The Postmodern Curriculum in a Modern Classroom

By Boboc, Marius | International Journal of Education, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Postmodern Curriculum in a Modern Classroom


Boboc, Marius, International Journal of Education


Abstract

This article is intended to formulate several points of interest in the study of various forms postmodern curricula take in our contemporary classrooms. A critical look at the state of the latter poses the question of accommodating the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. The answer lies in curriculum negotiations (Hyun, 2006) representing sustainable adaptability. However, in an era of accountability that prescribes the structure and sequence of curriculum, our schools (perceived as a social system) lag behind. Therefore, the connection our students develop among truth, knowledge, value, and their own petits récits - personal texts that weave the web of their public lives in and outside of schools - represents the focus of future research into effective design, implementation, and evaluation of inclusive and student-centered curricula.

Keywords: Curriculum, Postmodernism, Education

1. Introduction: Postmodernism vs. modernism - points of (dis)juncture

Postmodernism is a contrast it modernist ideas of "new" - a new epoch, a new socio-economic order, thus, for some representing a continuation of modernism, while for others a "breaking away. from it. Historic periodization is modernist, while Foucault (1980) conceives of modernity and postmodernity as "oppositional attitudes" that coexist at any given time. When historical eras acquire self-awareness, they enter a new stage in their existence - the "post"period of a previous status quo. For Matei Calinescu (1987), modernity, rather bourgeois in its definition, is characterized by progress spurred by the advances of science and technology, under the auspices of time that is a commodity. At the same time, reason and pragmatism support the "ideal of freedom defined within the framework of an abstract humanism" (p. 44). Everything can be known, defined, analyzed, classified, thus quantified and reduced to a piece in the puzzle of human knowledge. The test of time (i.e., usability, replicability, or what Lyotard calls "performativity") will tell whether specific elements of acquired knowledge are worth "circulating" to expand gnosis or they should be cast into oblivion, thus operationalizing truth. This new knowledge will be discarded as "not marketable" if it does not lead to improving one.s personal and/or professional status or if it does not represent a means to a definite end in the informational exchange. Under these circumstances, the points of (dis)juncture between postmodernism and modernism carry over into every conversation about education in the 21st century that attempts to identify optimal parameters of teaching, learning, and assessment in a world getting more diverse.

Lyotard.s (1984) notion of metanarratives uses language to reveal Truth, thus promoting Reason in a rational, replicable way that develops specifically the kind of gnosis that humankind needs in its quest for certainty. This foundationalist, rationalist perspective thrives on the grands récits passed down as tradition from immemorial times, whose message resonates in the work of thinkers such as Descartes, Locke, Voltaire or Kant. The modern individual has to be certain that his/her own knowledge is solidly grounded in the immediate reality. These metanarratives, perpetrated by what Wittgenstein (1953) calls "language games", speak of a testable reality that is not delusory. Its very existence allows for the technological advents that can only deepen the modern person.s knowledge of their reality - this is the complete cycle that Modernism promotes.

Giroux (1992) mentions the rigid, unalterable boundaries of the modernist cultural frame that excludes categories such as race, class, gender, and ethnicity, thus reproducing "relations of domination, subordination, and inequality" (p. 54). Moreover, the meaning of all the modernist language games is profoundly affected by the dichotomy "one" vs. "other." Peters (1995) emphasizes the prohibitive, restrictive tendency of modernity to conceal the possibility of other meanings, as initiated by the "unauthorized others" from the proper functioning of mainstreaming discourses. …

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