Re: [xmca] Ilyenkov in A Stetsenko's articles

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Fri Nov 04 2005 - 16:33:02 PST


You're correct that the decentralized US school system leads to
opportunities to explore - and influence - the agencies of community and
school district and how these relate to national education policy. A few
years ago I undertook research in a small school district in Michigan, and I
tried to trace the linkages between what I saw in the classroom (and I
observed in many grade levels over a two-year period) and local economic
changes, namely the closing of a nearby auto-assembly plant which had
provided well-paying jobs to high school graduates (and drop outs) for many
years. I came to see that the plant closing was a small part of the
reorganization of production in the auto industry, in the shift from Fordist
to post-Fordist production. Then, seemingly coincidentally, the state
implemented school reforms which included testing requirements very similar
to No Child Left Behind. It was fascinating - well, horrifying - to see the
effects of bringing business principles (quality, efficiency, accountability
- the governor called them 'market place' reforms) to the state
responsibilities of educating children. I was a member of the district
committee trying to foster local-based change, and though I doubt I
contributed much more than telling their story, this provided a close
vantage point. The 'market place' reforms fractured efforts to build
community within the district; in effect they imposed a state-wide
curriculum; the test scores stigmatized poor and disadvantaged schools as
failures. In my analysis all this served very well the new class structure
of post-Fordist, flexible, production: no longer working class and middle
class, but a small inner core and a much larger class of dispensable,
'flexible' part-timers.

If anyone wants to know more, 'Changing Classes: School Reform and the New
Economy' (2001, CUP) tells the story concretely; a more abstract analysis
can be found in Packer & Tappan (Eds), 'Cultural and Critical Perspectives
on Human Development' (2001, SUNY). I didn't use CHAT, but I would be
pleased to discuss what CHAT would bring to this study or others like it. I
do think that it is crucial to consider broader institutional processes
whenever we try to understand what is happening in a classroom (or any other
occasion of learning). Disciplinary training here in the US doesn't prepare
one well to study across this range of scales.


On 11/4/05 6:33 PM, "Victor" <> wrote:

> Current policies of the Federal Govt. are indeed an issue (not only
> regarding the realization of aims of democracy in education), but among the
> most valuable aspects of CHAT is the range of issues and of scale it unites
> into a single theoretical-practical paradigm. In the US local authorities,
> State Govt., Town and County School boards, and so on have a much more
> direct role in the funding and formulation of educational policy than is
> found in most countries, and it appears to me that these local governing
> agencies are important addresses for practical research on many important
> issues in education. For example, much of the recent controversy concerning
> the introduction of creationist theory into the science curriculum is being
> fought at local levels; in State and County school boards and even in
> individual schools. Then too, some of the most critical problems in modern
> education may be found at the most local level of the educational system,
> from the management of community and neighborhood educational systems to the
> interaction between teacher and pupil, between pupils and between teachers.
> The areas in in education which CHAT can contribute fruitful research and
> development is vast.
> In light of my commentary on the dangers of politicisation (in the
> sense of party politics) for the effectiveness of CHAT in attaining unity in
> diversity, I would hope that the practical aims and organization of CHAT
> (not of course that of individual theorists) be kept sufficiently
> democratic, broad, and open to perpetuate the kind of useful exchange of
> ideas and practices that has characterised it till now.
> Victor Friedlander-Rakocz
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Martin Packer" <>
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <>
> Sent: Friday, November 04, 2005 21:44
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Ilyenkov in A Stetsenko's articles
> Then here in the US it is clear what the current task of theory should be:
> the critical review of the (many) failures of the current administration in
> realizing the aims of democracy (in education, for example) and the
> development of means to correct them.
> On 11/4/05 2:16 AM, "Victor" <> wrote:
>> A reading of his two major works; Dialectical Logic (1974) and Dialectics
>> of
>> the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx¹s Capital (1960) show Ilyenkov as
>> severely critical of ³contemplationist² theory and a firm, consistent
>> partisan
>> of theory as a function of practice and of practice as the test of theory.
>> Ilyenkov is hardly reticent in declaring his own objectives; paragraphs in
>> Chapter 8 of Dialectical Logic and his articles ³Activity and Knowledge²
>> (1974) and ³From the Marxist Point of View² (1967) clearly indicate of
>> what he
>> thought the current task of theory should be; the critical review of the
>> failures of the Soviet bureaucracy in realizing the aims of socialism and
>> the
>> development of means to correct them.
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