Beyond

Hi all, 

I am forwarding Carrie's message, as she's been having problems with getting it through. Bruce is soon taking care of that, but meanwhile I copy her to this message and anyone wanting to address her can answer to "all" when responding to this.

Hello XMCAers,

First of all, let me say thank you to Alfredo and Mike for asking to include my article in the XMCA discussion stream. Its much appreciated. I am excited to jump into this conversation and respond to what has already been said. I was originally thinking I would pose some questions I am interested in exploring, but some of them are already coming up. That said, I am also eager to talk about the young people's responses to the program that appear near the end of the article and their sense of themselves as performers. 

I was struck by Mike's use of the word optimism in his post and I have to say while it spoke to me, it also got me thinking. I first became aware of the All Stars back in the early 1990's, about a decade after its founding. It was still a relatively small organization. It served about a thousand young people a year, only in NYC. The organization raised less than $100,000 a year and had just hired its first employee. As I have learned of the history of the All Stars founding I would not say it was founded off of a sense of optimism--although what has been built generates optimism in the people who visit it and hear about it. 

The founders of the All Stars, led by Dr. Fred Newman and Dr. Lenora Fulani, set out to create something that was a response to the devastation of generational poverty on the Black community in NYC. The All Stars Talent Show Network, the first program of the ASP, was founded by community organizers who had been working with adults in the community to create a union of welfare recipients and were looking for something for their young people to do. It was founded in order to create something positive, prosocial, and creative that the young people could own. Fred Newman used to say that it had all the characteristics of a gang, but without the negativity. The All Stars was and is independent of the politically controlled social welfare agencies that existed across the city. As its grown its retained those characteristics. So while I think it has produced optimism, politically it was not created out of a sense of optimism. I think it was a more actively political choice to build something that was not a protest move, but a creative one--relating to the people in the community, and later the business people, as builders and creators of activities that were not controlled or dominated by the existing institutions and their assumptions about who people are. 

I also wanted to say something about code-switching. Perhaps code-switching is the word academics use for the amazing human ability to move around and about newness. If that is the case then I think the All Stars is not so much teaching code-switching, as tapping into that human ability to do that and creates environments where that is cheered, supported, and validated. While I actually do value the particular "languages" the youth and business people learn, what I think is more critical is that they learn that they can learn them. 


Carrie Lobman, Ed.D.
Chair, Department of Learning and Teaching
Graduate School of Education
Rutgers University
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu> on behalf of David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com>
Sent: 26 September 2017 23:05
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: All Stars and Beyond

"Code" is precisely the right word, although I am not sure about the the
word "switch". Here's the problem the way Gramsci sees it (and I think
almost everybody will immediately see the links with the criticisms made of
Luria after the Uzbekistan expeditions).

“(59) If it is true that any language contains the elements of a conception
of the world and of a culture, it will also be true that the greater or
lesser complexity of a person’s (60) conception of the world can be judged
from his language. A person who only speaks a dialect or who understands
the national language in varying degrees necessarily enjoys a more or less
restricted and provincial, fossilized and anachronistic perception of the
world in comparison with the great currents of thought which dominate world
history. His interests will be restricted, more or less corporative and
economic, and not universal. If it is not always possible to learn foreign
languages so as to put oneself in touch with different cultures, one must
at least learn the national tongue. One great culture can be translated
into the language of another great culture that is, one great national
language which is historically rich and complex can translate any other
great culture, i.e. can be a world expression. But a dialect cannot do the
same thing.”

Gramsci, A. (1957). The Modern Prince and Other Writings. New York:
International. pp. 59-60

Ironically, Gramsci is really talking about his own native tongue, Sardu,
which isn't a dialect of Italian at all but rather (a bit like Cantonese in
relation to the Chinese of the Tang Dynasty) an earlier and purer offshoot
of a more ancient language, namely Latin. In contrast, black English really
is a dialect, and what Gramsci is saying here simply isn't true, either of
black English or dialects generally.

A dialect is a variety of language defined by the user. It's not defined by
the region as we usually think: that's why black people speak (more or
less) the same dialect in Compton and in Queens, and why white English in
America is not confined to any particular region. But dialects tend to
mutual intelligibility, particularly in big cities. So contrary to what
Gramsci says, even after the national homogenizations of the eighteenth
century there was absolutely no reason why any dialect of any language
could not express everything that the language (the dialect-complex) had to
express. In fact, that's how speakers of minority dialects, including black
people, became bidialectal, and it is also why the distinctions of dialect
tend to be phonological rather than lexicogrammatical or semantic.

There are ALSO systematic differences in language which are defined by the
USE. These are also not peculiar to any particular region: Academese is not
restricted to Ivy Leagues, and air controller English is spoken in every
cockpit on earth. These varieties are called registers (if you are a
Hallidayan) and because they do involve variation in the lexicogrammar (the
morphology, vocabulary, and syntax, viewed as a cline from open class to
closed class words) what Gramsci says and what Luria believed about their
variation is probably true: they can only translate certain meanings and
not others.

Bernstein has ANOTHER term for the systematic varieties of meanings that
are the result of this variation in lexicogrammar: code. I don't
think black English is a register or that it gives rise to a special code.
Black mathematicians working for NASA are perfectly able to do their work
in their own dialect, and Neil deGrasse Tyson will understand everything
they do. I have certainly heard Chinese linguists do linguistics in a wide
variety of dialects. I have never heard Andy speak any dialect but
Australian, and I have heard him on a wide variety of topics,
from household matters to Heglian ones.

We may be monodialectical but we are all multi-registerial, because child
development (and even national development) invariably involves learning
new registers and codes. So I think the real problem that has to be tackled
in Carrie's article is the development (not switching) of the semantic
code. The problem, for me, is that I think black kids need the semantic
code of bankers about as much as bankers need the code of black kids:  like
a fish needs a bicycle. Maybe some registers and their codes just need to
be abolished.

David Kellogg

On Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 3:16 AM, mike cole <mcole@ucsd.edu> wrote:

> I am not certain when the conversation of Carrie's description of the All
> Starts program is to begin.
> But David noted the article coming up in a recent message, so maybe we
> could start?
> I guess my first impression is that the scope of the effort is staggering.
> Apropos of the discussion of social movements in relation to the sorts of
> activities that dominate xmca empirical work, and Yrjo's ISCAR
> address, what is being described here is an institution that raised 10
> million dollars in 2015 and involves
> a lot of teenagers/young adults.
> The "teaching kids to code switch" from black<-->white as a framing seemed
> like a way to address Delpit-style
> critiques of the schooling of kids of color. Linking this to an imagined
> future of fluid identities seems like an optimistic way to think about the
> processes set in motion. Linking it to Vygotsky's point about the need to
> think about how newness comes into the world.
> I wonder how the strategies used in this work do/do not line up with the
> cases that Yrjo talked about.
> mike