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Re: [xmca] Trying to stop the strands from unravelling

Yukyeong and I feel Carol's pain.One of the perennial questions on the Civil Service exam for teachers here in Korea is about the differences between Piaget and Vygotsky. The problem is that there is really no textbook at all for this exam, and very few sources available in Korean. So most of my poor undergrads rely on cramming books.
The cramming books deliberately keep threads from developing, and "untangle" questions by unravelling every system into a set of PPTs followed by lists of mock exam questions, The clash of Titans is reduced to a Punch and Judy, "Piaget Made Easy" against "Vygotsky for Dummies" (Piaget, you see, thought the child was a lonely explorer, and Vygotsky believed that you never walk alone. Now, Ausubel....) 
Yesterday Yukyeong asked me (for the millionth time) why, if Vygotsky was such a believer in the social child, he is so interested in DNA research (because he is always talking about genetics). I explained for the millionth time that the word "genetic" does not mean the Korean word that is used to mistranslate it in the cramming books, but instead means, variously, phylogenetic evolution, sociogenetic history, ontogenetic development, and even microgenetic learning. But not even phylogenetic evolution is well described as a struggle between selfish genes manipulating organisms as their avatar proxies, because evolution is as much about exaptation as about adaptation. 
Yukyeong's eyes light up, but only briefly. Here, you see, it says that Piaget is a structuralist. But isn't he a constructivist? And isn't Vygotsky a structuralist and a constructivist too? We put down the cramming book lists and turn to Vygotsky, in our translation in progress. We notice that when Vygotsky uses the word "structural" in Thinking and Speech, the words "functional" and "genetic" are never very far away. 
Vygotsky and Piaget are simply not doing what Kuhn would call "normal science" where there is a shared paradigm. Kuhn would say they are in the prescientific era, where each school has its own set of tools, its own set of procedures, and consequently, and its own largely empirical and pre-theoretical model of the object of study, like the "electricians" of the eighteenth century who variously conceived of electricity as beam of light, as a stream of fluid, or as a degringolade of material corpuscles.
I don't think Vygotsky is trying to synthesize the structural, functional and genetic approaches to the topic. So he's not a structuralist, or a functionalist, or even a geneticist (and he's actually quite hard on Piaget's whole genetic approach). But he's not an eclectic either. Vygotsky wants to see if there is any common object of study there and then work out the best method of study based on what that common object of study is and what the specific problem we have to solve might be. 
If an automobile (or a mind) really is a bunch of parts (but not just a bunch of parts), a means of performing a set of functions (but not reducible to these functions) or a modern invention (but not simply a clever invention) then there is something there we can study, and we can work out the best procedures for studying it according to the specific problems we want to study.
Wertsch is interested in pole vaulting (in "Mind as Action") or at least in using pole vaulting as an example. So it makes sense for him to distinguish between mastery and conscious awareness, and even for him to reject the whole idea of "internalization". It doesn't seem very useful for a pole vaulter to be consciously aware of what he is doing, or to "internalize" the difference between a bamboo pole and a fiberglass or carbon-fibre one, and it makes sense to talk about the vaulter "appropriating" a new pole and a new skill. 
But the specific problems I want to study all have to do with language. To seize conscious awareness of language is to be able to modify a sentence at absolutely any point (as I am doing when I write this). The way in which I master this ability is to become conscious (and only then oblivious) of rules, that is, to internalize them and then to become myself internal to them (I think when we speak of internalization it really makes more sense to think of inside a family, a community, or a city rather than inside a body or a brain). 
So I think that for the specific problems I want to research there is no point in distinguishing between conscious awareness and mastery, or rejecting internalization for appropriation, or even privileging object oriented activity over activities which are much less obviously object directed, e.g. daily conversation, foreign language learning, child development, and language change.
I think that MCA and xmca are very different, and I am always sorry but not really surprised when told by reviewers that I can be a peer in one but not the other. I like to think of myself as primarily a researcher and only secondarily a kvetch, but my record says otherwise. 
Any sailor will tell you that their are two methods to keep ropes from unraveling. In the first, you braid the loose ends of the rope into the loose ends of another rope and you keep going. In the second, you cover the loose ends with tar or hot wax, or else, if it's one of those new plastic ropes, you just take out your lighter and melt it. I think xmca tends to privilege the first method, and MCA tends to privilege the second.
David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education   
--- On Sat, 4/24/10, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Trying to stop the strands from unravelling
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Saturday, April 24, 2010, 9:57 AM

Carol--- I learn from xmca discussions mostly because they are NOT referred
journal articles, but reflections up, extensions of, musings about, ideas
that appear after having been peer reviewed. And as we have often seen,
members of xmca are not always enamored of the judgments of the reviewers
and editors!!

The relation of "metacognition" to other concepts that refer generally to
thinking about thinking (and thinking about thinking-as-action and perhaps
thinking about thinking also as action?) seems quite worthwhile. You did not
use the term, reflexivity, but that seems relevant as well, along with other

David Kel, was your use of mastery related to jim w's distinction between
mastery and internalization?


On Sat, Apr 24, 2010 at 7:30 AM, Carol Macdonald <carolmacdon@gmail.com>wrote:

> Hi guys
> Since I have been underemployed for a while I have been able to pay
> reasonable attention to the very interesting recent postings.
> What concerns me is the fact that one or more conversations land up with
> concepts that are not really CHAT concepts, while on another conversation
> people have been trying to build up further theory on the nature of the ZPD
> (including Bakhtin, dialogicality, intersubjectivity etc) and the nature of
> concepts in chapters 5 & 6 of LSV.
> First we have the introduction of concepts such as *metacognition* (this
> was
> Nancy in late March).  I wrote about the unviability of teaching thinking
> skills a while back, so I thought I might be of help bringing this
> essentially educational psychology concept up to date and tell XMCA why we
> shouldn't use it.  To my dismay I found that there is now a whole journal
> dedicated to metacognition and learning, and looking at a few articles, it
> is clear that the concept has been diluted and confused, especially when
> compared with the original version Flavell laid out. So I decided to not
> regale my conversation partners with my view and wish here only to point
> out
> that metacognition is *not* a CHAT concept, and to make a plea to guard
> against unwelcome intruders. So far so god.
> Then we have more recently *conscious awareness* and *mastery* described in
> a nontechnical situation.  David K, in his ever constructive self,
> immediately tried to incorporate them. I do not have such a problem
> with *mastery
> *as Jim Wertsch wrote about it in 1998 in *Mind in Action* and I have used
> this in educational analysis. (Jim says its LSV, San Diego). However, it is
> essentially a characteristic of the individual. It is necessary but not
> sufficient for *appropriation.*
> Ironically *conscious awareness *is quite close to aspects of
> metacognition,
> but if I am right, it is essentially a characteristic of the individual,
> and
> I would want to know how it fits into our currently received analysis of
> the
> ZPD (on the file serve). Maybe we can talk about the teacher and the
> learner
> both having conscious awareness, but they would have to be brought into
> some
> relation because they would be different for the two. How does it relate to
> potential and real concepts, or is this another conversation?
> I either need some help here, since I can't integrate this/these, maybe
> they
> can't be, or to be told to stop fussing. Mike might tell me that we are not
> writing journal articles here, but I really  do learn from following the
> discussions.
> Timid thanks in advance
> Carol
> --
> Visiting Researcher
> Wits School of Education
> 6 Andover Road
> Westdene
> Johannesburg 2092
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