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Is postmodernism anything more than an excuse to act on one's prejudices?

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I have just had a flash of understanding. I have harboured a concern about postmodernism for a long time but I couldn't put my finger on a view which I would be prepared to share with anyone else.

The Tasmanian Education Department defines critical literacy as involving "the analysis and critique of the relationships among texts, language, power, social groups and social practices. It shows us ways of looking at texts to question and challenge the attitudes, values and beliefs that lie beneath the surface,"

While this seems reasonable at first sight, there is an assumption that the reader can establish for herself what "attitudes, values and beliefs that lie beneath the surface" are acceptable and what are not. There is always the ability to doubt the authority of any author.

This allows, even encourages, one to apply one's own prejudices to the analysis of a text with the result that one can avoid having to change one's view about any issue even when the author has made a compelling case for an alternative view.

Of course one has to be sceptical about everything one reads but having the ability to assume that we know better that the author under all circumstances and apply this to our analysis of the text is a total retreat from reason.

Newton is said to have said something like "If I have seen father than others, it is because I have been able to stand on the shoulders of others." Our civilization has made great progress over the last hundred centuries because we have be able to accumulate the wisdom of previous generations.

If we are taught that we can reject anything that doesn't fit our preconceptions, we are potentially locked into reliving the mistakes of history rather than learning from them.

Of course, it matter little if our liberal arts academics are indulging in some kind of self-deception. It becomes very dangerous when "critical literacy" is introduced into the curriculum of our public education system so that many children may be infected by this unproductive way of reading so that they will grow up to be unproductive members of society. We have enough challenges to our ability "to keep the flame alive" with our lords and masters using spin rather than reason in their all of their public pronouncements.

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Created: 9/10/05 and last revised 9/10/05
Author: Robin Chalmers Copyright in all the material on this site is asserted by the author
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