. . . There is a simple brutishness: the larger context
(a bibliography)

There is a simple brutishness to the rhetorical performances of the right, an inexhaustible reservoir of rage, cognitively primitive, sadistic in impulse and sexual in symbolic content.  (See RMD: the Current American scene.)  It is now apparent, in the light of recent work in primate biology, archeology, anthropology, and history, that there is an enormous variability in contextualized cognitive and discursive performativity.  This variability is not only historical; it is contemporary.  As Merlin Donald put it

from Merlin Donald,  A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness (W. W. Norton & Company, 2001)

 . . . modern culture contains within it a trace of each of our previous stages of cognitive evolution.  It still rests on the same old primate brain capacity for episodic or event knowledge.  But it has three additional, uniquely human layers: a mimetic layer, an oral-linguistic layer, and an external-symbolic layer.  The minds of individuals reflect these three ways of representing reality.  (p. 262)

and Merlin Donald, "The mind considered from a historical perspective: human cognitive phylogenesis and the possibility of continuing cognitive evolution." In D. Johnson & C. Ermeling (Eds.) The Future of the Cognitive Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 360-61

Mimetic representations are evident in human children before they acquire language competence. . . .  They continue to be important in adults, taking the form of highly variable social customs, athletic skills, and group expressive patterns (such as mass demonstrations of aggression or rejection).

Flynn directly addresses the problem faced by educators today:

from James R. Flynn, What is Intelligence?  Beyond the Flynn Effect (Cambridge Univesity Press, 2009)

The scientific ethos, with its vocabulary, taxonomies, and detachment of logic and the hypothetical from concrete referents, has begun to permeate the minds of post-industrial peoples.  This has paved the way for mass education on the university level and the emergence of an intellectual cadre without whom our present civilization would be inconceivable.  p. 29

Science altered our lives and then liberated our minds from the concrete.  This history has not been written because, as children of our own time, we do not perceive the gulf that separates us from our distant ancestors: the difference between their world and the world seen through scientific spectacles. . . .  As use of logic and the hypothetical moved beyond the concrete, people developed new habits of mind.  They became practiced at solving problems with abstract or visual content and more innovative at administative tasks. p. 172-174

Flynn may be too optimistic.  It is plausible to assume that those who have developed cognitively, who have become formal operationally competent (this is what Flynn is referring to), will perform well on the PISA math test.  But the "gulf that separates us from our distant ancestors" is also a gulf that exists in contemporary societies.  To see this one has only to take the rhetorical performances of the GOP seriously.  When Mitt Romney mocked Barak Obama's references to the complex systems character of modern society with the quip "You built it!" Romney may have know better, but his audiences did not.  They could not move "beyond the concrete."  They could only imagine a world made up solely of individuals, a world where discussion of political issues takes the form of "whose fault is it?"  (Bad test scores?  Fire the bottom 5% of teachers.)

This is the larger context in which we must look at both the PISA results and the sado-sexual performances of the Stupid Party.  
A good place to start is with these excerpts (which should be read now) from Sophia Rosenfeld, A Revolution in Language: the Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2001).  Although about the cognitive and discursive gulf between the Enlightenment vanguard of the French Revolution and the barely languaged masses that this elite sought to incorporate into the state, it rings true today.  (see Ressentiment and the Mechanisms of Defense.)

Philip G. Chase, The Emergence of Culture. The Evolution of a Uniquely Human Way of Life (Springer, 2006) uses the concept of emergence, and sees language as a developmental quantum leap.

This emergent property of human culture has important implications.  It makes the nature of human social life different in fundamental ways from that of all other species (in spite of the continuities that also exist).  It makes it possible for groups of humans to coordinate their behavior in ways that are impossible for nonhumans.  It changes the relationship of the individual to the social group.  Because culture provides motivations for the behavior of the individual, it gives the group a means of controlling the individual that is absent among other primates.  Among all living humans, culture provides a (uniquely human) mental or intellectual context for almost everything the individual thinks or does.

Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus, The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire (Harvard, 2012) argue that language made possible a reconfiguration the primate matrix out of which homo sapiens emerged.

This ought to be understood in the context of the ongoing debate as to whether, or to what extent, or in what way, our contemporary behavior reflects, adapts, transforms, transcends and or negates our primate inheritance (Franz de Waal, Our Inner Ape).  Emergence and complexity--that is, Aufheben--have already become standard among contemporary researchers (listed below under Biology).

Now I wish to suggest that one can read Stephen Rumph, Mozart and Enlightenment Semiotics (University of California Press, 2012) as depicting a second emergence, this time within the domain of language; and, moreover, through Hegel one can view the Reformation as strangely related to the Enlightenment.  The emergence of the individual conscience (which really bothers Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation, Harvard University Press, 2012), lays the foundation for the second emergence, a higher-order linguistic cognitive praxis among some but not all humans.  

Christopher Boesch, Wild Cultures: A Comparison Between Chimpanzee and Human Cultures (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

The Evolution of Primate Societies, John C. Mitani, Josep Call, Peter M. Kappeler, Ryne A. Palombit, and Joan Silk, eds. (University of Chicago Press, 2012)

William Calvin, A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2004)

Raymond Corbey, The Metaphysics of Apes (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Peter M. Kappeler and Joan B. Silk, Mind the Gap: Tracing the Origins of Human Universals (Springer, 2010)

"Collective Violence: Comparison Between Youths and Chimpanzees," by Richard W. Wrangham (Department of Antroropology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University) and Michael L. Wilson (Department of Ecology and Behavior, University of Minnesota, and Gombe Stream Research Centre, the Jane Goodall Institute, Tanzania) in  Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1036: 233–256 (2004)

Juan Carlos Gómez, Apes, Monkees, Children and the Growth of Mind (Harvard University Press, 2004)

Culture Evolves, Andrew Whiten, Robert A. Hinde, Chritopher B. Stringer, and Kevin N. Laland, eds. (Oxford University Press, 2012)


Philip G. Chase, The Emergence of Culture. The Evolution of a Uniquely Human Way of Life (Springer, 2006)

Merlin Donald, A Mind So Rare: the Evolution of Human Consciousness (W.W. Norton, 2001)

Merlin Donald, "The mind considered from a historical perspective: human cognitive phylogenesis and the possibility of continuing cognitive evolution." In D. Johnson & C. Ermeling (Eds.) The Future of the Cognitive Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 360-61

Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus, The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire (Harvard, 2012)

Charles M. Radding, A World Made by Men: Cognition and Society, 400-1200 (University of North Carolina Press, 1985)

Don LePan, The Cognitive Revolution in Western Culture, Volume 1: The Birth of Expectation (Macmillan Press, 1989)

Bildung: Language and Cognition

Sophia Rosenfeld, A Revolution in Language: the Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2001)

Stephen Rumph, Mozart and Enlightenment Semiotics (University of California Press, 2012)

Steve Fraser, Labor Will Rule: Sidney Hillman and the Rise of American Labor (The Free Press, 1991)

W. J. Cash (The Mind of the South)

Landon R.Y. Storrs, The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left (Princeton University Press, 2012)  the fate of the Keynesian elite/Bildung

William H. Harburgh, Lawyer's Lawyer: The Life of John W. Davis (Oxford, 1973)

John Lewis Gaddis, George F. Kennan : an American life (Penguin Press, 2011)

Ray Monk, Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center (Doubleday, 2012)

Bioecological Theory and Cultural Historical Activity Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner and P. Morris, "The Bioecological Model of Human Development", in Handbook of Child Psychology  (edited by William Damon and Richard M. Lerner (Wiley InterScience, 2007)

The Cambridge Handbook of Socioculural Psychology, edited by Jaan Valsiner and Alberto Rosa (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

William Calvin, A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2004)

The Cambridge Companion to Piaget (2009)

The Cambridge Companion to Vygotsky, edited by Harry Daniels, Michael Cole, James Wertsch (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

 Stephen J. Ceci, On Intelligence: A Bioecological Treatise on Intellectual Development, expanded edition (Harvard University Press, 1996)

Michael Cole, The Development of Children (W. H. Freeman and Co, 1996)

___________, Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline (Harvard University Press, 1998)

___________, "Cultural-Historical Activity Theory: Integrating Phylogeny, Cultural History, and Ontogenesis in Cultural Psychology," in Kitayama (2007) below.

Mary Gauvain, The Social Context of Cognitive Development (The Guilford Press, 2001)

Shinobo Kitayama and Dov Cohen, eds., Handbook of Cultural Psychology (The Guilford Press, 2007)

Lutz, S., & Huitt, W. (2004). "Connecting cognitive development and constructivism: Implications from theory for instruction and assessment."  Constructivism in the Human Sciences, 9(1), 67-90.

Reijo Miettinen, and Raija-Leena Punamaki, Perspectives on Activity Theory (Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Bert van Oers, Wim Wardekker, Ed Elbers, and Rene van Der Veer, eds, The Transformation of Learning: Advances in Cultural-Hitorial Activity Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Introduction to Section 5.  Child Psychology: Vygotsky's Conception of Psychological Development by Carl Ratner, Institute for Cultural Research & Education

Child and adolescent development : an advanced course, edited by William Damon and Richard M. Lerner. (Wiley, 2008)

James R. Flynn, What is Intelligence?  Beyond the Flynn Effect (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Jerome Kagan, The Human Spark: the Science of Human Development (Basic Books, 2013)

The Incredible Shrinking Self
(the incredible smallness of being)

from Sophia Rosenfeld, A Revolution in Language: the Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2001), pp. 150-51

"As the Abbé Grégoire warned his fellow deputies, 'this inevitable poverty of language, which confuses the mind, will mutilate all your addresses and decrees.'  In a political system built upon a series of mental abstractions, popular linguistic confusion, according to this reasoning, was and would continue to be one of the principal sources of political and civil discord. 

"How did these well-placed intellectuals know that many ordinary people failed to comprehend the language of the Revolution?  For the Abbé Grégoire, it was a matter of common sense.  Like the savages of late eitheenth-century travel literature, peasants--the often illiterate speakers of foreign idioms, dialects, and ungrammatical French--were widely thought to have great difficulty generalizing their ideas or forming clear conceptions of abstract, nonmaterial terms.   Indeed, Voltaire's conclusion that 'more than half of the habital world is still populated by two-footed animals who live in a horrible condtion approximating the state of nature. . . barely enjoying the gift of speech' retained its force.  Consequently, even when the population in question was the vast rural citizenry of France, its ability to understand the key debattes and decrees of the Revolution was assumed to be extremely limited.  As the Abbé Sernin bluntly states before the Convention, 'Artisans and people in the countryside, although elevated by the law to a new level of Liberty and destined to fill the most important positions in the State, these men are, for the most part, still deaf and mute' when it came to any public functions that they might be called upon to play.

Such suspicions were only exacerbated by letters to the Committees of Public Instruction of the Legislative Assembly and the Convention, reports that often contained ominous tales of public incomprehension of the formal language of France's laws and constitution.  A correspondent from the department of Seine-et-Oise, for example, wrote to express his fear that the young children of regularly heard reciting the Declarationof the Rights of Man from memory did not actually understand what they were saying: "I am sadly convinced by questions which I have posed to the oldest among them that they understand the significance of none of the words used in it.  I have reproached their fathers in a fraternal way for not bothering to explain these words to their children.  They have replied that they do not understand any more than their children and that they themselves need someone to explain these words to them as well."  Similarly, a schoolmaster from Fourny wrote to La Feuille villageoise to say that every Sunday he read this journal aloud to the local peasants and answered, to the best of his abilities, their frequent questions about vocabulary that they did not comprehend.  But, he complained, he was afraid that he was spoiling the journal's lessons and deceiving his disciples, because "I often encounter words that I know only a little or badly."  Unfortunately, the words that the schoolmaster failed to grasp ranged from "democracy" and "coalition" to "analysis" and "metaphor."

. . .  and at the same time, a developmental ratcheting up of complexity, an inflection point, similar in significance to the emergence of language (Chase), a second emergence . . .

from Stephen Rumph, Mozart and Enlightenment Semiotics (University of California Press, 2012)

In Enlightenment anthropology, mastery of signs went hand in hand with human progress, distinguishing civilized man from the primitive Naturemensch. p. 9

As [Condillac] declared, 'The use of signs is the principle that develops the seed of all our ideas'. . . .  Only signes institués (signs established by convention) permitted humans to develop rational thought 22-3

 . . . Condillac's theory amounted to a revolution in language.  The Essai inverted the hierarchy of reason and sensation, dethroning metaphysics and placing language in the service of scientific progress.  25

Such a reading treats Mozart's symphony less as an act of communication and more as a process of cognition; less as an expression of emotion, more as an exploration of the feeling subject.  David Wellberu summarized this paradigm in his study of Lessing's Laokoon: 'For Enlightenment semiotics, then, the progress of knowedge toward ever greater distinctness of thought, toward an ever more refined analysis of our representations, is likewise a progress into language, a transition from perception and imagination to the manipulation of arbitrary signs in symbolic cognition.'  25

A new subject inhabits this world, an elusive self who resembles neither the transcendent cogito of rationalist rhetoric nor the productive Ich of idealist aesthetics.  The Enlightenment subject, Mozart's subject, is a creature of experience and signs.  He comes alive only when he senses, grasps, gestures, speaks, and interacts with other subjects.  Characters like Don Giovanni or Fuast embodied this new appetite for experience. 60

By exploring the limits of representation, Don Giovanni probes the tensions within a materialist worldview, tensions that have only deepened since 1787.  In this sense, Giovanni remains a compelling protagonist for us moderns, who, despite all our attacks on the Enlightenment, do not easily escape its intellectual orbit. 77
from Yrjö Engeström, "Activity theory and individual and socal transformation," in Reijo Miettinen, and Raija-Leena Punamaki, Perspectives on Activity Theory (Cambridge, 1999) U of M Dearborn

Any conceptual framework that postulates a predetermined sequence of stages of sociohistorical development will easily entail suspicious notions of what is "primitive" and what is advanced, what is backward and what is good.  Such notions reduce the rich diversity of sociocultural forms of life to a one-dimensional scale.  This problem was already evident in Luria's classic studies in Central Asia (Luria, 1976), carefully and sympathetically criticized by Cole and Griffin (1980; see also Cole, 1988).

It is surely appropriate to avoid imposing rigid, one-dimensional sequences on social reality.  But especially among Anglo-Saxon rresearchers adhering to the ideas of Vygotsky, the standard alternative seems to be to avoid history altogether.  Differences in cognition across cultures, social groups, and domains of practice are thus commonly explained without seriously analyzing the historical development that has led to those differences.  The underlying relativistic notion is that we should not make value judgements concerning whose cognition is better or more advanced--that all kinds of thinking and practice are equally valuable.  Although this liberal stance may be a comfortable basis for academic discourse, it ignores the reality that in all domains of societal practice value judgements and decisions have to be made everyday.  People have to decide where they want to go, which way is up.  If behavioral and social sciences want to avoid that issue, they will be unable to work out useful yet theoretically ambitious intellectual tools for practitioners making those crucial decisions.

The less obvious reason for the neglect of history has to do with the . . . underdevelopment of models of the structure of an activity system.  Historical analysis must be focused on units of manageable size.  If the unit is the individual or the individually constructed situation, history is reduced to ontogeny or biography.  If the unit is the culture of the society, history becomes very general or endlessly complex.  If a collective activity system is taken as the unit, history may become manageable, and yet it steps beyond the confines of individual biography.  pp. 25-26
These two excerpts above,  one about the cognitive gulf between the Enlightenment vanguard and broad swathes of the French populace, the other about the evasion by contemporary psychologists the same problematic today, nicely bracket the cognitive-performative questions that I only begin to address in the Stupid Party.

What  is so different about the United States today is that there is a growing engine of decognification, a political economic regime unique in world history, a regime linking powerful banks and corporations with

an inexhaustible reservoir of rage

The differences between now and then are twofold.  On the one hand, compulsory public education has created a nominally litraly public; on the other hand, the massive mobilization by economic and political instutonsof great power of the forces of resentiment creates a powrful tendency toward a new kind of brutishness.
Conservative Bildung: Davis and Kennan

Radical Bildung: from Lenin to Brandeis

The Enlightenment as developmental inflection point: Bildung, formal operation reasoning.  Flynn

From this to what I will call Progressivism (Compte to contemporary Finland . . .  )

Murray Body Minutes

Wellman Interview

Brandeis Papers


KE in ND Link

Bildung: Was Mozart a Communist?

Finally: PISA 2013 and the Common Core Standards