[xmca] Roles, Rules, and What to Call the Teacher

From: david kellogg (kellogg@snue.ac.kr)
Date: Sun Oct 08 2006 - 16:26:57 PDT

Dear Philip and Ignacio:

Well, I'm afraid you've understood me perfectly. Except that maybe it's eighteenth century romanticism rather than nineteenth century. (I really think Rousseau got a bad rap from Derrida, and in general Rousseau is much more interesting than Derrida's rather hysterical criticisms of him.)

I think your example of "Maestro" and Ignacio's of "Profesor" is completely consistent with what I am saying. Even if "Maestro" and "Profesor" do express respect (and after all the infantile "C'n I go to the bafroom TEACHER!" is also an expression of respect), both of these expressions reduce the "rules" of sociopragmatic interaction to fixed discourse roles that can be labelled.

One way to think about this is in rather Kantian (Kohlbergian) STAGES:

STAGE ONE: Fixed discourse roles with labels. Teacher = "Teacher", Friend = "David", Grown-up = "Mr. Kellogg".

STAGE TWO: More flexible sociopragmatic rules with conditional structure, often contingent on communicative intent. If the intention is to convey respect, use a title plus the surname. If the intention is to convey warmth, use the given name without a title.

STAGE THREE: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Politeness consists of treating others in such a way so that the maxim of your action might become a universal law.

STAGE FOUR: Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you--ask them how to address them and then do as they wish, because it is wrong to impose "universal laws" on others.

As you can see, the last one is not exactly Kantian! But I think you can also see how these stages might evolve out of each other. But the current educational system (not to mention the social system) might easily result in the fossilization of this evolution at a lower stage, no?

To connect this to our previous discussion on Halliday! I think that almost ALL language development might be seen this way. When we say that language is "rule governed" behavior, we are really fixing language like a butterfly with a needle. This really is a nasty eighteenth century habit; it comes from a belief in "one nation one language" and above all "one state one education system".

In fact, language is no more rule governed behavior than it is role-governed behavior. Nor is it purely a matter of empathy and trying to be nice. It is, as Bakhtin and Volosinov taught us, a matter of constant negotiation and renegotiation. That is why in dialogue the smallest meaningful number is always two.

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

(Apologies to Mike. My reply [off line as you suggested] is gestating, but the Harvest Festival is now over. I'm reading Tomasello, and I've ordered Wertsch as you suggested, but I need time to teach now too!)


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