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Re: [xmca] Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?

As a footnote to my worries about the politics of teaching "self- control", and in response to Mike's note about re-framing in cognitive psych discourse, a thought or two about "executive function".

There is a value connotation in this term, from "executive" in its sense of high-status individual in a managerial role (cf. "Executive MBA program" or "Executive Summary" not to mention "Executive Washroom"!).

And it's not so semantically distant from the putative denotative meaning of the term: the function of executing decisions. The history comes, I believe, from computer programming and computer processor design, where the executive function carries out the commands of the program.

So there is a sort of root cultural meaning-message here: "it's good to be in charge" conflated with "self-control is good". But there is a world of political difference among controlling yourself, carrying out commands, and controlling others. Or as I argued in my other post, learning how to control yourself to act your part in someone else's drama.

It may be obvious but perhaps still worth noting that there's also a difference between the meaning of "self-control" or "self-regulation" as the basic and necessary ability to focus your own attention and action in order to get something done beyond the single instant vs. their meaning as conforming to the norms of behavior set by others. In free cooperative or collaborative activity, where group norms are agreed and remain subject to challenge by all and to revision, this latter difference fades. But how often does that happen in schools? or any late capitalist institution?


Jay Lemke
Professor (Adjunct)
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On Sep 27, 2009, at 9:22 AM, mike cole wrote:

I am pushed to get ready for classes monday, Ageliki.
I would be glad to discuss the issue I referred to as re-framing within the context of the discussion of learning sciences and vygotsky just to keep it in the bounds of time constraints-- have you read that discussion? Otherwise
my comments will make no sense.

Within that context, I might start with executive functioning as a
"neuroscience term," the discourse on 0-3 and ways to make babies brains develop more quickly (see xmca discussion of brain and education),and the linkages to no-child-left behind. Seems a long way from Kharkov in the late 1930's, or 1990's, or the recent (to the NYTimes) discovery of Vygotsky.

Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 9:15 AM, Ageliki Nicolopoulou <agn3@lehigh.edu> wrote:

Hi Mike,

Can you explain a bit what you mean by re-framing and why you see it as an
issue of re-framing?


Ageliki Nicolopoulou
Department of Psychology, Lehigh University
17 Memorial Drive East
Bethlehem, PA  18015-3068

Personal Webpage: http://www.lehigh.edu/~agn3/index.htm<http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Eagn3/index.htm > Departmental Webpage: http://www.lehigh.edu/~inpsy/ nicolopoulou.html<http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Einpsy/nicolopoulou.html>

mike cole wrote:

Thanks Peter-- I was just about to forward this story. Apart from its
considerable intrinsic interest to members of this group, it seems
to the prior discussion the origins of learning sciences and the ways in
which re-framing can operate to change the terms of discourse.
On Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 7:36 AM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:

September 27, 2009 The NY Times Magazine Section

The School Issue: Preschool

Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?


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