Re: [xmca] Dynamics of Learning and Development

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sun Nov 25 2007 - 00:32:32 PST

Dear Mike:
  My take is slightly different. I see a distinction between development (largely intra-mental although inter-mental in origins) and learning (largely inter-mental although intra-mental in destiny). But within development I think there is also a distinction between critical and non-critical periods of development.
  When we learn things, we often forget them or simply leave them lying inert. particularly in the case of non-essential skills (typing and bicycle riding are the examples LSV gives, but one can think of many others). Forgotten knowledge and inert skills do not affect either the organization of consciousness or the growth of any of its linked but distinct parts.
  Development is different:
  a) For both critical and non-critical periods of development (but not for learning), there is an explicit rejection of any single index, biological, cognitive or even social. Nursing is an almost perfect example of a biological need which can only be satisfied through complex social and even cultural behavior.
  b) Instead there is an abstract whole-part relationship which (I think) actually reflects the PRESSURE by a developing INTERNAL system of parts (functions, largely psychological but bearing the indelible trace of social origins) against an EXTERNAL whole (the functional system, which is largely social but expressing the developing psychological functions in a unique way) during non-critical periods of development. During the crisis this pressure runs the other way, with the social whole reorganizing the developed psychological parts. So during the non-critical period of development the various components of nursing--smiling, sucking, belching--develop harmoniously in just the way that Activity Theory predicts that any set of operations will develop into an action. But during the crisis, the transition to solid food, the need to absorb solid food brings into being and coordinates a whole new set of functions (e.g. chewing and swallowing).
  c) The "social system of development" can be considered "unique", "exclusive", etc. only in the sense that nursing is "unique" and "exclusive" etc. when we compare it to the umbilical system of alimentation that replaces it or to the regime of solid food that follows it. The point is not that it has no structure but only that it represents a total break with the past and a bridge to the future.
  For now, the only thing I want to point out is that if we define the POST-crisis social situation of development as speech (and the crisis social situation of development as autonomous speech) all three of these points remain just as true.
  a) Speech cannot be reduced to either a biological or a cultural line of development. It is a biological line of development which is reorganized when it is decisively subordinated to a cultural one. (That's what "Thinking and Speech" is all about!)
  b) Speech consists of a developing internal system of functions (a phonology, a vocabulary, a grammar) which in non-critical times presses up against the externally (pragmatically) determined whole by meeting or failing to meet the child's communicative needs. During critical periods this relationship is reversed; when the child engages in "autonomous speech" (LSV's scare quotes), the functional system itself is determinative of the parts (the grammar and vocabulary of babble depend on self-expressive needs of the child rather than on the internal resources which do not yet exist). Foreign language learning "interlanguages" also exhibit these characteristics.
  c) Speech is a "unique" and "exclusive" social situation of development compared to nonspeech and "autonomous" speech (and also to foreign language learning).
  A couple of nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night really BOTHERED by the last page of Volume 5, where LSV actually says that he thinks that ALL crises are internally determined. But now I am almost sure that he is simply attacking the "vulgar Marxist" viewpoint, the sort of view that holds that how much money your parents make and how many TV sets there are in the house and whether or not you have indoor plumbing and can change your underwear every day determines in a mechanical way the way you think and the way you talk. (My wife grew up under such thinking: for the first part of her life, being born in the third generation of textile workers was a sign of proletarian nobility, and of course for the second part of her life it has been treated as a mark of Cain.)
  Having settled the hash of the vulgar Marxists (Blonsky?) LSV then goes on to attack bourgeois developmentalists as reducing the nature of crises to overactive glands (the "terrible twos" are really all about your teeth!). We might as well try to explain the behavior of nursing as being due to the nature of an overactive milk gland. Come to think of it, Descartes DOES try to explain speech as the effusions of an overactive pineal gland, poor sap!
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education
  PS: On Saturday night we met and made about an hour and a half of video in which we try to "rise to the concrete" on the questions you all raised in the San Diego-Helsinki link up. It's on tape now. Shall I mail you the tapes, or do you want us to send a digitalized file, or what?

Be a better pen pal. Text or chat with friends inside Yahoo! Mail. See how.
xmca mailing list
Received on Sun Nov 25 01:01 PST 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Dec 11 2007 - 10:18:42 PST