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RE: [xmca] further thoughts on layers and stages within socioculturally situated practice

Thanks Mike. I recently finished Vol. 2 of LSV's collected works, on
Defectology. On a number of occasions he criticizes those who use religion
to explain life, which some might view as a "magical" way of interpreting
meaning. Yet another reminder of the atheistic requirements of life in the
Soviet Union, even as LSV and others referenced the magic of literature in
explaining mind.

Peter Smagorinsky
Professor of English Education 
Department of Language and Literacy Education
The University of Georgia
125 Aderhold Hall
Athens, GA 30602

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of mike cole
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 1:33 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] further thoughts on layers and stages within
socioculturally situated practice

I need time to absorb all that Larry and I may not be alone. Meantime, here
is a paper by Eugene Subbotsky that he said I could pass along and that he
believes relevant to the issue of layers and stages. His work is always

On Tue, Jun 22, 2010 at 6:13 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:

> Mike and others reflecting on layers/stages I wasn't sure if I should 
> add to your post on definitions and the role of superordinate 
> categories as imlpicated  the increasing decontextualization of formal 
> definitions. I decided I should  start a new thread.
> As the article states, the cognitive ability to generate 
> decontextualized abstract FORMAL definitions is considered a cental 
> ability for catergorizing persons into IQ subgroups. Acquiring this 
> ability is often viewed as a hallmark of individual diplays of 
> intelligence and an excellent tool for creating "ability groupings" 
> and people who "lack this innate ability" are viewed as "lacking" 
> intelligence.
>  Therefore, if it can be shown that this "ability" is not an 
> individual attribute but rather a culturally valued bias implicit in 
> the sociocultural traditions of formal schooling, it raises 
> fundamental questions about our notions of IQ and what is measured. 
> Every school psychologist as part of there professional education 
> should be required to read AND grasp the ideas in this article. Thank 
> goodness the sociocultural turn in psychology is challenging the basic
assumptions in this cognitive model.
> "Developing" decontextualized definitions and abstract ways of 
> thinking from a sociocultural perspective is a matter of practicing 
> generating "formal definitions" in institutional structures which 
> value this particular genre as a  performance.
> This article's focus on the centrality of practice can also be seen as 
> another example  that can be used to capture the tension in the 
> various accounts of the layering/stages antinomy.  If  the culture 
> values decontextualized ways of thinking then this "ability" will be 
> privileged over more concrete ways of thinking and  be labeled as 
> "higher".  However, as the article points out previous ways of 
> constructing are not transcended or sublated. Our horizon of 
> understanding expands to include our emerging capacity to use formal 
> definitions as an often more efficient practice especially in the 
> "assembly-line" institutional structures of FORMAL school settings. 
> However, as B. Rogoff reminds us, assembly line practices are not ALL 
> pervasive, even in formal school settings. Other models of learning 
> co-exist with the assembly line practices. However, the dominant 
> structure is formal and the formal tests of vocabulary development capture
who are efficient in these particular situated genres.
> In the spirit of considering the layering/stages antinomy I want to 
> discuss another "skill" that is often judged to be  foundational for 
> categorizing persons into ability groups and is often theorized as "innate
> This "skill" is verbal expression which is of central importance in 
> American  culture.  I want to suggest this is another example of 
> American cultural values [biases], which are historically situated, 
> but are often theorized as a universal developmental dynamic.  I will 
> be summarizing Suzanne Kirschner's account of "verbal expression" as 
> articulated in her article
> "The Assenting Echo: Anglo-American Values in Contemporary 
> Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology" (1990) in the journal SOCIAL 
> RESEARCH, vol. 57, No.4.
> Suzanne's article highlights how Freudian ideas [and ideals] when 
> transported to North America, are culturally transformed when 
> translated into a new cultural tradition. The hermeneutical process 
> she articulates when giving an historical account of psychodynamic 
> developmental theory in America is another example of the 
> sociocultural embeddedness of all our theories [including 
> developmental theories]. If one rejects the basic premises and 
> assumptions of psychoanalytic accounts, then reading an historical 
> account of how these "invalid" notions could so profoundly influence 
> cultural notions of development becomes a hermeneutical narrative that
highlights how historically situated sociocultural processes develop.
> Suzanne points out that American tradition values and  articulates 3 
> dominate themes when reshaping,  reframing and reconstituting 
> developmental theories from an American cultural imaginary.  Her 
> article documents the translation  of  pyschodynamic developmental 
> theory when these European notions were TRANSLATED in America.  
> However,  the historical process she articulate in her article 
> specifically for psychoanalytic developmental theory is relevant to 
> the translation of other developmental theories as they are "borrowed" 
> from other cultural traditions and become elaborated in the American
cultural imaginary.
> The 3 American values which Suzanne suggests are often implicit in 
> American versions of developmental theories  are
>  1) Self-reliance  2) Self-direction and 3) verbal expression.
>  Suzanne believes these 3 values are central and pervasive in American 
> cultural imaginaries.  The perceived "lack" in an individual of these 
> values is often theorized  as an indication of a lack of maturity or 
> becoming stuck at an earlier developmental stage. By examining the 
> value assumptions implicit in the cultural biases of developmental 
> theories that posit particular human expressions as  "lacking" in the 
> person's development we can glimpse the pervasive constraints of 
> cultural traditions on our theories.
> Suzanne points out the lack of "self-reliance" is viewed as being 
> stuck in DEPENDENCY.  Takeo Doi a Japanese psychiatrist points out 
> there is a cultural assumption in America that others can help a 
> child become independent "is probably the single most important goal 
> of American parents" [Kirschner] and overdependence is seen as a lack 
> of development.  Developmental progress is viewed as displaying 
> increasing self-reliance and detachment from dependency relationships. 
> The goal of development is the achievement of autonomy and the ability 
> to regulate a life of ones own choosing.  Suzanne suggests along with 
> this bias to valorize self-reliance is a sense of "separateness" and 
> "detachment" as one focuses on the capacity to improve ones own life 
> The 2nd cultural ideal is the developing capacity for SELF-DIRECTION. 
> This cultural ideal assumes one should know what is in ones heart and 
> mind and that one should make choices and live in accordance with 
> these inner beliefs and feelings.  It is by examining the perceived 
> negative qualities of the LACK of self-direction that the cultural 
> value of "self-direction" is implicated in our developmental theories.  
> The opposite of self-direction is COMPLIANCE with someone else's 
> desires which distorts, constricts, or suppresses one's true self.  If  
> one is seen as compliant and ones true self becomes inaccessible then 
> development is seen as stuck or "arrested" at an earlier stage of 
> development where one lacks autonomy. Again the hallmark of "lacking 
> autonomy" is being DEPENDENT on others to give direction to ones life. 
> Robert Bellah in "Habits of the Heart" describes "finding oneself"
> and
> being faithful to that self in one's lifestyle as central values of 
> American cultural values. [what Bellah calls expressive individualism]
> The 3rd cultural ideal which is implicit in developmental theories is 
> the ideal of SELF EXPRESSION.  There is a cultural bias to encourage 
> using language as a means of expressing ones own opinions and feelings.
>  Kirschner
> references Joseph Tobin's study of preschool in 3 cultures [Japan, 
> China, and the United States.] Tobin reported dialogue from an 
> American school in which the teacher asks "Do you want juice, Rhonda? 
> Milk? A cracker? What do you want? Don't just keep shaking your head. 
> How am I supposed to know what you want if you don't tell me?"
> Kirschner points out 2 assumptions implicit in this exchange. 1) 
> Everyone is entitled to freedom of choice and a variety of options 
> you must state them explicitly. In other words you cannot DEPEND on 
> another person to ANTICIPATE your needs.  Takeo Doi in Japan documents 
> a different cultural account of development.  In Japan  the cultural 
> ideal is to be able to anticipate anothers needs intuitively and it is 
> rude to wait until the other expresses an explicit need.  In the 
> American context to communicate verbally is highlighted as a sign of 
> As Kirschner summarizes in her article, these 3 cultural ideals imply 
> a tradition of hyperindividualism which Kirschner traces to the 
> historical situation of America's radical Protestant heritage and its 
> secular offshoots.  She suggests developmental theories in America 
> have developed along similar lines in their idealization of the 
> self-regulated and self-reflective autonomous individual.  In the 
> context of our discussion on layering and stages the idea of layering 
> allows recognition of the CONTINUING tension between a sense of  
> DEPENDENCY AND INDEPENDENCE and is capable of valueing both sides of 
> the tension.  In contrast the concept of stages idealizes one side of 
> the tension and views dependency as a LACK of  development.  Seeing 
> human needs as "immature" and "lacking" because of being embedded in 
> relations of DEPENDENCY which the person must separate from has 
> parallels to the account of developing decontextualized definitions.
> As a psychological tool decontextualization and decentering are ways 
> to expand a person's horizon of understanding BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE 
> OF RECOGNIZING EARLIER WAYS of being at home in the world.
> Mike, this is another reflection on the discussion of layers/stages 
> and the implicit values and judgements within accounts of development.
> Larry
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