[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: [xmca] The strange situation
My last comments about chapter 6 of T&L sank without trace like a small bead (or is it a large bead? I refer of course to p. 235). But since all is quiet on the xmca front, I'll try tossing in another pebble, and see if it skips or plunges once more to the silent depths.
What strikes to me when the concept of the zoped is introduced in chapter 6 is how very little it adds to what LSV has been emphasizing throughout the book, namely that what the child first does with others they later become able to accomplish themself. As we know, LSV has gone so far as to call this the General Genetic Law of Cultural Development. He has in addition put the same point in Hegelian terms (or at least Hegelian-sounding terms): the child's speech, for example, is first in-self, then for-others, finally for-self. In chapter 5 he has made the same point more specifically about concept development: the pseudoconcept is important because it seems to be a true concept to an adult. Phenotypically the child's pseudoconcept and the adult concept are identical, but genotypically they are significantly different; as Paula has pointed out, he calls this a wolf in sheep's clothing. The importance of this surface (functional) similarity lies in the consequence, LSV explains, that the adult responds to the child's use of the pseudoconcept *as though* it were a concept, and as a result the child is *as it were* using concepts. And as a result of in effect using true concepts, the child becomes truly able to use them.
In fact, when LSV first introduces the zoned, on page 209, he immediately "cite[s] the well known fact that with collaboration, direction, or some kind of help the child is always able to more and solve more difficult tasks than he can independently. What we have here is only an example of this more general rule." He adds that an explanation must go further than this, but he goes further by developing his analysis of instruction. The zoped doesn't seem to have, for him, much explanatory value. It is only a familiar fact, an example of the more general rule that he stated as the GGLCD.
What is new in chapter 6, IMHO, is not the zoped. LSV has been talking about zopeds all through the book even though he didn't use the term. Nor is it the introduction of a new factor, instruction, that occurs in the school classroom, for by the end of the chapter LSV has stated clearly that instruction occurs in preschool too, that in fact at every stage of development there is some kind of instruction, each of them qualitatively different according to the child's capabilities (and needs and interests) at that stage.
No, what is truly new in chapter 6, that is to say truly new when the child goes to school (for this is LSV's focus in this chapter) is surely the capacity for conscious awareness and voluntary control. Really I'm just stating the obvious here, since he actually calls them "neo-formations"! You can't get much more obviously new than that. LSV has emphasized the importance of these earlier in the book, but here they move to the fore. In chapter 5 he has said that true concepts become possible only when the child (or actually the adolescent as he has it there, though he changes his mind in chapter 6) is able to deliberately (voluntarily) direct his attention to specific features of an object. This becomes possible, LSV suggests in chapter 5, when the child "uses a word" to control his attention.
In chapter 6 voluntary control is again emphasized as an important part of the transition between what are now called everyday concepts and scientific concepts, but the explanation has changed. Now LSV suggests that "instruction" in school plays a central role in bringing about tthe transition. To explain this, it helps to consider his analysis of writing (or "written speech," he calls it, rather quaintly). While oral language is automatic, preflexive, situated and concrete, writing requires conscious awareness of the rules of grammar and spelling, and voluntary control of their application. Writing is abstracted both from the sounds of oral speech and from the situation of communication.
It might seem, then, that before instruction in writing can begin, the teacher should wait for the child to develop the capacity for conscious awareness and voluntary control. But LSV insists that, on the contrary, it is *in and through* instruction in (for example, but not only) writing that the child develops these capacities. Instruction and development are "knotted" in complex ways, he proposes. They are neither identical, nor at they completely separate. Of course this is what he has been saying about each of the various pairs of processes or phenomena that he has dealt with throughout the book. Most centrally, of course, he has argued that thinking and speaking are neither identical nor completely separate. In either of these cases, he was said repeatedly, there would be no question of a "relationship" between the two terms, and so nothing to study and nothing to write about. (Of course this hasn't stopped the psychologists who he has critiqued from writing a great deal, despite their inadequate conceptualizations!)
So here again we have a pair - development and instruction - which LSV says are related but not identical. This raises the question of whether this pair might be the central pair - thinking and speaking - in disguise. And certainly in instruction we have at least the teacher speaking, and probably the student too. And in development we have thinking (though not alone). But I think the resemblance stops there. When LSV considered speech, it was as something that starts off as social and then becomes psychological. It is hard to think of instruction in those terms. But let's not abandon that proposal so quickly, for this consideration raises the important question, what *is* instruction for LSV? We have a pretty good sense of how he understands development, since indeed the whole book has been telling us this. But in chapter 6 the term "instruction" appears without a formal definition. In the same way that we end chapter 5 without being entirely sure what a concept is, I think we end chapter 6 without being sure what instruction is.
I've asked my students to try to figure this out. What I hope they come up with is the notion that, whatever instruction is, it must involve a transformation in which conscious awareness and voluntary control are first in-self, then for-others, and finally for-self. That's the only formulation that would make any sense, isn't it?
xmca mailing list