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[Xmca-l] Re: Content and pedagogy - cleavage and non-cleavage

Ulvi--and also Henry:

Vygotsky begins Chapter Seven of (the manuscript known as) "The History of
the Development of the Higher Mental Functions" with some analogies that I
think are a bit more precise than my dancing dress analogy, but they are
quite negative ones. He compares the teaching of writing to the teaching of
lip-reading to the Deaf on the one hand, and the teaching of piano-playing
to children on the other. I think both analogies are highly instructive,
but I don't really understand either completely. Just the sort of thing for
an xmca discussion, no?

Concerning lipreading, he says that articulation (he means recognizing and
producing vowels and consonants) has displaced instruction in meaning. The
way he puts it in Russian is this:

"За техникой произношения глухонемой ученик не замечал самой устной речи.
Получалась картавая речь." That is, *(B)eyond the techniques of
pronunciation, the deaf-mute pupil did not notice oral speech itself. What
was obtained was a murmuring (lisping? burring?) speech."

This is translated as "dead speech" in Mind in Society (p. 105), and as
"guttural speech" in Minick (Collected Works in English, Vol. 4, p. 130). I
am not sure, but it seems to me that what Vygotsky is trying to convey is
what we hear when children read the LETTERS but not the actual WORDINGS
when we ask them to read them aloud. They blur and burr, they murmur and
mince, because the meanings of oral speech are  not there behind the
articulatory gestures. In a curious way, it is the opposite of the
situation which Vygotsky and other researchers of his time called
"autonomous speech", the babbling and cooing of the pre-grammatical infant:
here we have speech for others, but  not for the speaker him or herself.

Concerning piano playing, he says: "Обучение письму до сих пор еще не
основывается у нас на естественно развивающихся потребностях ребенка и на
его самодеятельности, а дается ему извне, из рук учителя и напоминает
выработку какого-нибудь технического навыка, например навыка игры на рояле.
При такой постановке дела ученик развивает беглость пальцев и научается,
читая ноты, ударять по клавишам, но его совершенно не вводят в стихию музыки."
That is, "The teaching-and-learning of writing is still not based, for us,
upon the naturally developing desires of the child and on his activity
itself, but is given to him from the outside, from the hands of the
teacher, and it resembles the workings of any other habitual technique,
such as the habit of playing on the piano. With such a state of affairs,t
he pupil develops dexterity in the fingers, and learns how to read notes,
how to hit the keyboard, but completely does not enter into the essence of
the music."

It seems to me that in both of these analogies, the emphasis is on
precisely the kind of modularity that alphabetic writing and musical
notation, as developed in the West, actually encourages. As Vygotsky says,
the invention of an alphabet and the invention of musical notation means
that writing becomes second order symbolism--symbols for sounds, and not
for meanings. That turns it into a technical module, or as Vygotsky puts
it, "something self sufficient in comparison with which living written
language (or music) recedes into the background)". Of course, such
technical modules are very testable; they correspond fairly precisely to
the narrow and shallow kinds of skills that we see in successful business
models, including (but not at all limited to) the successful business
models we see in teaching. But they lack the infinite depth and breadth of
a true language system.

What's the alternative? Incredibly, Vygotsky suggests an even more narrow
and shallow module--the child's own "natural" meaning making systems, e.g.
the numerical figures (model tractors) used instead of base ten numbers, or
the system of objects and marks and so on used in his experiments on
writing in pre-literate children.

What would this look like outside the laboratory? Here's an example from


During the first fifteen seconds of the video, the child is trying
unsuccessfully to do a little chant that preliterate children in Korea do,
where one line of speech is matched to one figure in a drawing (e.g. "I had
breakfast-ddeng!" results in a circle with a line drawn through it, to
indicate that the bowl of rice was eaten).

I had breakfast--deng! (bowl of rice with a line drawn through it)
I had lunch--deng! (bowl of rice with a line drawn through it)
I opened the window and saw the rain (beneath the two ricebowls a box
indicates the window and the lines in the box indicate rain)

Now, at this point the child cannot remember the rest of the rhyme. He
should continue like this:

I saw three worms crawling by (three wavy lines above the two ricebowls).
I turned out the light (draws a "lightbulb" shape around the whole of the
Oh, no--horrors! It's a human SKULL!

(See the attached picture for a correct example.)

As you can see in the video, the child gives up and precedes right to the
skull (which is a neat demonstration of Vygotsky's comments on the Stern
picture test--even very small children will look at the whole before they
attempt to master and memorize the parts.

This is only one of many "draw-stories" produced by children at play,
without the supervision of literate adults; it corresponds to a culture of
draw-stories seen all around the world, including Inuit children (so-called
"knife stories"), African children, and Aboriginal ones in Australia. Mark
Twain and Laura Ingalls Wilder noted this tradition, and so did Lewis
Carroll ("The Black Cat"). But it's a very limited one: it draws movement
and action, but not thinking and speaking, and above all (as we can see in
this example) the "meaning" is something that really emerges as an
afterthought, and so often even very young children will work backwards,
from meaning to parts. And in fact it's the very drawbacks of these natural
systems that makes it possible and even necessary for the child to learn
the cultural means of meaning making.

The problem is that in the West, that cultural means of meaning making
includes an alphabet, which is by its very nature a system that require
analysis into ELEMENTS (without meaning) rather than UNITS. That is why I
think maybe the poem I recited for my little neighbor, wildly inappropriate
and horribly misarticulated, had the right idea--in Arabic, you see, it has
very strong rhythm and rhyme:

Ayathunnuni anni lu'abatun fi yadehee? "(Does he think I am a toy in his
Anna la ufikiru al'a reja'a alehee...  (I never thought of returning)
Yom al rad, wa ka'ayun sha'yun lum yakun (Yesterday he returned, as if
nothing had happened)
Wa ber'aa al utfal fe anehee.. (And that smile of a child was on his lips)

(Apologies to Arabic speakers; I'm doing this from a thirty-five year old
memory. But this is the only part I remembered in the elevator)

Hatta al fustan allati insituha... (And even the dress that I had forgotten
farihat bihi raqusat alla qaddamehee (Was happy to see him and danced to
the doorway)

As Adorno says, music is form, but dance is content.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

? I think it means this--in order

there is a reversal of roles

On Mon, Apr 6, 2015 at 8:33 PM, Ulvi İçil <ulvi.icil@gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear all,
> Perhaps, others, but from within the history of Russian teaching,
> especially Russian colleagues, can give an answer to this:
> Shulman, in the attached article, p6, writes about a cleavage btw content
> and pedagogy in teaching in US history and this is long ago, in 1986.
> Well, I write my master thesis on the piano teaching of a piano teacher
> from former Soviet Union, and I observe that, she studied a lot piano
> teaching beyond formal education, has a serious scholarship in piano
> teaching and executes really a very effective teaching. She took a child
> from 60/100 grade to almost 90/100 and this is valid for other children
> too.
> Now the question and my hypothesis is:
> Russia, from 19th century onwards, has inherited best parts of the Western
> pedagogy (French, German) and developed its own in many disciplines so that
> such a cleavage which perhaps occurred in the West after a certain point
> did nto occur in Russia, thanks also to October Revolution and building of
> socialism and as a result, Russians have developed a quite improved way of
> teaching the content, which resulted in a developed pedagogical knowledge
> content (an amalgam of pedagogy and content) in many areas. In other words,
> Russia, then Soviet Union could miss, refrain from such a cleavage in
> pedagogy in general.
> Hence, an effective teaching in many areas, like piano teaching.
> What was lying behind that?
> I think uneven development and the idea of surpassing the West.
> And this was not peculiar to a few disciplines, it was valid in a wide
> social development range.
> Anyone to support or negate my hypothesis about non cleavage of content and
> pedagogy in Russian pedagogy tradition?
> Please note that content is what, pedagogy is how, and pedagogical content
> knowledge is a transformed version of content knowledge which is made
> teachable.
> Ulvi

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