Legacies of Modernity and Colonialism in Schooling
2 Deconstructing Modernity
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When new research, instructional practices, or technologies are presented, educators generally make the assumption that they are better than past forms. There is a related presumption in education that knowledge continues to accumulate seamlessly toward ever-improving outcomes. The pendulum swings in educational curriculum and policy, despite polarizing debates that often ensue, take place within a fairly narrow theoretical range. They adhere to modernist notions of a presumed universal order of development, the rational, self-actualizing subject, and binary conceptual structures.
Binary constructions, in particular, remain an accepted means of classification across the swings of educational policy and practice. Learners are constructed as White/Other, male/female, proficient/at risk, literate/illiterate, and obedient/delinquent. Families, likewise, are viewed in mutually exclusive, dichotomous terms, as educated/uneducated, high income/low income, or involved/absent. These binaries collapse complex realities and identities into simplistic categories of analysis, homogenizing them. The either/or structure of modernist thinking denies the permeability of each side of the binary and the ways identity is multiply constituted. Inherent within these binaries is also a hierarchy; one side is naturally assumed to be “less than” the other.
Deconstructing binaries and other legacies of modernism is key, argue transnational feminists Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan, since “models predicated upon binary oppositions cannot move us out of the paradigms of colonial discourse, nor can they provide us with accurate maps of social relations” (1994, p.9). These binaries persist, in part, because of the atheoretical and ahistorical nature of administrator...
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