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Re: [xmca] Education as Prosthetic
On the first point Mike raises, which I think of as the dispensiblity of schooling. I agree with Mike in theory, but with Paula in practice.
Concepts MUST be creatable without schooling or new concepts could never come into existence. The possiblity of creating concepts outside a school setting is only one of the many byproducts Vygotsky derives from the Sakharov blocks.
It seems to me that science concepts are ONE kind of academic concept (aesthetic concepts and ethical ones are others), academic concepts are ONE kind of non-empirical concept (experimental and purely idiosyncratic concepts are others), and concepts in turn are merely one kind of word meaning.
The problem is that the further we get from the classroom, the further we get from the language that is specific to the classroom, and I don't just mean the "foreign" language that Carol's talking about. I mean the double reconstrual that lies at the heart of classrooms: the reconstrual of complex inter-mental discourse and complex intra-mental grammar, and the re-reconstrual of complex intra-mental grammar as the complex morphology that we find in the actual WORDING of most scientific concepts (and most of the content words in this paragraph).
This double reconstrual isn't a historical accident; it's a generalization upon a generalization of Vygotsky's genetic law. Of course it happens outside the classroom sometimes; it happens on every playground where children learn to reconstrue the complex negotiations of games as game rules, and the complex discourse of imaginary situation as one-word role names.
At primary school level, particularly here in Korea, the artificially engineered zone of proximal development that the classroom represents (or perhaps I should call it the "next zone of development" as Seve does) still has some weaknesses compared to the naturally evolved one that we find on the playground. I think most of these are connected with the fact that it was exapted from a very exclusive, gate-keeping ritual invented by the upper classes for very different purposes and still bears deforming birth defects. Like any bouncing baby with a bad birth defect, public education is in need of corrective surgery.
Medicine is a pretty good analogy. Like medicine, education DOES take place outside the insitutional framework. Like medicine, it's an exaptation of technologies that were often concerned with other purposes (the obsession with cosmetic surgery here in Korea an with curative rather than preventative public medicine still shows this). Like medicine, it is prosthetic; it is about sociocultural adaptation to biological inadaptations.
Like medicine, education is in the process of transforming itself from an art into a science (and as with medicine this has disadvantages as well as advantages). It is in dire need of a very serious social reorientation, and the extant society which is nominally in charage of this reorientation shows every symptom of making the problem worse rather than better. Hence Barack Obama's disastrous comments on Korean schools--does he know that every single public school teacher is tenured for life over here?. But like medicine, education is absolutely not dispensable.
On the second point, thanks to Paula for trying to straighten out the confusion that I sowed. The original quote from Vygotsky about leaving COMPLEXES (not concepts) at the school door may be perused at:
It seems to me that LSV wrote this under political pressure. It's 1934. His work as a pedologist has been denounced and reviled, and the whole theory of complexes on which it was based was reviled and denounced with it.
But LSV is a good strategist as well as a profound thinker (I guess that comes with the job). What he does is to RENAME complexes as "preconcepts" (not "potential concepts") and carry on with the reviled and denounced work under another name. This is actually a profound thought as well as a good strategic maneuver.
It emphasizes precisely the idea that Mike (and Paula) are pointing to: that the structures of generalization created in previous eras (ontogenetic structures such as the complex--oops, sorry, I mean the preconcept) are not simply binned but build upon, indeed generalized.
So they appear as dependent parts of new structures. On thinking it over, Paula, I think the metaphor of rising from the ashes is not what we want at all; today's twigs are tomorrow's branches, and ashes will come only much much later.
But, Mike, can't we say much the same could be said of the structures of sociogenesis, to wit, the "naturally" occurring next zone of development we find on the playground? These are not annulled but incorporated as dependent parts of the engineered zones of development we find in the classroom. The net of heaven has wide meshes, as we say over here, but they let nothing escape.
Seoul National University of Education
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