Legacies of Modernity and Colonialism in Schooling
7 Discourse and Discipline
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7Discourse and Discipline
One of the most enduring legacies of modernism in the field of education is the privileging of factual, research-based knowledge, presuming that scientific methods offer exclusive access to empirical truths. Any account that claims to be objective, factual, or scientific actually relies, many theorists argue, on metaphors and other fictional, imaginative devices. Truth is not an objective process of deduction; it is, Nietzsche asserts, an imaginative construct that over time becomes normed and accepted as a representation of reality. He defines truth as, “a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms—in short a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people” (qtd. in Rorty, 1991, p. 32).
The production of truth, Foucault argues further, is a social, discursive construction. Instead of trying to discover what is scientifically true and what is not, Foucault investigates “historically how effects of truth are produced within discourses which in themselves are neither true or false” (1984, p. 60). Thus, the position of many postmodern theorists is that permanent, lasting, or verifiable truths cannot be established. Instead of conducting research to find these elusive “truths,” postmodernists seek to understand and deconstruct the structures that have been put in place for legitimating and enforcing “truths” and the corresponding official knowledge.
Adopting this perspective would mean a shift, in the field of education, from uncritical...
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