Arriving at a precise definition of postmodernism is a rather elusive task. Whether postmodernism is a concept or a practice is another twist to the subject.
It is not easy to identify or concretely define postmodernism because it is made up of fluid concepts and variables.
Gutek (2004) defines postmodernism by looking at the two terms post and modern separately. The prefix post means later or after while modern refers to a time perspective, as a defining period in history where modern refers to something contemporary, more likely describing a period of industrial advancement and unparalleled increase in man’s knowledge.
Some tenets of postmodernism have far reaching implications on education.
To begin with, postmodernism questions the existence of any final truth. This means that the traditional foundations and standards of truth are a stillbirth in this era.
Greene (1998) notes that there is no such thing as writing that simply tells a true story. Writing always contains a hidden effort to justify the power of a dominant elite and to make legitimate their control over an oppressed group.
The interpretation of a poem or a piece of literature becomes simply an exercise in making the words say what the interpreter wants them to say. This will regularly result in the justification of a group that holds power in a situation.
There is a great implication of the above view on the teaching of literature in schools.
As a subject, literature is widely viewed as a mirror of society. However, with the deconstructionist view, the social norms and cultural bonds are at stake.
Pegging the interpretation of literary works on the discretion of individual readers is abrasive. We will not have a single value that will be shared by all in our society.
Despite the cultural erosion evident in the African continent, it goes without saying that the African society has been continually held together by strong cohesive cultural norms and social values.
We cannot have a community if we do not have shared values. The deconstructionist view, therefore, is insidious and it will be of no better use than just torpedo our societies.
Another aspect of the postmodern consciousness is the resurgence of tribalism.
Many education institutions, especially universities, have continued tolerating and entrenching tribal organizations oblivious of the fact that the groupings are time bombs.
I know a number of universities in East Africa that have registered tribal organizations than do nothing more than meeting and agitating for “tribal rights” of their members.
Disciplinary actions or any form of university administration relation with a particular student is generally viewed as an overreaction to a particular tribe where the individual comes from.
The 2007/2008 post election violence witnessed in Kenya was as a result of tribal consciousness and the intrigues of tribal clamor for power and government.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsi is an absolute product of tribal balkanization.
Governments, education institutions and individuals have a tremendous duty to banish the nefarious effects of postmodernism.
Let education promote national, regional and international pride rather than district nationalism.
The author is the Director of Studies at Nu Vision High School,Kabuga.