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[Xmca-l] Re: MCA Issue 3 article for discussion
- To: "White, Phillip" <Phillip.White@ucdenver.edu>
- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: MCA Issue 3 article for discussion
- From: David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 2 Nov 2016 11:07:07 +1100
- Cc: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>
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We all have pet theories, and any time there is a goodly gap left between
data and conclusions, we naturally want to take them out for a run. So when
Larry finds a gap we are likely to find Merleau-Ponty somewhere in the
vicinity, and likewise what I was trying to do was to show how Halliday
will help us link some of the language data (e.g. "I get it", "I'm
confident", "I'm good at this") to some of the conclusions in a less
I don't reject the data at all: on the contrary, I would like to see a good
deal more of it. I'm not even sure if "I get it", "I'm confident", "I'm
good at this", and "I can pull this off" are actual data, because the
article says "students' statements such as..."; this suggests to me that
these might be made up examples, designed to represent the underlying
semantics and not the actual lexicogrammar the kids used. When we look at
the real data (e.g. p. 193) we notice that they don't like to use the first
person pronoun very often (even in response to a question about "you); when
they do use "I" it's mostly to contrast themselves to their peers and not
to comment on their understandings, their internal states, or
As Halliday says, all grammar is a theory of experience; or as Volosinov
put it, every utterance is an ideological construct in miniature (Vygotsky:
"the sense of a word refracts consciousness like a raindrop bends the light
of the sun"). So for example English treats material objects as
generalizable rather than abstractable and processes as time-bound rather
than deictic, while Chinese is the other way around: objects are
abstractable rather than generalized through pluralization and processes
are always talked about in relation to whether they are finished
yet instead of whether they are in the present or the past or the
future. And on the face of it, the theory of experience that the children
have in this study is not the one that the authors have. The kids are much
more interested in their relations to their peers, rather than in "the
person in history": it's the interpersonal rather than the sociocultural
that preoccupies them at this stage.
I don't reject the methodology, either. I think that if theories were
generated by data then science would be both impossible (because data is
essentially irrational) and unnecessary (because we could find out what we
need to know with careful observation). I'm absolutely not a
phenomenologist: to me, Cezanne paintings just look like they jumped the
gun. I think that humans have to impose theories on data for it to make
"sens", and making "sens" is very hard work. We don't do this hard work by
interrogating the data; we do it by idealizing it. Very often, this
idealization has a moral or artistic character rather than an observational
one: a "good" theory is "good" in an ethical sens (good to live by) and in
an aesthetic sens (good to look at), rather than simply an empirical one (a
good fit). I think that one reason why the Russian view of things seems to
get apparently disproportionate emphasis on this list is that the Russians,
lacking good experimental conditions, really tended to emphasize the
ethical and aesthetic side of theorization in their work. The Yanks did the
opposite, and, as Margaret Eisenhart and Carrie Allen show us,
they generated an unethical and ugly educational theory as a result.
But you are right--I do reject the theory. On the one hand, Eisenhart
and Allen are against bad things like neoliberalism and testing and they
want good things like enthusiasm and intrinsically motivated learning. On
the other, Eisenhart and Allen present Holland and Lave's notion of
identity as "history-in-person"--a narrative, retroleptic account of the
self, Brunerian and autobiographical. First of all, I am closer to Asia,
and probably more sympathetic to rote, role and rule in learning; I am
certainly more suspicious of touting intrinsic motivation to young people
who want, need and have every right to all the goodies that go with white
color jobs and more (a generation of Chinese robbed of their youth by
leaders who taught them that sacrifice was its own reward). Secondly, it
seems to me that "history-in-person" is really the wrong definition of
"perizhivanie" for this particular data set: we need something much more
proleptic. Maybe "futurology in person' or "science-fiction-in-person"
would be more like it. In some ways, the indeterminacy of the Zoped that
Peg writes about is simply a result of its prolepsis.
I think that the reason why the Russians won the Cold War in scientific
psychology is comparable to the reasons why the most interesting cooking,
music and literatures all seem to come from the poorer parts of a
country, the wretched areas of the earth, and the miserable moments of
history. There's a very good reason why Shakespeare and Du Fu lived and
thrived in bad times and sad places, where people ate meat only once a week
if then, washed itchy woollen underwear once a month or so, and thought
that fifty-four years old was a reasonable time to up and die. When life is
hard, you make the most of what you got, and what you've got is
mostly pencil and paper, words, and hope. The cheap stuff that lasts.
On Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 9:38 AM, White, Phillip <Phillip.White@ucdenver.edu>
> David & Larry, everyone else ...
> by way of introduction, Margaret and Carrie point out that the data in
> this paper emerged through a three year study - which was the processes
> of how students of color, interested in STEM, responded to the externally
> imposed neoliberal requirements. they framed their study using theories of
> social practices on how identity developed in context.
> David, you reject the theories. or so i understand your position. as you
> write: *It's that the theory*
> *contradicts my own personal theories.*
> are you also rejecting the data as well? it seems as if you are suggesting
> this when you write:
> *The authors find this point (in the case of Lorena) somewhere between the
> beginning of the tenth and the end of the eleventh grade, but I think **that's
> just because it's where they are looking. *
> you reject the narrative of Lorena on the grounds that it could be traced
> back to infancy.
> do you also reject the identical narrative found in the adult
> practitioners within the context of the high schools? that this narrative
> is not one of a contemporary neoliberal practice but rather could be traced
> back to, say, the mid 1600's new england colonies, in particular
> massachusettes, where the practices of public american education began?
> to explain the data that emerged from the Eisenhart/Allen study, what
> theories would you have used?
> *From:* firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
> on behalf of firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, November 1, 2016 7:03 AM
> *To:* David Kellogg; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> *Subject:* [Xmca-l] Re: MCA Issue 3 article for discussion
> Margaret and Carrie,
> Thank you for this wonderful paper that explains the shallow
> *hollowed-out* way of forming identity as a form of meaning and sense. I
> will add the French word *sens* which always includes *direction* within
> meaning and sense.
> David, your response that what our theory makes sens of depends on where
> we are looking makes sens to me.
> You put in question the moment when the interpersonal (you and me) way of
> authoring sens *shifts* or turns to cultural and historical ways of being
> immersed in sens. The article refers to the *historical-in-person*.
> My further comment, where I am looking) is in the description of the
> sociocultural as a response to *externally changing circumstances* as the
> process of *learning as becoming* (see page 190).
> The article says:
> This process is what Lave and Wenger (1991) and other Sociocultural
> researchers have referred to as *learning as becoming,* that is, learning
> that occurs as one becomes a certain kind of person in a particular
> context. Identities conceived in this way are not stable or fixed. As
> *external circumstances* affecting a person change, so too may the
> identities that are produced *in response*. (Holland & Skinner, 1997).
> In this version of *history-in-person* the identity processes that start
> the process moving in a neoliberal *direction* are *external*
> circumstances. I am not questioning this version of the importance of the
> external but do question if looking primarily or primordially to the
> external circumstances as central if we are not leaving a gap in our
> notions of *sens*.
> If by looking or highlighting or illuminating the *external* and highly
> visible acts of the actual we are leaving a gap in actual*ity.
> A gap in *sens*.
> To be continued by others...
> Sent from my Windows 10 phone
> From: David Kellogg
> Sent: October 31, 2016 2:15 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: MCA Issue 3 article for discussion
> I was turning Mike's request--for a short explanation of the
> Halliday/Vygotsky interface--over in my mind for a few days, unsure where
> to start. I usually decide these difficult "where to start" questions in
> the easiest possible way, with whatever I happen to be working on. In this
> case it's the origins of language in a one year old, a moment which is
> almost as mysterious to me as the origins of life or the Big Bang. But
> perhaps for that very reason it's not a good place to start (the Big Bang
> always seemed to me to jump the gun a bit, not to mention the origins of
> Let me start with the "Hollowed Out" paper Alfredo just thoughtfully sent
> around instead. My first impression is that this paper leaves a really big
> gap between the data and the conclusions, and that this gap is largely
> filled by theory. Here are some examples of what I mean:
> a) "Whereas 'subject position' is given by society, 'identity' is
> self-authored, although it must be recognized by others to be sustained."
> (p. 189)
> b) "It is notable that this construction of a good student, though
> familiar, does not make any reference to personal interest, excitement, or
> engagement in the topics or content-related activities." (193)
> c) "When students' statements such as 'I get it', 'I'm confident', 'I'm
> good at this', and 'I can pull this off' are interpreted in the context of
> the figured world of math or science at the two schools, their statements
> index more than a grade. They reference a meaning system for being good in
> math or science that includes the actor identity characteristics of being
> able to grasp the subject matter easily, do the work quickly, do it without
> help from others, do it faster than others, and get an A." (193)
> In each case, we are told to believe in a theory: "given by society",
> "self-authored", "does not make any reference", "the context of the figured
> world". It's not just that in each case the theory seems to go against the
> data (although it certainly does in places, such as Lowena's views as a
> tenth grader). I can always live with a theory that contradicts my data:
> that's what being a rationalist is all about. It's that the theory
> contradicts my own personal theories.
> I don't believe that identity is self authored, and I also don't believe
> that subject position is given by society as a whole, I think the word
> "good" does include personal interest, excitement, and engagement as much
> as it includes being able to grasp the subject matter easily, do the work
> quickly, do it without help from others, do it faster than others and get
> an A. To me anyway, the key word in the data given in c) is actually "I"
> and not "it" or "this": the students think they are talking about, and
> therefore probably are actually talking about, a relation between their
> inner states and the activity at hand or between the activity at hand and
> the result they get; they are not invoking the figured world of neoliberal
> results and prospects.
> But never mind my own theories. Any gap is, after all, a good opportunity
> for theory building. The authors are raising a key issue in both Vygotsky
> and Halliday: when does an interpersonal relation become a
> historico-cultural one? That is, when does that 'me" and "you" relationship
> in which I really do have the power to author my identity (I can make up
> any name I want and, within limits, invent my own history, particularly if
> I am a backpacker) give way to a job, an address, a number and a class over
> which I have very little power at all? When does the interpersonal somehow
> become an alien ideational "identity" that confronts me like a strange
> ghost when I look in the mirror?
> The authors find this point (in the case of Lorena) somewhere between the
> beginning of the tenth and the end of the eleventh grade, but I think
> that's just because it's where they are looking. We can probably find the
> roots of this distinction (between the interpersonal and the
> historico-cultural) as far back as we like, right back to (Vygotsky) the
> moment when the child gives up the "self-authored" language at one and
> takes on the language recognized by others and (Halliday) the moment when
> the child distinguishes between Attributive identifying clauses ("I'm
> confident", "I'm good at this"), material processes ("I can pull this off")
> and mental ones ("I get it").
> (To be continued...but not necessarily by me!)
> David Kellogg
> Macquarie University
> On Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 4:50 PM, Alfredo Jornet Gil <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> > Dear xmca'ers,
> > I am excited to announce the next article for discussion, which is now
> > available open access at the T&F MCA pages<http://www.tandfonline.
> > com/doi/full/10.1080/10749039.2016.1188962>.
> > After a really interesting discussion on Zaza's colourful paper (which
> > still goes on developed into a discussion on micro- and ontogenesis), we
> > will from next week be looking at an article by Margaret Eisenhart and
> > Carrie Allen from the special issue on "Reimagining Science Education in
> > the Neoliberal Global Context". I think the article, as the whole issue,
> > offers a very neat example of research trying to tie together
> > cultural/economical? and developmental aspects (of identity in this
> > Margaret has kindly accepted to join the discussion ?after US elections
> > (which will surely keep the attention of many of us busy). Meanwhile, I
> > share the link<http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10749039.
> > 2016.1188962> to the article (see above), and also attach it as PDF.
> > ??Good read!
> > Alfredo