[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] Hedegaard article

If one reads Thinking and Speech with a jaundiced eye, one might think that LSV has a down on cycling for some reason. On p. 200 (of the Minick version) he lists riding a bicycle as an example of a skill which does not lead to child development in any important way. Again, on p. 212 he describes it as a "specialized, technical skill" which does not play a developmental role.
I think there are two reasons for this, and neither one really has to do with distaste for bicycling--or for that matter a view of human development that is narrowly restricted to the higher mental functions. 
But I think both reasons DO have to do with the sense that the RESULT of development (which includes the restructuring of lower level functions, e.g. learning how to RACE a bicycle) is necessarily wider than the PROCESS (in which the higher mental functions really do play a dominant role and bicycling has to take a back seat, so to speak).
The first reason is that lower level skills are piecemeal and specific and don't seem to generalize very well. Here's some data we were just looking at. The teacher is showing pictures and giving the names:
T: Now you, ask me and I'll answer. 
SS: What does he do? 
T: He is a cook. 
SS: What does she do? 
T: She is a teacher. 
SS: What does she do? 
T: She is a pianist. 
SS: What does she do? 
S1: Anya, "he" jana, namjandae... (familiar, self-directed speech: "Naw, it's "he", 'cuz it's a guy."). 
T(overhearing): He or she...? 
SS: He.. 
T: So what does... 
SS: What does he do? 
This often happens in the classroom; the kids get into a rut of lower level skills based ont the rote repetition of the last thing they heard themselves say. It's only the higher level thinking of S1 that gets them out of it. It's one of the reasons why "Listen and repeat" meanings don't seem to transfer to "Listen and answer" exchanges: they aren't WORD meanings at all; they are just noises.
The second reason that Vygotsky seems to deprecate bicycle riding is that there is a very important sense in which Vygotsky really IS a cultural relativist: there is nothing culturally superior about riding a bicycle or even a motorcycle, for the same reason that cricket is not a higher pursuit than baseball.
For Vygotsky ALL forms of complexive thinking (thinking you are a red parrot, associating "baby" in baby whale with a human baby, associating a bowler hat with good sex) are basically at the same developmental level, whether they belong to children, Bororo tribesmen of Central Brazil or college professors before they've had their first cup of coffee in the morning. 
By the same token ALL forms of conceptual thinking are at the same level, whether they belong to Trobriand Islanders arguing a legal case, children playing twenty questions, or college professors after they've had their coffee. But that means that no forms of complexive thinking are at the level of conceptual thinking; in fact, that's what it means to say that the former develop into the latter and the latter grow down into the former. 
I remember than when I read "Talking Science" I was very struck by the implicit argument that science concepts are mutually determining, that each piece of the puzzle only makes sense in the light of the others (pp. 16-17). This is seems untrue of complexive thinking; on the contrary, concrete objects (a baby, and a baby whale) stand alone and even metaphorical thinking only relates them as alike in one way and unlike in all the others.
I think we implicitly recognize this hierarchy between concepts and complexes, which cuts across culture, gender, and even age, when we discount sloppy handwriting and funny accents and pay attention to the logic and the content of what people say. I also think this is why I have a much better memory for even a lousy book than I do for even a wonderful painting, even though I, being intellectually lazy and rather epicurean, would rather look at paintings.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education
PS: There wasn't much of a connection between evolution and the Hedegaard article at all, Jay. It's just that I find it a lot easier to think about the issue of reductionism in context, and it seems to me that the Darwin/Wallace distinction is really about Wallace's (and Dawkins') reductionism. 
One effect that reduction of a process into elements seems to have is to eliminate or downplay the crisis, and make development much more incremental. "Evolutionary" rather than "revolutionary", as people like to say, but in Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium evolutionary is profoundly revolutionary. That is why I think it's probably a mistake to reduce Vygotsky's concept of "crisis" to a series of verbal misunderstandings.


xmca mailing list