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Thursday, November 17, 2011

55 minutes of the final hour: Post-modernism invades the classroom

“There are those who see critical questioning as always leading to a relativistic freeze that prevents them from ever making full-blooded firm commitments” Stephen Brookfield in Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.

I came across this little nugget late last night (or was it early this morning?), after posting my last blog.  You’ll recall in that post that I explored the “intellectual incoherence” that is a hallmark and danger of post-modernism.  We spend too much time thinking about, defining and discussing all of the complexities and intricacies of the world’s problems and in the face of all of that complexity, we simply cannot act. Global death by theory, you might say.  And it’s true, isn’t it?  We like to wrap ourselves in our analysis and our theory as if they were warm blankets.  They’re comfortable, reassuring, keeping out the harsh reality of what might happen, could happen, definitely will happen.  And, they do a pretty good job of covering our ass, too.

Brookfield goes on to say that, “from this viewpoint, critically reflective teachers are weak-kneed equivocators, always able to see two sides of an issue and therefore unable to have confidence in their own choices”.  So, not only are we, as a society, unable to tackle the most pressing developmental problems of our time because we are trapped in a clingy web of stasis, but even in the classroom, wherever that may be, we, as teachers, can’t make a decision or move an idea forward because we are too entangled in our journaling or our critical conversation circles.  So, if what Finger and Asun suggest is right, that adult education is the way to “learn our way out” of our developmental quagmire but adult educators are “weak-kneed equivocators”, then I guess we’re really screwed, huh?  Well, not really.

You’ll also recall that I suggested in my last post that technology could play a role in learning our way out, as evidenced in the Occupy Movement and the Arab Spring.  It serves to bring people together, clarify oppression and facilitate action.  What Brookfield suggests is that teachers who engage in critical reflection are not weak.  Rather, they have strength in their “commitment to people, beliefs, structures, movements or ideals and an acknowledgment that at some time in the future, [their] experience might lead [them] to amend or even abandon such commitments”.   Without the adult educators to guide the gathering of people, help clarify the oppression and coordinate the action, all the while through a critically reflective lens to ensure democracy in the ‘classroom’, the technology is just another bulletin board riddled with incoherent messages.  So, while teachers may spend 55 minutes of the final hour, as Einstein suggested, contemplating the problem, they are committed to praxis and engage in it just the same.

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