Re: [xmca] Subject: Verb, Object

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sun Dec 30 2007 - 07:54:53 PST

Dear Andy and Peg:
  Here's some stuff from my notes; I happen to know that Andy can't get ahold of a copy of ANL's Problems of the Development of the Mind. I hope I don't get those funny marks that always show up when I paste in...
  p. 402 ANL points out how 'only understandable' motives for homework such as wanting to get a good mark can be replaced by 'really effective' motives such as doing it so you can go out to play. However, after some weeks of really effective motives, it is also possible that the child will find that the only understandable motives become really effective, e.g. the child will leave off doing homework because it¡¯s untidy and the child is now afraid of getting a bad mark.
  p. 403: ANL writes: 'It is a matter of an action¡¯s result being more significant in certain conditions than the motive that actually induces it. The child begins doing its homework conscientiously because it wants to go out quickly and play. In the end this leads to much more not simply that it will get the chance to go and play but also that it will get a good mark. A new "objectivation" of its needs come about which means they are understood at a higher level.'
  'The transition to a new leading activity differs from the process described simply in the really effective motives becoming in the case of a change of leading activity, those understandable motives that exist in the sphere of relations characterizing the place the child can occupy only in the next higher stage of development rather than in the sphere of relations in which it still actually is. The preparation of these transitions therefore takes a long time because it is necessary for the child to become quite fully aware of a sphere of relations that are new for it.¡±
  ANL compares a child¡¯s performance in a school play with the child¡¯s learning of study as an independent activity. The child begins the school play as an assignment, and later continues for the approbation the child receives during a successful performance. As with learning to study for a good mark instead of just studying for the opportunity to go out and play, a ¡°merely understandable¡± motive has now become ¡°really effective¡± and a new activity is established.
  But only in the case of independent study (according to ANL) is the new activity developmentally significant (¡°objectively¡±) because the child is not going to become a professional dramatist (if the child were, then the performance in the play would be study). Thus only in the latter case can we say there is a new leading activity.
  Here's what I make of this:
  a) ANL really does NOT interrogate the subject as to the object orientation of the activity: the object (study, the completed play) is indeed given in advance. As far as ANL is concerned, ONLY Chaiklin's "objective" ZPD exists, and there is NO subjective ZPD. But Andy's idea of "immanent critique" is NOT an objective critique; it has to do with following up (just like Sarah's) the subject's way of seeing things and seeing where it leads.
  b) In the development discussion (San Diego-Helsinki) Dr. Olga Vasquez raised the question of whether "leading activity" is the same as "neoformation", and Dr. Pentti Harakarainnen really did not answer it and instead talked about Dr. Engestrom's even more general concept of activity. But here we can see that "leading activity" and "neoformation" are quite different: LSV used "neoformation" to talk about transitional structures during crisis periods that COMPLETELY disappear (for example, the child's autonomous speech at one and the child's "negativism" at three) as well as neoformations which become the leading activity during normal growth. Only the latter is a "leading activity" for ANL.
  c) There is still a STRONG behaviorist streak in ANL's reasoning: the difference between the "really effective" and "merely understood" reasoning can very easily be described, in ALL of ANL's examples, as a simple lengthening of the time distance between the behavior and the positive reinforcement. Bruner, in a quote that I have long since lost, suggests that development can be described this way, but I don't think LSV ever would have done so: for LSV the key thing about humans is that they are dogs that can ring their own bells.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Sun Dec 30 07:56 PST 2007

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