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Re: [xmca] Hedegaard article

Thanks, Phillip, esp. for the Foucault quote (from a book I've not seen) as well as for the challenge about how challenging a more holistic approach to development has to be.

Sorting it all out, though, is not for me the priority. It's putting it all together, seeing the interconnections, even if never all of them.

So "good design" is a marker, an index ... but of what? for Deva, and perhaps differently for you? We need to hope for some informationn about its distribution, where she's heard it used, where she may have used it before or decide to use it again, and how that distribution changes. The reciprocity here might come in that by using it she prompts a reaction from you (as her brother's use of "bunny" did), and so evokes a speech activity, a tyoe of typcial social drama, in which some meta-linguistic work is done. An event occurs, institutional norms (of usage, of appropriateness) are evoked and displayed, that would not if she'd not said that, or brother not said "bunny" in that context. So the context is produced by the word usage, not as a new scene-type, but as an event in Deva's and her brother's life. They world presents itself to us, zone of proximal development are socially activated, by our own actions -- a little loop, extending over time and across places and sites and scenes.

We call it an ox, he called it a "bunny" ... but what's a "bunny" for him? a mammal? something animal, brown, with big eyes? Early semantics don't yet conform to adult norms, which doesn't mean that he can't see the difference between a bunny and an ox, but that "bunny" is a reasonable first try at a word for the situation, for him. And on the plus side, getting him to call it a cow makes him more understandable probably to other adults, but one could also say that it's oppressing his linguistic creativity and forcing him to conform. At this stage that sounds extreme of course, but the same argument occurs over whether African-American kids should be forced to write in school only in someone else's dialect of English and not in their own, which really does oppress their linguistic creativity, whatever other "advantages" if might confer.

And what if a young kid, say age 8 or so, insists on writing in his own dialect because what he wants to say doesn't "work" for him in standard English (and semantically there are some basic meanings for which AAE has much better resources than SE), or at 12 years, insists as a matter of pride and identity? these will evoke responses from adults in the school, which in turn will depend on laws, curricula, norms of education, etc. And by evoking those responses, but making a confrontation, perhaps, happen, by even (if less likely) getting a widespread dialogue going about the issue, changes in the practices of teachers, and possibly even in norms and laws can happen. Which they would be much less likely to do if all students just did as they were told. The influences are going "up" and "down", loops can return mediated by all sorts of pathways and actors: a teacher talks to a visitor from the university who is supervising a student teacher and gets a different view of the norm and the issue; parents get involved and invoke the writing of African-American intellectuals about Ebonics. A parent whose child was caught up in the confrontation develops a discourse about language and identity from it and becomes that intellectual writing in new ways about dialect and race.

So I think the complexity is enriching of our understanding, not an obstacle to it. It is not like positivist research where you have to isolate each causal factor. It is more like ethnography where you have to discover what's involved and how it's all connected .... or as much of it as you can see and figure out, with the help of people who live it.

"Sorting out" is meant figuratively: figuring out, working out elements and connections; not in the sense of separating one factor from another. The separationist paradigm serves the end of control, and, thank God, these orders of complexity are NOT ones we can control, or should. Which is perhaps what Foucault means in sketching how education and adult fantasy worlds for children are oversimplified universes where the fantasy of control, for worried adults, is more easily imagined. Of course these fantasy worlds are themselves part of the networks of interdependencies, hence the conflicts and contradictions they evoke, on the longer timescale, when the child comes close enough to the adult world to wonder why adults keep pretending to be so stupid.

The methodologies for putting together rather than taking apart are differently grounded in what humans can do. They rely more on our pattern recognition abilities, on our empathic capacities, on our ability to hypothesize meanings from almost any combination of things or events, on our abilities to interpret scenes and media, to anticipate possible sequelae, and a host of others. It's really a shame that 20th century philosophers spent millions of man-hours trying to analyze the grounds of taking-apart style investigation, leaving us with almost no systematic understanding of what makes putting-together style research work well. But, difficult as it is, it can be done!


Jay Lemke
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On Mar 4, 2009, at 12:43 AM, White, Phillip wrote:

Jay, you wrote:

"... there are really both reciprocal influences and
multiply mediated returning loops through these networks, not
everything depends equally on everything else."

though, even teasing out the reciprocal influences is extremely difficult - perhaps impossible. an example - i took my two grandchildren to the local contemporary arts museum, and moved from one room in which there was a great pile of heavily starched petticoats, to Damien Hirst's "Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain" - a ten foot by five foot by five foot glass vitrine filled with formaldehyde, in which is hung a young bullock, whose body is pierced with multiple arrows. upon viewing the petticoats, granddaughter Deva, age three and one half years, said, "What a stack!" the Hirst elicited a different final response. Deva's brother, just a little over two, looked at the bullock and said, "bunny". we all talked about what in fact the animal could be, and it was in time decided that it was a cow. Deva then declared, "Good design."

i don't for a minute believe that Deva knew what she was saying, the implications of such a statement. however, somewhere she had learned that that statement was one used in regards to artistic endeavors. how could one possibly sort out the reciprocal influences here?

you also wrote:

"It is simply not possible that educational institutions and adult
norms of behavior with children, or cultural conceptions of what is
best for them really are simply efforts to do good things for
children. They must also, and probably primarily, be serving the
interests of adults where those interests conflict with those of
children, and very likely also working to minimize the rate of radical
social and cultural change (or at least keep it well below any rate
that would threaten the interests that have been built by history into
these practices). I don't think we can honestly pursue the kind of
"childhood holistic studies" approach to development without
utlimately making a pretty radical critique of our own beliefs about
children and their education and development."

which reminded me of :

"When, with Rousseau and Pestallozzi, the eighteenth century concerned itself with constituting for the child, with educational rules that followed his development, a world that would be adapted to him, it made it possible to form around children an unreal, abstract, archaic environment that had no relation to the adult world. The whole development of contemporary education, with its irreproachable aim of preserving the child from adult conflicts, accentuates the distance that separates, for a man, his life as a child and his life as an adult. That is to say, by sparing the child conflicts, it exposes him to a major conflict, to the contradiction between his childhood and his real life. If one adds that, in its educational institutions, a culture does not project its reality directly, with all its conflicts and contradictions, but that it reflects it indirectly through the myths that excuse it, justify it, and idealize it in a chimerical coherence; if one adds that in its education a society dreams of its golden age [...] one understands that fixations and pathological regressions are possible only in a given culture, that they multiply to the extent that social forms do not permit the assimilation of the past into the present content of experience." Michel Foucault. [1954] (1987). Mental Illness and Psycbology. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 81.

Mariane posits that there are six considerations when doing research with children. (p. 80) i can't imagine how all six can be sorted out. i think that the description of Halime interactions in school and family fails to account for far more than what's suggested. i don't know if we've actually got the research tools to tackle such an enormous undertaking. i admire her suggestions. i just can't imagine how such an enterprise would be undertaken. i can't even figure out Deva's comment. am i missing something here?

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