RE: No Dialectical Pumpkins yet please.

From: Carol Macdonald (
Date: Wed Apr 28 2004 - 03:07:11 PDT

It is culture which makes the dialogue possible in the first place—so
dialogue is constitutive of culture. However, since we can decontextualize
our mediational means, we can reflect on culture as an object, but this is
still embedded in the culture.
I hope this makes sense.

-----Original Message-----
From: Cunningham, Donald J. []
Sent: Tuesday, April 27, 2004 1:16 AM
Subject: RE: No Dialectical Pumpkins yet please.

Steve, are there only two possibilities ( i.e., “all inside the head” or “in
dialogue”)? Is dialogue between people and culture really possible? Does the
metaphor of “zone” open up our thinking in useful ways? Does it constrain
our thinking at all?

Don Cunningham
Indiana University

From: Steve Gabosch []
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2004 3:16 PM
Subject: Re: No Dialectical Pumpkins yet please.

Bill, two things really stand out for me in your posts.

One is your really interesting take on the general "dominant script"
problem. You point very articulately to the question of the location of
cognition - is it something that happens "all inside the head" (the dominant
script)? Or is it something that happens in the dialectic and the dialogue
between people and culture (cultural-historical theory)? I like the way you
have brought this fundamental question into the discussion.

Your assignment of the Gredler (there, I finally have the spelling right!)
and Shields approach, as revealed in their review, as following the "all
inside the head" line of reasoning and not the "cultural-historical", has
gotten my attention, and given me some very interesting food for thought.

The other thing that stands out for me is the way you are working at
unpacking the concept of ZPD. In sensing essential omissions in the
Gredler/Shields treatment of this concept, you are working at articulating a
treatment that you see as embracing much more of what the concept of the ZPD
has to offer. Great stuff.

Some immediate questions on my mind here:

One, what text are your page numbers referring to?

Two, if you were to unpack the concept of the ZPD, what would you list as
the essential components? What you recently wrote seems like a very good

Three, since Gredler and Shields raise the issue, how do you see the
relative place of teaching (especially in Michael's terminology, the
"mentoring" versus "facilitating" role) in Vygotsky's concept of the ZPD?
G&S emphasize the aspect of "developing" versus "matured" psychological
functions in the ZPD, and deemphasize the role of the teacher. In fact, G&S
(pg 22) go so far as to say "Vygotsky did not include the assistance of
another in his definition of ZPD."

For reference, here is a paragraph from Mind in Society (page 86) where
Vygotsky gives us an oft-quoted definition of the ZPD:

"When it was first shown that the capability of children with equal levels
of mental development to learn under a teacher's guidance varied to a high
degree, it became apparent that those children were not mentally the same
age and that the subsequent course of their learning would obviously be
different. This difference between twelve and eight, or between nine and
eight, is what we call [italics from here on out sg] *the zone of proximal
development. It is the distance between the actual development level as
determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential
development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in
collaboration with more capable peers.*"

Something more than I can see must be going on in G&S's reasoning, because
Vygotsky obviously includes the role of the "teacher" in this definition.
Is there another context where it makes sense to deemphasize the "assistance
of another" in considering the ZPD?

Four, G&S attribute the 1978 book Mind in Society as apparently originating
the "erroneous" view that "the ZPD is constituted by tasks solved in
collaboration." (FN 6). The only place I have found in this book where the
editors - and not Vygotsky - speak of the ZPD is in the Afterword by Vera
John-Steiner and Ellen Souberman, where they quote from the above passage
and say things about the concept of the ZPD like:

"In this theory, then, teaching represents the means through with
development is advanced; that is, the socially elaborated contents of human
knowledge and the cognitive strategies necessary for their internalization
are evoked in the learners according to their "actual development levels.""
pg 131. Clearly, these editors interpret teaching as essential to the
concept of the ZPD.


Thanks for this thread, it is doing wonders for my own zone!

- Steve

At 07:15 PM 4/25/2004 -0400, you wrote:
On Saturday 24 April 2004 9:36 pm, Steve Gabosch especially wrote:

> Since the concept of development and its theoretical expression in
> dialectical materialism was not part of either the Glassman paper or the
> Greblen-Shields review, I suggest we start a different thread on this if
> people want.

Steve has drawn a nice analysis (as I expected). I think Steve's comment
above points to problems in the understandings of both papers, UNLESS
however, this topic was omitted because of the publications space
limitations. We'd have to inquire fuirther to be sure.

I'd like to expand on one sense of the dominant script to which I referred
e.g. little "consideration of the greater theoretical context in which the
quote rests" This I wrote in part because of the above omission AND because
Gedler and Shields insistence of the individual nature of the zoped. The
dominant script to which i infer/refer here includes a western perspective
that places cognition only inside the head -- arguably more fully described
as a western non-dialogical non-dialectical non-social ahistorical
perspective. If we interpret Vygotsky through this perspective, then
integration with Bakhtin would seem very difficult. (Personally i'm not
interested in integration of vygotsky with dewey at this point) The
supporting Gredler and Shields participation in the dominant script (I'm
simply arguing for plausibility here, I don't intend to conduct a full study
of Gredler and Shields) includes their apparent neglect of:

1) Vygosky's *Instrumental Method in Psychology* which states what IMHO is
the basis of activity (as how Leont'ev writes of activity) being the unit of
analysis of child development, i.e. "The instrumental method studies not
the development of the child but his/her education" (p140). This points to
the need for a greater unit of analysis than just the child, in (logical)
contradiction to Gredler and Shields definition.

2) Vygotsky's formulation of the general genetic law *The genesis of higher
mental functions* notes "Any function in the child's cultural development
appears twice, on on two planes. First it appears between people as an
interpsychological category and then within the child as an
intrapsychological category." (p163) This is a key concept that supports an
interpretation of the zoped to include the assistance of others (and
auxiliary means, see below).

3) The method of double stimulation in *the problem of the cultural
development of the child* is an historical-genetic method in which one
examines different configurations of "auxiliary means" to map out the
changing (and arguably potential) development of the child, i.e., "the
child, in mastering himself...goes on the whole in the same way as he does
mastering his external nature, e.g. by technical means." This is what
Gredler and Shields seem to completely miss in their interpretation of the

4) Vygotsky's *The problem of the environment* notes "... the environment
cannot be regarded as a static entity and one which is peripheral in
to development, but must be seen as changeable and dynamic. Here we have
enrironment, a situation which influences the child in one way or another
directs his development. But the child, his development, keeps changing,
becomes different. and it is not just the child who changes, for the
relaitonship between him and his environment also changes, and the same
environment now begins to have a different influence on the child" (p346)

The only real claim this evidence supports well is that Gredler and shields
really do not understand how the zoped fits into a dialectical and
cohesive theory of child development. (Or perhaps they don't think Vygotsky
thought this way). The strong claim I make about their participation in all
those other characterizations of a dominant script is a conjecture to be
either further supported or refuted.

Anyway, I'm interested in exploring the grounds of our interpretations of
these two papers, and not really in detouring through Ilyenkov's pumkin


Thanks Steve!


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