Re: [xmca] LV Quote on the importance of meaningful work in learning and development

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Fri Jan 11 2008 - 19:06:20 PST

Actually, Deb, I think you used it right, and I've used it wrong. The truth is that LSV DOES use the term "leading activity", right at the end of Chapter Seven of Mind in Society, where he says that play is not the main activity of childhood but it is a leading activity.I guess my point is just that he doesn't use the idea of leading activity to periodize childhood the way that Elkonin and Leontiev were to do later; I just got carried away like I always do.
  Oh, why not look at LSV's discussion of the "Labor School"? You can find a lot of this is in Educational Pedagogy. My impression is that LSV was very big on practica, but he disagreed with a lot of what was being done in the early USSR (which was similar to the kind of "labor education" they had in China when I first arrived).
  In China we had schools setting up factories as a way of making the school self-sufficient in books and materials, and the use of student labor was really just exploitative and often served no conceivable educational purpose. The direct descendants of this practice are the elementary schools in Guangdong that use child labor for manufacturing fireworks and the teachers I had to teach who sold ice cream to their kids so that they could feed their families.
  I think LSV saw labor as a matter of ascending to the concrete. He felt that the learning acquired through practice was complementary (in both strengths and weaknesses) to that acquired in the classroom. But I think that for that very reason he saw that it would work better if it was used to concretize conceptual knowledge acquired in the classroom rather than as a way of discovery learning, which would entail a "trial and error" method of acquiring conceptual knowledge; he saw hands-on learning as a matter of reverse-engineering scientific discoveries that had already been made rather than as a matter of trying to imitate or replicate the practice of scientists.
  Let me give two examples that I think show the wisdom of this approach: In a lot of American primary schools we can find that the history curriculum is roughly equally divided between the history of the state and the history of the nation and the history of the world. This is already a highly UNequal division of history when you think about it, but it is conducive to hands-on learning, because children can actually visit historic sites in their own state, while the teaching of national history is often reduced to the kinds of collective myths and hero-cults that James Loewen talks about in "Lies My Teacher Told Me" at best and a semi-religious cult of the red white and blue rag at worst.
  However, in my home state, field trips to Fort Snelling often do not really "rise to the concrete", precisely because the children don't get a sense of how Minnesota history fits in with the history of other states and in particular with the national narrative of genocide and slavery on which the nation is really founded (they don't see, for example, that one reason why native Americans survive in Minnesota today and they do not survive in other states was that Minnesota saw the native americans as a source of animal furs rather than land and human scalps). It might work MUCH better if they learned American history before they learned Minnesota history (but we would have to tell them the truth, and under the current regime this is quite impossible).
  The second example I was thinking of was foreign language teaching. When children learn a foreign language in the classroom and then go on "field trips" to the country where the language is spoken, there is a very real "rise to the concrete". But imagine the reverse, where a child simply goes to the country where the language is spoken without a base in the vocabulary and grammar of the language acquired in the classroom. The resulting experience is likely to remain at the level of perceptual memories and never rise to the level of concepts.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Fri Jan 11 19:08 PST 2008

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