by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Stephen Hicks writes for the Martin Center about the way postmodernists approach education.
One of Stanley Fish’s postmodernist colleagues at Duke University, Frank Lentricchia, took the [next] step: With rival viewpoints off the syllabus, he said, teachers should only “exercise power for the purpose of social change.” The postmodern educator’s task is to train students to “spot, confront, and work against the political horrors of one’s time.”
Postmodernism need not lead to any particular political outcome—rejecting objective truth and universal standards can rationalize subjective commitments to any number of group “truths” and conflicting values. But it is true that first-generation postmodern intellectuals were dominantly far left politically, and that legacy has shaped the new generation’s adversarial stance.
And what kind of students should we create? Two professors, Breanne Fahs and Michael Karger, forthrightly urge as a “pedagogical priority” that we train students to “serve as symbolic ‘viruses’ that infect, unsettle, and disrupt traditional and entrenched fields.” We are all familiar with the theme of memes that go viral on social media, but just to be clear Fahs and Karger cite Ebola and HIV as the kinds of viruses they have in mind, especially for our “mindless” and “capitalist” corporate universities.
Hence our current generation of angry young people, with all their inchoate energy and fears. Released from 15 years of such schooling, they only want to Do. Something. Now. But what?
They feel in their bones that the system is oppressive, that they are being set up for failure by sinister forces, that everyone loathes everyone else—and they have neither been exposed much to other ideologies nor trained how to evaluate them. Thrust unprepared into a hostile world, it makes perfect sense that their protests will be manifestations of their internal rages and despairs.