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RE: Culture as dialogic relation, Part2

Dear everybody--

Instead of saving a message I sent it before finishing. Maybe it is for good
because it was getting really long.

Part I ended with my following statement:
> In my view, Galperin's external-internal dualism is rooted in his
> adultocentric super-task of forming particular adults from children. As
> Dewey pointed out dualism involves discontinuity. In Galperine's case, it
> is
> a discontinuity between the adult and the child. I do not think that
> reference to dialects can ever help to bridge this discontinuity. For me
> the
> biggest problem with Galperin's dualism is pragmatic and not even
> conceptual
> (although it is there as well).

Let me continue...


Galperin's developmental-educational approach follows a medical deficit
model with its focuses on deficits in the children and on treatment that has
to produce the known endpoint of adult normality. In contrast, a
sociocultural approach treats all humans (including children) as peripheral
participants in any practice. Let me give an example. When I was a child,
one of favorite game that boys played in the Soviet Union was playing in the
WWII. We all watched numerous TV and cinema movies about the WWII, heard
stories at home and in school and our imagination was consumed by it. In
these games, I always got a role of a German soldier (or an officer), which
was not only unprestigious but also physically painful as the WWII had
predictable end: the Russian beat the Germans. I protested but other kids
argued that I had perfect German. That meant that I could fluently
improvised in production of non-intelligible sounds that reminded German
speech to my mates. Thus, for them and for this activity, I spoke German
fluently. Whatever new language (or any other new practice) I am going to
learn, I'm never starting from scratch.

In education, this sociocultural principle that all people are peripheral
participants for all practices is often articulated as "activation of prior
knowledge." Students are never empty vessels -- they are always already
half-way "there". Thus, according to a sociocultural approach (in contrast
to Galperin's developmental-educational approach), the "beginning point" is
never negative and never known. It has to be expanded (cf. Yrjo's "learning
by expanding"), transformed, and linked. It is positive, unique, and
collaborative. In this sense, there is never "the beginning point."
Furthermore, according to a sociocultural approach, the "endpoint" of
learning is never fully known. Learning is about transformation of
participation in practice and becoming a member of community of practice
where practice and community are changing as new members join them. Finally,
all mental functions are always distributed across people, mediational
tools, objects, and environment -- they are never in possession of an
individual child or adult. When we say that a child has ability of reading
we make invisible all other people, tools, objects, practices, and
environment that are involved in the child's activity of reading.

Finally, in my view, the notion of "development" is in crisis in a
sociocultural approach. Let me spell at least two related problems with it.
First is a conceptual problem. A sociocultural approach likes changes,
transformations, processes but it is in unease with "development" and
"progress". From the recent history of cross-cultural psychology to which
Mike, Jean Lave, Barbara Rogoff, and many other good folks have contributed,
we know that the notion of "development" and "progress" are value-laden. The
development and progress are not just in the objects of study to be
discovered but also in the researchers who chose to prioritize certain
values (often their own) and neglect others (often hold by the studied
others). Development does not exist without directionality and this
directionality, as we know by now, is relational. For example, to say that
humans are "developmentally more advanced" species than cockroaches are
means that we, observers/researchers, prioritize certain features over
others. There are many other values from which cockroaches are
"developmentally more advanced" species because they can probably survive a
nuclear world war while humans probably not.

The second problem is political. Development implies advanced on the top and
primitives on the bottom of the power pyramid. In other words, it implies
and involves hegemonic political relations. Just say aloud "they're
primitive", "you're primitive", "I'm primitive" to feel the hegemony
inbuilt. We become uncomfortable to talk about "primitive societies" and
"primitive cultures" but we seem still comfortable to talk about children's
thinking as primitive. I think the issue of adult hegemony will be addressed
in future... 

I think that the love-hate relations toward the concept of development in a
sociocultural approach will lead either to abandoning the concept of
development or its transformation to reflect relational, value, and
pragmatic aspects of it.

What do you think?

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Eugene Matusov [mailto:ematusov@UDel.Edu]
> Sent: Sunday, July 11, 2004 11:22 AM
> To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> Subject: RE: Culture as dialogic relation
> Dear everybody--
> I want to share my thoughts and reflection on Galperin's work. I was not
> lucky to learn from Galperin but I read his work and what was probably
> more
> important to learn from his students and colleagues about Galperin's work.
> In his lectures about developmental psychology in Moscow State University,
> Davydov spent some time discussing Galperin's work.
> Anyway, in my view, Galperin worked within an approach that can be
> described
> as a developmental-educational or forming-educational. First and foremost,
> Galperin was interested in psychological development: how higher
> psychological functions (first of all cognitive) are formed and how to
> form
> them -- which for Galperin was more or less the same question. Galperin
> came
> from a Marxist tradition according to which in order to understand a
> phenomenon means to build and transform the phenomenon. Vygotsky belonged
> to
> this tradition, of course.
> Mike is right evoking Seth Chaiklin's point about Vygotsky-Galperin-
> Davydov
> (the list is not exhaustive, of course) tradition as being extremely
> interested in development. But what was "development" for Galperin? My
> reading Galperin suggests that it was qualitative changes in child's
> thinking that becomes more powerful. He used examples of Piaget's
> experiments on conservation to illustrate cognitive developmental as he
> understood it. However, Galperin criticized Piaget for using a
> non-developmental approach in studying development. After Vygotsky,
> Galperin
> believed that "forming experiment" is the appropriate methodology for
> developmental psychology. To understand means change or, better to say, to
> develop. That is why instruction and FORM-al education has to become a (if
> not THE) major method for developmental psychology.
> Galperin's developmental-educational approach can be summarized as the
> following. First, abstract important developmental phases from "naturally
> occurring/unfolding development". Second, based on this abstraction,
> design
> phases of instruction. Third, test if these instructional phases form the
> same psychological outcomes as "naturally occurring development". Based on
> his philosophical and psychological speculations and probably non-
> systematic
> observations (I never read or heard about Galperin's systematic empirical
> research of "naturally occurring development"), he developed his phases
> (or
> stages) of forming higher mental functions in children. He devoted a lot
> of
> his (and his students') research efforts to test and to tune-up these
> instructional phases.
> Now, what do *I* think about Galperin's developmental-educational
> approach?
> I like the idea of learning from "naturally occurring developmental" (or
> from informal settings) and use this learning for design of formal
> instruction. I wish Galperin did empirical work on "naturally occurring
> development" as processes beyond Piaget. However, my biggest problem with
> Galperin (and majority of developmental psychologists) is about, what
> Russian theoretician of theater Stanislavsky's called, his super-task. The
> super-task for Galperin seemed to learn how to form adults from children
> through instruction -- reproduction of culture. Of course, reproduction of
> culture is a very important aspect but it is limited one. There are other
> important aspects like production of culture, being in the world, and so
> on.
> For Galperin, the endpoint of development is known (adults like him:
> middle-class, educated, rational, text- and inner-oriented,
> decontextualized) and the startpoint of development is known (deficient
> thinking of children). According Galperin, problem for psychology (and
> education) seemed to discover HOW to move from the known startpoint to the
> known endpoint. Please notice that the startpoint -- children's thinking -
> -
> is often understood in relationship with adult thinking hence negatively
> (cf., Piaget's label of "non-conservers"). I call this tendency in
> developmental psychology as "adultocentrism".
> In my view, Galperin's external-internal dualism is rooted in his
> adultocentric super-task of forming particular adults from children. As
> Dewey pointed out dualism involves discontinuity. In Galperine's case, it
> is
> a discontinuity between the adult and the child. I do not think that
> reference to dialects can ever help to bridge this discontinuity. For me
> the
> biggest problem with Galperin's dualism is pragmatic and not even
> conceptual
> (although it is there as well).
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Mike Cole [mailto:mcole@weber.ucsd.edu]
> > Sent: Wednesday, July 07, 2004 4:26 PM
> > To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> > Subject: Re: Culture as dialogic relation
> >
> > Well, Eugene, for one, as you know, I as an American lack duchovnost'
> > which
> > is certainly related to the absence of a dusha.  As we Americans
> sometimes
> > say, it comes with the territory!  A real  :-))-er.
> >
> > My message was polysemic and your comment was only part of it, and it
> took
> > three days to get posted, so recapturing the whole sequence is a little
> > difficult.
> >
> > But I think the point of our discussion was about whether and if so how
> > Galperin had overcome the inside/outside dualism but could still talk
> > about
> > interlanization and subjects introspecting. In my fevered mind I linked
> > these discussions to relational/process notions of culture.
> >
> > Lets see what others make of the discussion, if anything, and then try
> > to build back to the initial topic. Perhaps just another
> misunderstanding
> > that masqueraded as a difference of opinion.
> > mike