RE: [xmca] my new questions

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Thu Feb 14 2008 - 19:20:48 PST

Dear Carrie:
  Let me show you two pieces of data. In both pieces, the kids (third graders) are divided into two teams (which are called Mina and Minsu). The idea is that one of them "serves" and the other one has to reply. The serves and replies are then written down on a white board, and the teacher scores it, awarding a point for an appropriate remark and docking a point for an inappropriate one.
  Here's the first one. It's Lesson Seven, and the teaching point is "Can you swim?"
  Minsu: Can you fly?
  Mina: No, I can't.
  Minsu: How old are you?
  Mina: I'm ten.
  Minsu: What day is it today?
  Mina: Tuesday.
  You can see that a) it doesn't matter who serves and who replies, and b) the exchanges can go in ANY order. The kids might just as easily have done this:
  Mina: How old are you?
  Minsu: I'm ten.
  Mina: What day is it today?
  Minsu: Tuesday.
  Mina: Can you fly?
  Minsu: No, I can't.
  Now, here are the same kids a week later. This time the teaching point is "Put on your gloves". But the children have decided that Minsu is Mina's older brother (in the book, Minsu is a younger brother). Mina is pretty and very proud of her figure, and she has a crush on a little boy in her class. Minsu, as an older brother, is rather conservative, so he wants Mina to cover up.
  Minsu: Put on your coat.
  Mina: No.
  Minsu: Outside, cold!
  Mina: No!
  Minsu: What!
  Mina: I'm sorry.
  Minsu: Put on your glove.
  Mina: Yes.
  Minsu: Put on your cap.
  Mina: Too big.
  Minsu: Put on your sweater.
  Mina: Too small.
  Minsu (holding beautiful scarf): Put on your scarf.
  Mina: Yes, please!
  Minsu: Put on your pants.
  Mina: No, I'm skirt. (i.e. ˇ°I want to wear a skirt.ˇ±)
  Minsu: You, inside, play! (i.e. ˇ°You must stay inside and play and cannot go out.ˇ±)
  Mina: No!
  You can see that a) the dialogue is a LOT longer and more coherent--it's clear at every point who is saying what to whom and above all why, b) There is far more exchange complexity--the speakers are no longer reversible and the order of the exchanges are meaningful, c) all of this depends on a certain REIFICATION--the creation of an imaginary character.
  LSV argues that the creativity of very young children is really a myth; because experience is the raw material of creativity, it is necessarily true that young children are less creative than older children. It seems to me that there is more to it than raw material, though. Older children have a way STRUCTURING that material that is more creative; it's what I called hypostatizing actions as idealized constructions.
  The question I had about very young children finding it difficult to create imaginary selves that were not tied to actions is really straight out of Mind in Society, Chapter Seven. For the very young child, play is imagination-in-action. But for the older child, the relationship is really reversed, and we have action-in-imagination.
  This is really what makes the transition from rote to role possible. Rote play is repetitious, and repetition DOES involve imagination: in order to repeat an action the child has to transform the action from a consequence into a cause, from a result into a reason, and this is an act of imagination.
  But repetition is imagination-in-action, much the same as when a child draws a scribble and THEN decides it is smoke or a snake or a cloud and THEN draws a house or a tree or the sun. Role play is very different. The child uses a particular character (in this case, the gruff, conservative older brother Minsu and the flirtatious Mina) to draw up a plan for action. In some cases (e.g. here), the action can ONLY take place through words, and not through physical movement at all. Now we have action-in-imagination.
  And of course this is how children go from play language (where language is largely a byproduct of physical movement, and rich in diectics but not content words) to language play (where imaginary worlds are constructed through language and have no independent existence outside them). This language play seems to me very important for the transition to school work (which also involves creating imaginary worlds out of language).
  So the self-conscious transition from rote to role seems to me even more revolutionary than the transition from roles to rules. As LSV points out, rules DO involve a kind of imaginary situation (i.e. a role), but it is implicit. I always thought this meant that soccer was a kind of war that dare not speak its name, and we can see that in vaguely metaphorical names like "striker", "attack", "defense", etc.
  But that's not really what LSV meant at all. He meant that abstract rules, such as "don't touch the ball with your hands" create a purely abstract, imaginary situation, which we call a game, something like "the imaginary situation that exists when we pretend that we cannot touch the ball with our hands". The reason why it is implicit is because it is so hard to articulate, not because it is some kind of hidden metaphor.
  It must be very difficult for a child deficient in creative experience to turn a relatively concrete and defined imaginary role into a set of abstract rules, even though both are imaginary. But the child does have a similar experience to fall back on here. At some point in the child's recent childhood, that child was able to duplicate not just this action or that action, but replicate his or her whole being in the imagination and call it a "self".
  That to me is the difference between performance and role play: repetition on the one hand, and hypostatization on the other. The latter seems MORE creative to me, not less, and that would explain why it is generally later in development, and also why it offers far more degrees of freedom.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Thu Feb 14 19:22 PST 2008

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