Re: [xmca] Kevin's paper for discussion

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Wed Jun 28 2006 - 06:49:55 PDT

It was the stuff about "failing" being a design outcome of schools which
intrigued me. Very challenging for teachers. How do you cope with your role
in producing the next generation of failures to be slotted into the various
despised occupations? The idea seems to have some weight. You have to grant
that all kids have the capacity to lead a productive life, so if the
government is going to invest 12 years' of the efforts of the education
system to assist them along the way, then the high rate of graduating
"uneducated" or at least illiterate kids can rationally be assumed to
correspond to the real functional role of the education system. But if
that's the case, then surely this is begging some pretty serious questions!
Clearly, it is no teacher's intention to break a kid's spirit and reconcile
them to ditch-digging? So doesn't the idea that teachers participate in
doing just that for 50% of their students pose some questions? I don't
understand how these are just passed over to move on to the detailed
analysis of linguistic interactions?

On the other hand, Mike's move from the generalised idea of "uneducated" to
more *differentiated* concepts of "failure", e.g., doing brilliantly in
psychology but flunking maths. It seems to be stretching things to suggest
that behind this is a functional disposition towards supplying statistical
psychologists and practical psychologists (or something). The thesis that
"failures" are "design outputs" is drawn into question.

(BTW, my degree was in Engineering, so I went through all this stuff about
the class struggle within the engineering profession(s). Halfway through
the 4 year course, a group of working-class kids comes into the cohort of
middle-class kids, having got honours at the tech school, they cross over
to complete with a degree. I was always convinced that there were going to
make much better engineers, but I never stuck around to find out.)

I guess all the northern hemisphere people are on holiday,yes?


At 09:24 PM 27/06/2006 -0700, you wrote:
>Hi Steve-- It appears that others have not caught up with Kevin's
>interesting article which
>addresses a ton of issues of relevance to xmca members who come to chat
>ideas from
>many different perspectives.
>I have been waiting to see the video that accompanies Kevin's chapter but we
>have had trouble
>opening the files and are working on the issue. Meantime, of course, this
>gives people an opp
>to catch up on the reading.
>I'll hope that Kevin will expand on the distinction between presupposing and
>entailing indexicality rather
>than seek to provide my own interpretation which has a great chance of being
>Instead, I thought it might be useful to take up the issue of symmetrical
>and assymetrical approaches to context/activity and the
>uses of the terms context and activity, which I trip over all the time and
>did at various points in Kevin's article.
>There is this thing about failure to learn that often worries me. I totally
>agree that learning is an inevitable consequence of all
>experiences in the world.... in school, in church, in a high chair, on one's
>death bed, or next to one's parent's death bed, or,........
>But sticking to school for a moment, its difficult for me to put aside my
>own experiences, both in my own schooling and in
>raising my kids (and being raised/lowered by them!). Geometry gave me a lot
>of trouble. And probability theory was not a whole
>lot easier for me. I worked at both, and I was, I think, not a successful
>learner of the subject matter. I did learn how to get to right
>answers in ways that would not genralize-- "rote memory." I do not think I
>walked into these subjects with an identity of a bad learner.
>I ended up with a degree in mathematical psychology and at one early point
>in my grad career I actually figured our something having to
>do with all or nothing learning and a simple math model that no one else in
>class figured out. But I was/am lousy at math.
>My 5th grade grand daughter sends me math problems that are posed as thought
>problems in her class and they are tough! So I get
>help from my neighbors (a chem phd and an md) and they are too tough for
>them. But their 11th grader helps and we work through them
>and we all communicate our understandings, and I get enough of an
>understanding to try to create an explanation that might actually
>be helpful to my grand daughter. And mostly, I do it in a spirit of inquiry
>and fun. (Here is where the identity part comes in perhaps). I
>do not her to think that math is dumb or boring but rather challenging and
>interesting. Personally, if someone had explained to me why
>triangles were interesting to Pythagorus, I would have found geometry a lot
>more interesting. I am mr triangle locally after all.
>So I worry when we dismiss something like "abilities" or "proclivities to
>find certain phenomena easy to grok." (Grok is a word for the
>over 40 on the list I guess, call it an identity marker). My son at the age
>of about 7 found it easy to solve simple algebra word problems
>that I did not find easy, nor did his sister. He got behind in college math
>so far he was going to flunk until we explained to him that if he
>managed to flunk out of colleged, we would wait until he figured out what he
>wanted to do with his life before putting more money into
>his education. At which point he sat down, solved every problem at the end
>of every chapter in the book, and got the highest grade in
>his class. I could not have done that on pain of a slow, painful death. But
>subsequently he struggled over other problems which his
>sister and I could find ways to think about productively when he could not.
>All of which makes me nervous about some of the early parts of Kevin's
>discussion, while not in any way questioning the usefulness of
>his analysis of the students from the two institutions, the complexities of
>defining THE goals in activity that apprentices presumably willingly
>follow, etc. Its just to say that there was a time in my life when I
>desperately wanted and work hard for an identity as a competent
>probability theorist of low order and could not do it.
>Where do such differences in ability to do what one is trying hard to do,
>with full support, come into the analyses of communties of practice?
>On 10/25/06, Steve Gabosch <> wrote:
>>This tension between the Consortium group and the Institute school
>>students - the struggle over who should reveal what information to
>>who in the process of building the race cars - seems to touch on
>>quite a hornet's nest of conflicts of interest, squabbling over
>>access to resources, class differences between the students, etc. I
>>liked the use of the techniques of linguistic anthropology to analyze
>>the conversations and try to drive some of these tensions out. I
>>have a question. I did not fully grasp how Kevin used the
>>distinction between "presupposing indexicality" and "entailing
>>indexicality" in his analysis of the micro truck project.
>>- Steve
>>At 01:16 PM 6/22/2006 -0700, Mike wrote:
>> >Hello All--
>> >
>> >Kevin's O'conner's paper , *Communicative Practice, Cultural Production,
>> >Situated Learning, is
>> >now<>
>> >on the xmca web page at,
>> >
>> >We have not been successful in getting the video up, but are working on
>> >Meantime, some new bedtime reading
>> >for discussion.
>> >mike
>> >*
>> >_______________________________________________
>> >xmca mailing list
>> >
>> >
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