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[xmca] Re: the unit's crisis
Thanks for the very thoughtful and DENSE post. I feel a little like Gertrude Stein, about whom Alice Toklas would say, "It will take Miss Stein many months to understand what she has been saying tonight".
When I get a single paragraph like this, I feel rather dense myself, unsure what to do with all this MEANING that I really didn't know what there in what I wrote. So pardon me, while I do a fair bit of slow unpacking and recycling....
Point Number ONE: Learning/teaching, speaking/listening, and other only apparently reversible processes.
The "obuchenie" problem is a real puzzler, about which I daresay we may hear something from Mike anon. The word appears to mean "teaching" and "learning", depending on which arguments are attached.
But of course this doesn't mean the processes are reversible, like "buying" and "selling". Actually, the French "apprendre" and the German "lehrnen" are much more like this:
a) I shut the door.
b) The door shut.
That is, they are ERGATIVE: b) is the "middle voice", active in form but passive in essence. So:
a) Je lui apprends le francais. (I instruct him in French.)
b) Je l'apprends. (I learn it.)
This isn't just toying with words, of course: there are many places where LSV explicitly DENIES that learning and teaching are reversible processes akin to lending and borrowing or buying and selling (or even speaking and listening). These are my favorites, all from Educational Psychology.
"For (Thorndike) the school remains primarily a tool to develop the intellect (....) Connected with this is the almost complete neglect of the social factor in education. The teacher remains the highest authority, the prime mover of the pedagogical mechanism, the source of light and sermon. Education is addressed from the teacher to the pupil, remains deeply individualistic all the time and-in the words of one author-reminds us of a pedagogical duet between the teacher and the pupil (1997: 150)."
"...(T)he traditional view of the teacher as the most important and almost sole mover of the educational process cannot be upheld. The child is no longer an empty vessel into which the teacher pours the wine or water of his sermons. The teacher is no longer a pump who pumps his pupils with knowledge. The teacher is even completely bereft of any direct influence, any direct educational influence upon the pupil as long as he himself forms no part of their environment (1997: 159)."
Vygotsky then draws a rather colorful comparison between the rickshaw puller, and the tram driver. He points out that both the rickshaw puller and the tram driver have an "animal" component of labor as well as a thinking and planning component, but that the proportions are reversed: where "physical labor dominates in the rickshaw, the tram driver has reduced this component to virtually zero. Vygotsky believes that the teacher's labor may similarly be differentiated into the provision of content and the organizing of the social environment
"The teacher's labor, although it is not subject to the technical perfection which moves and pushes it from the rickshaw to the tram-driver, has nevertheless the same two aspects (...) (W)ith some exaggeration it may be said that the whole reform of contemporary pedagogics revolves around this theme: how to reduce the role of teacher when he, just like the rickshaw-puller, plays the role of the engine and part of his own pedagogical machine as closely to possible to zero, and how to base everything on his other role--the role of organizer of the social environment? (1997a: 160)"
(I know, I know, I've quoted this before. But I never get tired of reading it!)
There are also quite a few places where he's clearly arguing that speaking and listening are not reversible processes, since one of them is synthetic and the other analytic. In a very ABSTRACT sense, of course, synthesis and analysis presuppose eachother, as Goethe says, the way that breathing out and breathing in do. But breathing out is really NOT the same thing as breathing in reversed (or else it would be equally possible to speak while breathing in as it is while breathing out).
Point Number TWO: explanatory principles and units of analysis.
I always thought that Leontiev (and the other activity theorists) believed that motive and goal (or Uznadze's "set" or Ach's "determining tendency") were actually the EXPLANATORY PRINCIPLE rather than the unit of analysis.
But you are quite right; if we say that "object-ORIENTED activity" is the unit of analysis, then we have a unit of analysis that includes, albeit only implicitly, the explanatory principle.
Point number THREE, with which I think we return to Mariane Hedegaard's article: misunderstanding as crisis!
It seems to me that a crisis is much more than a misunderstanding. If it were merely a matter of misunderstanding, then the "neo-Vygotskyans" (e.g. Karpov) and Leontiev and the romantic-reformists who see much of adolescence as simply a protracted malentendu would be right: crises are optional, and not an ineluctable part of development at all.
That's not what LSV thinks! To return once more to Educational Psychology, he says:
"Education and creativity are always tragic processes, inasmuch as they always arise out of discontent, out of troubles, from discord." (1997: 349).
Something dark and developmental, structural and restructuring and revolutionary! Right?
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Mon, 3/2/09, ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org <ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org> wrote:
From: ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org <ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org>
Subject: the unit's crisis
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, March 2, 2009, 7:28 AM
As always a very well thought post. Vygotsky also believed that successful
teaching was measured differently then successful learning. They both have
the same goal but different perspectives. The different perspectives
require that the goal cannot be the unit of analysis; word meaning
addresses this but as you have long proposed, it does not fully address the
dialectic of teaching/lerarning. The dialectic provides the view that
speaking has its action and the reverse happens at the receiving end with
one specific difference: misinterpretation, a crisis! Therefore the measure
of good teaching lies within the ability to portray distinct meaning and
learning is measured in how the interpretation is applied in action: the
resolution of the crisis! Whether the learner tests well upon their
interpretation of the teacher's words is irrelevant, the proof is in the
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