Topic 14: Postmodernism and education

  • Created by: zoolouise
  • Created on: 21-05-16 10:02

Living in a postmodern world

The word 'modern' describes the movement of society towards a better and more civilised world characterised by progress, truth, certainty, socialf reedom and the presence of pure facts. Postmodernism is a rejection of that idea, saying nothing is certain except that change occurs.

Most people agree that it describes a number of recent aspcts of modern culture linked to capitalism and technological advances:

  • We have a cultural pick and mix, we choose ideas, products and also clothing from a variety of sources
  • Image and impression management are very important
  • We interact with highly developed technologies, they change regularly
  • We take spiritual and cultural ideas from a variety of sources
  • We tend to be individualistic and look after our own and ourselves
  • We're far more concerned with consumerism and labels, than with making things
  • We're absorbed in virtual worlds on TV and through computer games
  • Society is unpredictable
  • We live in information-rich societies

Postmodern research suggests researchers should be looking for different identitise and voices, methods should be varied, different media used to present findings. 

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Knowledge and Culture

Teachers and educators are biased. They construct knowledge, therefore the creation of knowledge is an active process. The knowledge of one generation of people may be incorrect in another. The construction of knowledge is known as discourse.

According to postmodernists, the functionalist goal of unifying society leads to oppression and persecution because a unfieid society is based on one dominant point of view. Knowledge and cultural belief entirely relative and dependent on your beliefs, but impsoing your views on another isn't acceptable. Children from minority ethnic groups have the right to assert their own cultural identity against modern British culture.

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Societal values and understanding

Given that all truth is relative and personal, it's expected that teachers offer their own values or social agendas. Schools should be offering children access to a variety of opinions. Important cultural values should include a tolerance of diversity, emotional intelligence and creativity. Children need to learn quickly that schools are not value free.

Each indiviudal is a personal construct. We're all engaged in an active process of developing an identity. A person changes in each situation. The role of education is to help indiviudals decide who they want to be and to empower them in order to achieve their own personal goals.

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Critics of postmodernist

  • Chomsky argues that postmodernism offers no factual or empirical evidence to support it. It makes it difficult to actually use the theory to support action.
  • It understands social diversity.
  • No explanation in postmodernism, it simply describes.
  • Dawkins suggests it's empty of meaning, using complxe language to obscure its emptiness.

Modernists believe that teachers pass on knowledge to children, whereas, postmodernisms believe teachers and childrens construct knowledge together. Modernists say culture is something children learn in school, children from ethnic minorities need to be taught dominant culture. Postmodernists argue that all cultures are of equal value so children from ethnic minorities should be taught to question Western culture and explore their own. Modernists say teachers should train children in social values such as truth and science, whereas postmodernists say values depend on culture, there's no universal vaues everyone agrees with.

Postmodernists involves a pick and mix approach. People take ideas from a variety of different belief systems, combing them to make something new and different. It could be argued that the variety of schools and the breakdown of a single state education system is an example of postmodernism in operation in education policymaking.

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Marxists and postmodernists

Marxists have been critical of the influence of postmodernism on educational theory and practice. They say that it assumes that the social world is fragmented, all problems are local ones, it's encouraging researchers and policymakers to overlook structural issues that divide society. Marxists suggest postmodernists can't offer a clear education policy direction for government, they make no suggestions about how to improve the experience of education for young people.

Marxists are clearly more concerned with issues of class and power than other inequalities in education. Hill et al claimed that some schools are actively making teacher and support staff union members redundant, targeting them when they're critical of edcuation policy.

They also make specific criticisms of current education policy based on statistical data, showing class to be the most significant factor in attainment at GCSE and acceptance to university. They suggest postmodernist education policy means individual schools are targeted and expected to improve rather than problems of inequality in society being addressed.

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