Re: [xmca] Streamed Discussion of Discussion of Development in CHAT theory

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Wed Nov 07 2007 - 08:29:26 PST

I gather from your comments, David, that the discussion had good auditory
level all the way through. I was not sure. We had difficulty at times
hearing our Finnish colleagues.

It would be excellent if you have a writeup of your data on kids in
different events/activities
and perhaps a link to Wray's paper. In a way, as you report her results, it
would support the idea that there is, in some sense, a single (social
situation of development) (SSD) regardless of specific activity. Eugene
reports a similar intuition about his two year old who wants to manipulate
objects everywhere and all the time if possible.

Perhaps because I generally work with older kids, I seem to see more
variability across activity settings (test situations being a special case,
our paper on learning from a learning disable child being another cases
where both similarity and variability are discernible). But mostly, it would
be good to have a good deal more actually observervations.

We should have a new sub page at XMCA soon that will provide links to
digitalized discussions like Mondays, ppts that accompany them, and (if
people contribute) articles and links that address the issues of the
session. Just a matter of work and time both of which are in short supply.

*NOTE: It would be great if others would arrange to do what we did so that
we could in effect have an ongoing distributed set of discussions and
supporting materials. If you cannot stream, but can record, you could send
the recording to me and we could post at XMCA. Or if you can stream, we can
link and gather up supporting materials at XMCA or simply note the topic and
link to a site where you archive it.

On Nov 6, 2007 8:48 PM, David Kellogg <> wrote:

> Dear San Diego and Helsinki:
> Yes, thanks VERY much for this. My grad students will appreciate it VERY
> much, and not just for the content. Some of them have a lot of trepidation
> about going overseas to study under senior Vygotskyan scholars, and they
> will find Mike's and Yrjo's and Eugene's much more careful, deliberate and
> calm delivery reassuring.
> I have TWO questions, one about Mike's presentation and one about Yrjo's.
> Mike: My response to the "social situation of learning" was pretty much
> the same as yours: I imagined it as being a series of "event horizons" that
> gradually expand around the child. As the child gets older, the child
> becomes AWARE of more and more. But I think my idea of "agency" is quite
> different, because I see the issue as awareness rather than co-construction
> (I think we kid ourselves about the extent to which kids have power over
> their own care and feeding).
> Alison Wray (Transition to Language) talks about a sociointeractional
> "bubble" which she claims explains the ability of children (but not adults)
> to "crack open" formulaic phrases. We all know that children are liable to
> deconstrue adult sentences like "I'd like to propose a toast" and reconstrue
> them as "I'd like to propose a sandwich" or reformulate things like "Good
> morning" or "Happy birthday" into "Good Monday" or "Happy Monday". Wray
> explains this by saying:
> "The effect of the bubble is that the child experiences relatively little
> pressure to engage with the complex demands of interaction in the full range
> of life situations: you may take a child to the zoo, the theatre, or the
> Queen¡¯s garden party, but the moment-by-moment business of the child will
> be almost entirely unaffected by that wider context, for its own world
> relates to being fed and kept comfortable by its immediate carers (2000:
> 481).¡¯
> She claims that this allows the child to see formulaic speech as a kind
> of language play, and that explains the greater creativity of children with
> formulae.
> I have some wonderful data on this: three years of data from third grade
> to fifth grade, with the kids taking fixed phrases from their elementary
> school English textbook and reconstruing it in call kinds of irksome and
> interesting and inappropriate ways.
> Oddly, though, the imposition of contextual constraints appears to
> FACILITATE improvisation rather than dampen it, in much the same way that
> rules bring games into existence. It's in THIS sense that the "context" is
> co-constructed, so I'm not sure I agree that seeing a social situation of
> learning as being "given" is necessarily a rejection of the child's agency.
> On Yrjo's presentation, I thought the first point, on the destructiveness
> of the ZPD, got short shrift. I think this is partly because Yrjo's pleasant
> Northern woods metaphor of paths in the forest doesn't obviously lend itself
> to a destructive interpretation. But it seems to me that this was (by far)
> the most convincing part of the parallel he was trying to draw between
> productive development and personal development.
> Like Mike, my initial reaction to the parallel between the development of
> countries and the development of children is a very negative one, both for
> the reasons Mike gave (it smacks of the nineteenth century idea of "half
> devil and half child") and because I disagree with the whole teleogical
> Gunder-Frank (Wallerstein) idea of "core" and "periphery". Some countries
> are clearly being UNdeveloped rather than underdeveloped (Iraq, Afghanistan,
> Sudan...even in the USA the actual production of goods and sevices, not to
> mention real wages, continues to decrease).
> Let us call these undeveloping countries the third world, and not the
> "developing' or "undeveloped" world; "third world" has a pleasant Hegelian
> ring that promises a kind of synthesis. I don't really see how this
> undevelopment is collective, or that it is horizontal, but I certainly do
> see how it is destructive.
> It seems to me that this is the ONE point where there really IS a good
> parallel to be had. Both ontogeny and cultural phylogeny (if that is what it
> is) are based on what Lenin would call uneven and combined development (the
> superimposition of the most advanced and the least advanced products of
> development).
> Vygotsky, for example, writes:
> "The child does not move to the use of tools like primitive man having
> finished his organic development. (¡¦) A six-month-old infant is more
> helpless than a chick, at ten months he still cannot walk and feed himself
> independently; also, during these months he passes through a chimpanzee-like
> age, taking up tools for the first time. (Volume Four, 1997: 21)¡±
> Rogoff has a really wonderful illustration of this point on p. 6 of her
> book The Cultural Nature of Human Development (OUP 2004) where she shows an
> eleven year old cutting open a fruit with a machete which is almost as long
> as the child is tall. And then of course there was Dr. Subbotsky's exquisite
> anecdote about the Beatles going to Hamburg to play the Reeperbahn in the
> early sixties and having to ask permission from their parents.
> Dr. Subbotsky pointed out that this presents parents (and also children)
> with quite a contradiction: on the fact of it, the children are more
> advanced in mathematics and foreign languages than their own parents, but
> they are socially immature. If development were rational, this would be
> impossible: development must happen socially before it can take place
> psychologically. But under modern conditions (perhaps under ALL cultural
> conditions) development does not take place rationally; it is always uneven
> and combined.
> So too with Russia and China, which had the lowest rates of
> capitalization but the highest concentrations of capital (and subsequently
> the smallest but most well organized working classes) in the capitalist
> world. When I was living in Algeria, the largest steel plant in the world,
> Al Haddjar, was near the small village where I lived. And here in Korea, the
> impoverished North was, until sometime in the eighties, far more
> industrialized in the South (and according to some measures was one of the
> most industrialized countries on earth). The development of nuclear weapons
> by North Korea is simply one more example of uneven and combined
> development.
> And that's my question! Isn't this "uneven and combined development"
> responsible for the crises we associate with the zone of proximal
> development rather than the rubbing up of development against boundaries? It
> seems to me that zones of proximal development are horizontally (and even
> rationally) mobile: it is easy to imagine a child replacing one form of rule
> placed play with another without much of a crisis.
> It seems to me that what we really find within the zone are not quiet
> forest paths but, as Mescharyakov points out, we find different kinds of
> mediation, teacher-mediation, peer-mediation, self-mediation, and no
> mediation. The transition from teacher mediation to peer mediation doth
> never run smooth, and even if it did, it is quite possible for SOME parts of
> a complex and urgent adolescent skill to be highly internalized while others
> remain entirely on the exterior (dating comes to mind, but I can think of
> many others).
> David Kellogg
> Seoul
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Received on Wed Nov 7 08:30 PST 2007

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