Re: [xmca] Some thoughts on some issues in Hasan's papers

From: Gordon Wells (
Date: Mon Jul 04 2005 - 19:32:18 PDT

>Ed wrote:
> However, my interest was quite captured by Ruqaiya's last
>paragraph as education is a place I where spend much of my thinking.
>Especially the bit
>Obviously, semiotic mediation can only succeed if the receiver
>receives with understanding; a condition for understanding is the
>recruitment of attention and engagement. Why should we expect that
>pupils coming from distinct social positions will all have the same
>notions of relevance, the same urge for engagement with the same
>'knowledge'. Some effort is needed to create a way of meaning that
>turns out to be meaningful to all, not just to those who come
>pre-disposed to learn decontextualised knowledge structures.

Shortly after reading this same paragraph, I started rereading A.N.
Leont'ev (1978). I was struck by his explication of Marx's views
about cognition and learning:

A profound revolution brought about by Marx in the theory of
cognition is the idea that human practice is the basis for human
cognition; practice is that process in the course of whose
development cognitive problems arise, human perceptions and thought
originate and develop, and which at the same time contains in itself
criteria of the adequacy and truth of knowledge: Marx says that man
must prove truth, activity and power, and the universality of his
thought in practice...

In reality the philosophic discovery of Marx consists not in
identifying practice with cognition but in recognizing that cognition
does not exist outside the life process that in its very nature is a
material, practical process. The reflection of reality arises and
develops in the process of the development of real ties of cognitive
people with the human world surrounding them; it is defined by these
ties and, in its turn, has an effect on their development....

Even the bodily organization of individuals incorporates the need
that they participate in an active relationship with the external
world; in order to exist they must act, produce the necessary means
of life. Acting on the external world, they change it; at the same
time they also change themselves. This is because what they
themselves represent is determined by their activity, conditioned by
the already attained level of development, by its means and the form
of its organization.

It seems to me that, in order to engage students with different
notions of relevance, we need to relate the teaching of the topics
prescribed in the school curriculum to real life situations and
issues that students immediately recognize - or fairly readily come
to recognize - as significant in their current or envisaged future
lives. Much of the skill of the teacher lies in identifying such
situations and issues in advance or from listening to what students
have to say when their views are genuinely requested. This is what I
have tried to capture in advocating the approach to curriculum
through 'dialogic inquiry' that involves practical as well as
intellectual actions.


Gordon Wells
Dept of Education,
UC Santa Cruz.

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