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Re: [xmca] Re: the unit's crisis

David; thank you for the thoughtful words of my take.  I didn't view the
short take as containing so much meaning but upon rereading does point
towards many ideas and thoughts.  I believe that is a great example of how
much can be packed inside one word.  Unfortunately the brevity of the post
is also its downfall in that it can be seen as simplistic and therefore
non-explanatory.  Thank you for the addition it does point towards my
thinking on the subject.  What a great example of a reversible behavior
buying/selling; social but very concise in its meaning.  However, there are
times in the buying/selling dialectic where interpretation can  lead to
horrors.  Yes, I agree development is dark and melodramatic: much the
reason I view Bergman's film "Fanny and Alexander" to be the greatest
document of the human condition ever created!


                      David Kellogg                                                                                            
                      <vaughndogblack@         To:      ERIC.RAMBERG@spps.org, xmca <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>                      
                      yahoo.com>               cc:                                                                             
                      Sent by:                 Subject: [xmca] Re: the unit's crisis                                           
                      03/03/2009 01:26                                                                                         
                      Please respond                                                                                           
                      Please respond                                                                                           
                      to "eXtended                                                                                             
                      Mind, Culture,                                                                                           


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

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

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:

Something dark and developmental, structural and restructuring and
revolutionary! Right?

David Kellogg
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: vaughndogblack@yahoo.com, "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity"
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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