Essay on Postmodernism: Myths and Realities

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Postmodernism: Myths and Realities

A number of theorists and scholars have proclaimed that we now live in a postmodern world--a world better explained by theories and concepts different from those of the modern world dating from the Enlightenment and before. The theories and concepts of postmodernism are widely and prominently applied in adult education. So, how do postmodernists characterize postmodernism? What are the critics' critiques? Do proponents and critics agree on anything?

Characterizing Postmodernism

Discussing postmodernism and continuing education, Leicester (2000) writes that "postmodernism is not a systematic theory or unified movement so much as a loose umbrella term for a perspective" incorporating
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•End of Metaphysics and Ideology. Antifoundationalism represents the end of metaphysics; if there are no fixed foundations of objective reality for truth and knowledge, there is no longer a concern with the fundamental nature of reality and with the limits and validity of our knowledge about it. Likewise, ideology is at an end--no more "grand narratives" to legitimate and provide a correct interpretation of a wide range of events.

Others focus particularly on the discrediting of modernism's grand narrative, the positivist assumption that objectivity is the only truth, that all questions could be answered by a hierarchy of sciences, principles, and beliefs: "Knowledge was equated with science and science was reality" is the summation found in a postmodern perspective on evidence-based nursing (Marks-Maran 1999, p. 4). That grand narrative was discredited in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a postmodern perspective on home economics history, when society discovered that problems like war, poverty, violence, and drug abuse could be neither explained nor solved by science with its rigid controls, sequential problem solving, and predictable results (Richards 2000).

Discussing the nature of knowledge in adult learning, Kilgore (2001), on the other hand, characterizes postmodernism and critical theory, an overlapping paradigm, in terms of the interplay between knowledge, power, and learning:
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