For King Beach

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Tue May 31 2005 - 19:53:13 PDT

Mike and others,

I am going to dip my oar in the water here from New Delhi where we
are working with organizations trying to help street and working kids
build connections (not necessarily similarities) between their lives
in slums and the government schools--certainly involving
generalization is a broader sense. However, two points flow from the
juxtaposition of our current work with this conversation.

One is our tendency to look for a single overarching characterization
of generalization, e.g. as ascending from the abstract to the
concrete or the expansion of local discursive practices. Those of us
who are psychologists by training might recognize this as our
discipline's historical desire for single process explanations such
as learning transfer. Davydov's concept of substantive
generalization, for example, makes far more sense to me in the
context of teaching and in science than it does where there are not
clearly generative "germ concepts." Trying to makes sense of the
transitions that primary-aged kids make between school and home/work
involves so many levels of generalization as to make single
process/single principle constructs problematic.

The other is a tendency with generalization to focus on that which
develops with some degree of commonality across social space and time
rather than on the production of disjunctions and contradictions as
well. Like Michael Roth here I do find Hegel and Ilyenkov (partic.
Dialectics of Abstract and Concrete) helpful in thinking about
generalization more broadly than the production of similarity. The
contradictions and disjunctions between what the kids must do here in
their daily lives and what they do in the school classrooms have far
greater developmental potential than do any hoped for highly
"abstracted" set off commonalities between studying in school and
working on the streets (or well-intentioned but misguided attempts to
"smooth" the daily transitions that these kids make between the
streets and the school by making "word problems" out of their
experiences working with their families).



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