ago, I and several of my colleges in graduate school, created a class
with one of our favorite professors. In the class, we studied the
concepts of postmodernism, structuralism, and deconstructionism. We
affectionately titled it: "Does This Class Have a Text?" We all took the
class, tongue firmly planted in our cheeks, since, at the time, we
thought that postmodernism was dead and its precepts given up as
In a nutshell, postmodernism is a reaction
against the modernist period from the turn of the 20th Century. At its
core, it takes a skeptical look at modern culture, especially
literature. It asks questions about meaning, which often leads to the
Prince of Postmodernism, Jacques Derrida's conclusion that there is no
such thing as meaning outside of the text.
has led to the philosophy that there are no absolute meanings, nor
absolute truths. Meaning does not stem from, for example, the writer,
since the reader still must interpret the writer's text. There is no
absolute truth, since all truth must be filtered through culture and
then interpreted by the individual. Meaning and truth, then, are left up
to individual interpretation.
The reason I bring
this up is to point out the utter stagnation of education since the
halcyon days of the 1960s when postmodernism was at its height. Our
school textbooks, which in my day used to reek of Marxist ideology, now
reek of old postmodernism. The postmodernism has been packaged and
repackaged to keep up with modern technology, much of the time
deliberately obscuring real information behind a veneer of busy
photographs, mixed typefonts, innumerable sidebars, and bulleted lists.
you are past high school years and haven't picked up a high school text
lately, you may be surprised at the incomprehensibility of modern
As I continue to review textbooks for
high school teaching, I recently had the displeasure of reviewing a
current American Literature text. On the chapter on postmodernism
(which, of course, praised the concept ad nauseam), the text strongly
argued in favor of Derrida's dictum about text and meaning. The textbook
took great lengths to describe, then to inculcate, the ideal that the
reader creates meaning.
Anyone with half a brain can
see the fallacy of this line of thought: If only the individual reader
can get meaning from the text, why do these self-appointed High Priests
of Postmodernism write so much about it, trying to convince everyone
that they have the "answer" to meaning and interpretation? If writers
can't express meaning in their writing, why do they do so darned much of
it? The least they could do is to shut up since, according to their own
philosophy, anything they say gets reinterpreted through culture and
through the individual.
Postmodernism also denies its
own roots. No human thought is created out of a vacuum. Yet prevailing
postmodern ideals deny the validity of ideas that came before it. It is a
philosophy of interpretation that bites the hand that not only feeds
it, but gives it life.
Much of the philosophical world
has moved beyond postmodernism and its children, deconstructionism,
moral relativism, and multiculturalism. Yet the doctrines of
postmodernism have ossified into our children's textbooks, mingling with
even older, yet bankrupt Marxism.
doctrines are now embedded in American thought, personified by such
people as Barack Obama. These true believers defend the wasteland
created by postmodernism's inconsistencies. From deconstructionism, past
moral systems become evil. Anyone who disagrees is labeled,
marginalized, or dismissed as old fashioned. From moral relativism,
wrong becomes right. Anyone who disagrees is jeered and mocked as a
heretic. From multiculturalism, Western Civilization becomes the Great
Satan. All other cultures, no matter how substantively evil, are
exonerated - real evil then blamed on Western oppression.
as a nation, will not overcome the difficulties of the present, until
we stop clinging to the philosophies of the past, and recognize
postmodernist offspring as the barrier to real understanding.