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Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality
Thanks, Larry, for refreshing our memory of Piaget's article on LSV. So each accused the other of failing to account for the growth of conscious awareness! Fascinating - there's an article there for an enterprising scholar, or maybe even a dissertation!
I suspect we should think of Olson's history of writing/thinking as *one* of several histories. Just as Western science has its specific history. Where to draw the boundaries, though, between one history and another.
On Jul 2, 2012, at 1:25 PM, Larry Purss wrote:
> I read David Olson's *world On Paper* many years ago and your question
> about moving from implicit to explicit is documented in Olson's book as a
> historically implicated unfolding. At each historical step writing down
> our thoughts becomes more explicitedly transformed and this new formation
> feeds back as a reciprocal process which then recursively transforms
> dialogical speech [and thinking processes]
> As I remember, Olson's book clearly develops a journey of writing
> as developed FROM impicit dialogical acts [consciousness] TO explicit and
> volitional acts [conscious awareness]
> Returning to your question of possible *general* WAYS that consciousness
> moves FROM implicit and becomes more explicit as also implicated in the
> development of science from implicit consciousness to explicit awareness
> seems to move in parallel *ways*.
> Martin, I have just reread Piaget's Comments to Vygotsky [posted to XMCA on
> April 6th] and sent from Andy's marxist.org archives. with your question in
> This is Piaget's comment on Vygotsky's notion of *conscious awareness* He
> suggests both he and Vygotsky are in agreement on the time lag in the
> emergence of conscious awareness. Piaget's reading of Vygotsky is that
> Vygotsky posits a late development of awareness as a *law* according to
> which awareness and control appear only at the END point of the development
> of a function. Also, awareness AT FIRST is limited to the RESULTS of
> actions and only later extends to the HOW [the operation itself] Piaget
> agrees that these assertions of Vygotsky's are correct but don't explain
> these facts. Piaget's explanation is that a subject whose perspective is
> DETERMINED by his actions has no reason for becoming AWARE of anything more
> than the RESULTS of one's actions.
> For Piaget, what is the central explanation for understanding the HOW is
> his notion of decentering. [SHIFTING one's focus and COMPARING one action
> with other POSSIBLE or ANTICIPATED actions.] This decentering of
> perspectives [about possible actions] LEADS to an awareness of HOW
> conscious action develops.
> What is critical [and Piaget says leads to mis-understanding of his
> position] is that egocentrism as a Piagetian concept is not referring
> to private speech. Egocentrism for Piaget refers to notions of centering
> and decentering. The egocentric child does not speak FOR himself, but
> rather ACCORDING to himself.
> Piaget writes,
> "Let us replace *for himself* by *according to himself* in all my
> writings." For Piaget the VALID meaning of egocentrism is the lack of
> decentering, of the ABILITY to shift mental perspective, in social
> relationships and in egocentric speech.
> Piaget further writes,
> "Moreover, I think that it is PRECISELY co-operation with others (on the
> cognitive plane) that teaches us to speak *according* to OTHERS and not
> simply from our own point of view." [according to self]
> In the article Piaget goes on to discuss how he and Vygotsky are in
> agreement on the relation of spontaneous concepts and scientific concepts.
> [the relation between learning and development] Piaget says on the key
> point that spontaneous and scientific concepts START from different points
> but eventually meet, they are in complete accord.. Piaget also suggests he
> and Vygotsky are in complete accord when he writes that
> "a true meeting takes place between the SOCIOGENESIS of scientific notions
> (in the HISTORY of science and in the transmission of knowledge from one
> generation to the next)
> the transmission of *spontaneous* structures (influenced, to be sure, by
> interaction with the social, familial, scholastic. etc. mileau) ...."
> Piaget then adds, "it remains to determine wherein that part" [spontaneity]
> "consists." For Piaget, this question
> What is the nature of spontaneous activities?
> For Piaget this question is an extension of the question concerning
> egocentrism [according to self] and the role of decentering in the
> development of mental processes.
> Martin, your question of *how* consciousness becomes conscious volitional
> awareness [as a general way of developing *higher* psychological
> functions] may be reflected on as a process of centering [according to
> self] and decentering [according to others in relation to self]. Not as a
> negation of self but as an openning to other and the capacity for
> reflecting on co-ordinating perspectives [Gadamer's fusion of horizons]
> I do question Piaget's assumption that thoughts [as prior] are PUT into
> language but that is for another thread.
> On Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 10:08 AM, Martin Packer <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> Hi Michael,
>> This is what I am trying to figure out. Chapter 6 seems to offer to
>> distinct routes to the awareness of concepts that LSV claims makes possible
>> the higher psychological functions. One is the teaching of scientific
>> concepts (a la zoped); the other is learning to read and write (though LSV
>> throws in other "fundamental disciplines" for good measure). What is the
>> relationship between these two? One can imagine several possibilities. One
>> is that the teaching of science requires written material. Another is that
>> the 'meta-vocabulary' about language that school provides amounts to a
>> domain of scientific concepts in its own right. I imagine there are others.
>> Want to help me excavate chapter 6 to figure out LSV's argument?
>> On Jul 2, 2012, at 11:46 AM, Michael Glassman wrote:
>>> Hi Martin,
>>> Are you saying here that Vygotsky thought that decontextualized learning
>> of reading and writing will lead to learning of scientific concepts, that
>> is serves as some sort of pre-requisite? Or is it that you learn to read
>> and write in the process of learning more abstract concepts and one cannot
>> really be separate from the other. The former is part of the argument
>> being used for standardized testing in elementary school and the
>> concentration on reading and writing in pre-schools so I'm interested.
>>> From: email@example.com on behalf of Martin Packer
>>> Sent: Mon 7/2/2012 12:41 PM
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality
>>> Hi Peter,
>>> I know less than nothing about the teaching of writing, so yes in that
>> sense I'm changing the direction. I'm trying to figure out the details of
>> LSV's argument that learning to read and write contributes to the overall
>> growth of consciousness and awareness in the school years, such that the
>> higher psychological functions become possible. Specifically, does learning
>> to read contribute something distinct from being taught scientific
>> concepts? Or are these two aspects of teaching somehow part of a single
>> process of development?
>>> LSV emphasized that written language is an entirely new function, one
>> that even at the most minimal level requires a high level of abstraction.
>> It is "speech in thought, in representations"; it lacks material sound; it
>> is "the speech of thinking." David Olson (1982) made a similar case for the
>> power of reading to transform consciousness. He suggested that what
>> schooling provides is a "metalanguage." As children become literate they
>> begin to differentiate "sentence meaning" from "speaker meaning" - what is
>> *said* and what is *meant*. For example, children between 5 and 8 years of
>> age were told a story in which two children went to a movie and bought and
>> shared some popcorn. Kevin then complained to Susie: "You have more than
>> me." When asked what Kevin had *said*, more than half of the kindergarten
>> children replied "Give me some." By Grade 2, in contrast, the majority of
>> children reported verbatim what had been said and when asked, indicated
>> that they knew what was *meant* as well.
>>> Olson interprets this growing ability as a consequence of the
>> fact that writing separates the speaker from his or her speech. The reader
>> has to reconstruct what is meant from what is written. In learning to read,
>> the child learns to make the distinction between form and intention, and to
>> reconstruct the intention from the surface structure. They are aided in
>> this by a new vocabulary about both linguistic forms and the various speech
>>> In contrast, non-literate cultures, Olson claims, have little
>> vocabulary to describe these aspects of form or of intention. One thing
>> that literacy does, then, is help the child become aware of structures and
>> functions that are implicit in oral competence. For example, intentions -
>> beliefs, wants, and desires - are implicit in all intentional action, but
>> children only become *aware* of them when they learn the explicit names for
>> speech acts such as asking, stating, ordering and promising.
>>> This then is a new level of consciousness that is made possible
>> by the new sociocultural technology of writing, in Olson's view. Plus the
>> new metavocabulary for talking about writing, which is then applied to
>>> Mike, you know this work very well. Has Olson's interpretation stood the
>> test of time?
>>> On another note, Olson cites Piaget in such a way as to spark
>> again my suspicions that JP read LSV earlier than he admitted. Chapter 6 of
>> T&L was largely a critique of Piaget's (early) account of preoperational
>> thinking. But by 1971 Piaget was proposing - just as LSV did - that the
>> business of school is to help make the implicit become explicit:
>>> "The pedagogic problem, therefore, despite the progress realized
>> in principle by this return to the natural roots of the operational
>> structures, still subsists in its entirety: that of finding the most
>> adequate methods for bridging the transition between these natural but
>> nonreflective structures to conscious reflection upon such structures and
>> to a theoretical formulation of them. (p. 47)."
>>> Piaget, J. (1971). Science of education and the psychology of the child.
>> New York: Viking Compass Books.
>>> Just a coincidence?
>>> On Jul 1, 2012, at 2:46 PM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
>>>> Martin, I see you taking a different direction with this new post. It's
>> less about teaching writing, and more about, broadly speaking, writing.
>>>> I am not confident that all of LSV's views on writing hold up in the
>> digital era where you can text back and forth and get immediate response,
>> almost as in conversation, from which he differentiates writing. He was
>> really talking about handwriting for abstract audiences where there were
>> delays between writing and reading by others. But you and I can critique
>> one another to death, and Andy can do it from Australia, in some
>> circumstances in real time (e.g., we could use the "share screen" function
>> of skype and coauthor a doc from remote sites).
>>>> I think that what LSV writes is right for what he was talking about.
>> His views of schooling, though, were from a different time, place, and
>> culture. So controlling the basic elements (e.g., letter formation) isn't
>> necessarily even part of learning to write anymore, although it's probably
>> how most people start.
>>>> It's true that "these abilities develop during the process of learning
>> to write" although not without feedback, I'd say; and not without something
>>>> Writing instruction is still an open-ended question. There's still a
>> belief in immersion, for instance: just immerse them in rich print
>> environments, get out of their way, and let them write, lest we interfere
>> with their unfettered development. I don't buy this approach, but it's out
>> there among people who teach writing from kindergarten to grad school. I'm
>> more comfortable with the idea that you can teach people how to explore and
>> refine ideas through writing, and do so in ways that help people learn
>> appropriate conventions and strategies. See e.g.
>> http://www.heinemann.com/products/E03397.aspx (a total of 7 books in the
>>>> I'm not sure how well I can capture the nuances of writing pedagogy in
>> a one-screen medium, but I hope that at least provides some clarity. p
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
>> On Behalf Of Martin Packer
>>>> Sent: Sunday, July 01, 2012 2:32 PM
>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality
>>>> Hi Peter,
>>>> Help me figure this out, please. LSV emphasizes that writing requires
>> specific kinds of conscious awareness that are necessary for speaking. The
>> following are some rough notes on this. Would you say that they are true of
>> both types of writing that you have described, or only one?
>>>> Written language is not simply a transcription of oral speech, it is
>> something altogether more abstract. Writing not only abstracts from the
>> sounds of speech, it also abstracts for the situation of spoken language.
>> The language a child speaks is regulated by the dynamics of the situation,
>> and directed towards a specific other person or people. Speech, for the
>> school-aged child, has become automatic, spontaneous, and unconscious.
>> Written language, in contrast, is communication without an interlocutor. We
>> don't usually write about the here and now, to someone who is present. We
>> write for a reader who we may not even know, who will read our words in
>> circumstances we cannot anticipate.
>>>> In learning to write, then, the school-age child learns a new kind of
>> communication, one that is abstracted from the world around her. Writing
>> deals not with words, but with representations of words. Writing lacks the
>> music of speech, and the writer must make up for this lack with various
>> grammatical and rhetorical devices. Writing is, for the school-age child
>> (and for many adults), a deliberate, conscious process, one that involves
>> making careful, considered decisions. The child must develop voluntary
>> control of the basic elements (letters in the case of writing), of syntax,
>> and semantics - whereas in the child's everyday speech these have been
>> mastered and have become unconscious, spontaneous, and automatic.
>>>> In short, the mastery of writing requires conscious awareness and
>> voluntary control of various aspects of language. It might seem that in
>> order to teach a child to write we would need to wait for these abilities
>> to develop. But Vygotsky said no, these abilities develop during the
>> process of learning to write; they have "an indissoluble internal link"
>> with the teaching of writing.
>>>> On Jul 1, 2012, at 5:23 AM, Peter Smagorinsky wrote:
>>>>> Just one thought that occurred to me while reading these posts, and
>> offered from an old English teacher and on-and-off writing researcher:
>>>>> Martin says, "Or how teaching writing contributes over and above
>> teaching scientific concepts."
>>>>> I should note that not all writing instruction is the same. In fact,
>> one thing that occurs to me is that one type is oriented to academic
>> writing with formal, genre-based conventions. Another (and not "the" other)
>> is really based on personal exploration of life experiences. This approach
>> was very popular in the 80s, and perhaps even dominant in many circles, and
>> remains around, although the Common Core Standards, etc., will surely
>> diminish its availability. Anyhow, one seems dedicated to teaching academic
>> (scientific) conceptions of formal expression--although in fact, it tended
>> to be so form-oriented that conceptions would seem to have a hard time
>> emerging from the writing process. The other seems dedicated to providing
>> an environment for exploring everyday (spontaneous) concepts, with "direct"
>> or explicit instruction not only eschewed, but viewed as violent to the
>> students' personal development.
>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
>>>>> On Behalf Of Martin Packer
>>>>> Sent: Saturday, June 30, 2012 7:17 PM
>>>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] Culture & Rationality
>>>>> Hi Larry,
>>>>> Good questions - the first is one of the main motivations for me
>> trying to figure out the details of LSV's argument. One starts to wonder,
>> how specific is this to cultures in which there is schooling? Would some
>> other kind of deliberate instruction be equally effective? What about
>> cultural circumstances in which no deliberate instruction by adults take
>> place (Peter F. brought this up)?
>>>>> And then, what counts as a scientific concept? Can different cultures
>>>>> have different kinds of scientific concepts, equally adequate to
>>>>> grasping the necessities of reality? Could the Chinese - to go back to
>>>>> Nisbett's work for a moment - have concepts that are different from
>>>>> those in the West, but that are equally scientific? (It's odd, come to
>>>>> think of that, that LSV never wrote - to my knowledge - of Oriental
>>>>> culture, given that the Soviet Union stretched all the way to the
>>>>> And then your second question comes to mind. We tend to think of
>> scientific inquiry as an unfinished process; perhaps as one that never
>> finishes. But if so, in what sense do current scientific concepts grasp
>> necessities? And could the process that LSV is describing continue, to
>> achieve higher forms of consciousness and higher kinds of knowledge? Or
>> does the history of ontogenesis have an endpoint?
>>>>> But I think to be able to take a shot at answering these questions we
>> need to get clearer on the details of the argument. I'm still not clear on
>> how the 'intellectualizing' takes place in adolescence. Or how teaching
>> writing contributes over and above teaching scientific concepts. And much
>>>>> On Jun 30, 2012, at 5:59 PM, Larry Purss wrote:
>>>>>> Is THIS hierarchical movement of developing scientific concepts as
>>>>>> conscious awareness a universal human potential or is this form of
>>>>>> conscious awareness a historically and culturally situated phenomena?
>>>>>> If awareness is a reflective phenomena of making what was implicit
>>>>>> more explicit and more volitional [and therefore higher] is there a
>>>>>> universal human potential to *see through* or *unveil* [NOT reveal]
>>>>>> the implicit historical formation of earlier forms of consciousness,
>>>>>> including scientific consciousness?
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