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RE: Culture as dialogic relation, Part2

Sorry, I meant to say there are no separate objects such as adult and children.


From: Michael Glassman [mailto:MGlassman@hec.ohio-state.edu]
Sent: Tue 7/13/2004 2:12 PM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: RE: Culture as dialogic relation, Part2

Just wanted to respond to Eugene's post because it had a number of issues that were of interest to me. 

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. 
Actually, from what I have read, Dewey did not talk about discontinuity that much until he started developing his metaphysics.  He discounted dualism much earlier in his career.  The initial reason for discounting dualism seemed to be his fear that dualism would always lead to an idealist conception of the world - that there is some place that we must be going, some higher truth that we must be trying to attain (either the truth determined by the Spirit - idealism - or the truth determined by the real world - realism.  In any case dualism always presents of danger of controlling a community and spurring them to action based on a claim to the truth (see Iraq war, or even see Ralph Nader).
The discontinuity argument came later, when he was trying to work out a metaphysics that leads to social melioration (progress).  He claimed that there was no discontinuity between experience and nature - what we do cannot be separate from the world that we do it in - and claimed any distinction would lead to the excesses of dualism.  So it seems to me its better to make the argument that discontinuities lead to dualism than dualisms lead to 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).

It seems to me the pragmatic view is the idea that there are such separate objects as adult and children.  This is a very different way of viewing the world, including different from much socio-cultural theory (I withhold judgment on Vygotsky because as I said before he was in the process of changing - but certainly of many who interpret him and certainly of many other socio-cultural theorists).  It is not that the child and the adult don't exist, and not that there is a difference between them, but that there is no relevance in setting up this distinction - and there is actually a danger, in that the adult automatically takes the role as expert giving social knowledge (again as object) to the child - whether it is material or ideal.  I may be reading the article on Gal'perin wrong but this is a difficulty I see.  The issue should not be the relationship between the child and the adult, but the relationship of both to a problem at hand.  Many times the adult will have more strategies for solving the problem, but sometimes, if the problem is divorced from habitual activity, it will be the child.  Let me give an example.  I just came back from a month traveling in China.  We were in some hotel rooms with media systems I just couldn't understand.  It was my twelve year old son, and sometimes my eight year old daughter, who took the lead in this problem solving.  We worked better because there was really no child and no adult.  This does not mean I wasn't teaching them (or that I wasn't a total idiot).  But the teaching was ongoing, part of the process of sitting down and listening to each other about how to solve the problem - for instance I tried to teach my son not to grab the remote away from my daughter assuming she doesn't know how to solve the problem, when sometimes she knows better than either of us.
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.
Again, here I see knowledge being treated as an object - that the child starts with something (the idea of defining humans as peripheral to activity strikes me as invoking the type of discontinuity Dewey was attempting to avoid).  The issue is not that you spoke better German, the issue is that your comrades ignored your protests and did not try and overcome the problem by listening to your solution of who should be who that might create a better game.  The game was looked at as an object and it was assumed that certain things make a better game, rather than as an ongoing process.  Individuals engage in habitual activity until they need to adapt and then they change or run the risk of becoming irrelavant.  It is true that individuals come to any new endeavour with habits of activity - but the key is not leaning back on the habits but looking forward to figure out how to incorporate change in the best possible way.  While some might say habit gets in the way of change I am coming to a much different view - habit serves as a safe base for identity which will actually allow change.  But again, this demands that people do not see knowledge as objects but knowing as a process.

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."
Well to me this sort of depends on how you define beginning point.  It seems that the beginning point is when you recognize the problem that needs to be solved.  If you see all activity as simply ongoing community activity then habit gains a tremendous advantage and it becomes more difficult to change - "This is the way we do it because this is the way our community does it" - in another line of research I have been looking into the introduction of statistics into the fields of psychology and education.  They were introduced to the field for the worst of all possible reasons (the eugenics movement) and they continue because they were forced into habit and now the "practice" of our community demands that you engage in this habit - even though it really hasn't accomplished anything (think about it).  If you dispute it (actually you can't) you are told this is part of the ongoing process of our community.  If we saw each problem as fresh then we would be able to sit down and really discuss the best way to solve it and each perspective would have to prove itself, outside of habit, again.  In order for this to happen it seems to me you do need to define new beginning points.  And you need to define end points - either something works or it doesn't work, and either way we have to accept the outcome.  If it works perhaps it will be integrated into habit, if it doesn't work we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out something that doesn't work.  

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.
Again, why do we need these mediational tools, objects and environment?  The problem is can the child read (not a very well defined problem).  May a better problem is can the child read, comprehend, discuss and extend an idea?  We may use any instruments that we can find, but in the end what we want to know is did the child accomplish this?

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.
I think it is important to separate the concepts of development, progress, evolution, and descent with modification.  Now different people may see development in different ways, but right now I see development as invoking dualisms.  That is, if we are developing that means we are developing towards something which as Eugene (and Dewey) suggest has tremendous political implications.  However progress has more to do with making things better, or melioration as Dewey puts it.  If you have a problem, and you have figured out how to overcome that problem, then some group, some community is the better for it, and that is progress.  Progress is so important because in many ways it is the opposite of habit, it is adaptation to circumstances.  And if we are not looking for progress then what the hell are we doing here?  Same thing with evolution and descent with modification.  Stephen Jay Gould used to be fond of saying the if evolution is based on survival then we are way behind the cockroaches, because they were here long before us and will be here long after us.  Except we deal with a very different set of problems that the cockroaches.  We can't survive a nuclear holocaust, so we have to figure out how to avoid one.  This is a big problem.  If we figure out how to overcome it then we have made progress.  It doesn't bring us any closer to the cockroaches in terms of suvivability, but it will give our species a few more years.  In others words species development or evolution or whatever, needs to be seen in terms of the species group, not in comparison to other species groups with other problems - descent with modficiation.

Whew, too much,  thanks to anybody who read the whole thing.  I hope it had enough of a relationship to Gal'perin, maybe not I went off on my own tangents.



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