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[xmca] The True Origins of Scaffolding

I guess we all know that, contrary to Peter Langford's claims, Vygotsky did not "invent" scaffolding, or even use the term except to refer to building construction (Vol. 4, p. 205).

But last night I think I found the TRUE origins of the term. No, it's not Bruner, Woods, and Ross. It goes back MUCH further.

Tristram Shandy, the eighteenth century post-modern novel written by Laurence Sterne, is in many ways a polemic against the early forays into empiricist psychology by John Locke and David Hume. But he's particularly harsh on their educational writings.

The eponymous Tristram's father is writing the "Tristrapaedia", a compendium of very elaborate instructions for his five year old son's future tutors, including elaborate tables of auxiliary verbs that look rather like "scaffolding" techniques I've seen employed today. 

Walter Shandy is so busy writing this that the child's entire preschool education passes him by. The poor child is left with an illiterate servant as guardian, and one day, while Susanna has neglected to empty the chamber pot and is holding the boy up to urinate out the window, the sash cords on the window give way, and Sterne never quite tells us whether the boy is castrated or merely circumcised.

     "Everything in this world, said my father, is big with jest--and has wit in it, and instruction too--if we can but find it out. Here is the scaffold work of INSTRUCTION, its true point of folly, without the BUILDING behind it.
     "--Here is the glass for pedagogues, preceptors, tutors, governours, gerund-grinders, and bear leaders (i.e. the tutor-chaperones who accompany young gentlemen on their 'Grand Tour'--DK) to view themselves in their true dimensions....
     "Oh, there is a husk and shell, Yorick, which grows up with learning, which their unskillfulness knows not how to fling away!--
(Norton Critical Edition, p. 276)

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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