Re: [xmca] Dynamics of Learning and Development

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sun Nov 25 2007 - 09:22:23 PST

Lots of interesting ideas, as usual David. For now I need to put aside the
discussion to prepare for a heavy teaching stint. We do appear to think
differently about the learning/development
distinction as summarized in your first paragraph. The rest requires a lot
of thought.

Was Blonsky a vulgar marxist? I know relatively little about him.

Looking forward to your digital production!!

On Nov 25, 2007 12:32 AM, David Kellogg <> wrote:

> 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?
> dk
> ---------------------------------
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Received on Sun Nov 25 09:23 PST 2007

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