Sample Coursework Paper on Postmodernism and Critical Theory in Adult Education

According to Lyotard (1984), postmodernism is a critique of the tendencies of modernist, Enlightment thought to seek universal, systematic explanations for all phenomena, whether social or physical. Postmodernists are of the opinion that the class analysis of Marxism should not be established as the “meta-explanation” for all political, social, and economic relations among people. Critical theory is motivated by the obligation to be aware of how ideological systems and societal structures get in the way of and slow down the full progress of humankind’s potential to be self-reflective and self-determining historical characters. It emphasizes on the reflective assessment and criticism of society and culture. This theory is aimed at liberating people from the situations that bind them.

Postmodernists argue that people experience various forms of marginalization, which tend to push them away from the dominant centre of cultural, economic, and political power. In addition, they argue that the marginalization cannot be explained by a single theory of socioeconomic class, as Marxism and the critical theory propose. Postmodernism mainly lays its focus on popular culture. One of its objectives is to make legal all forms of cultural expression. It has resulted in increased interest in popular culture and the media on the part of many authors (Baudrillard 1988; Giroux and Simon 1989; Poster 1989). This postmodernist focus on popular culture can significantly contribute to the work of adult education. Popular media forms, such as music, video, computers, and multimedia can be used for educational purposes. In such a case, the marginalized adult literacy learners can be dependent on popular electronic media; especially the television set for research and gaining of information about the dominant culture at they rarely get a chance to intermingle with them. This thought by postmodernists can help to develop media and technology literacy approaches that will engage adult learners as critical media and technology users. Postmodernists believe that language is neither a genetic code nor a medium for transmitting ideas. They view language not just as a tool for expressing oneself but also as a structure that defines the limits of communication and shapes the subjects who speak (Poster 1989). Critical adult educators and critical theorists both believe that the system reproduces itself in the subjectivity of men and women. Critical theory aims at liberating adult learning. Critical theory explains how adults unlearn their commitment to limited freedom and learn to be enlightened, empowered and transformative actors in particular times, places, and spaces. (Habermas1975) is of the opinion that the learning process of the human beings takes place through the buildup of both technological and ethical practical knowledge. He believes that the systemic crisis of late capitalist society results from the unlawful interference of state and corporate steering mechanisms into the life world; the social crisis manifests itself in a plethora of new social movement struggles to protect the endangered life world and its natural substructure. The intention of critical theory is to allow people to be transparent to themselves and to assist people to stop being passive victims who collude in their domination by outside forces. Critical theory aims at naming the enemies of human freedom and pointing out the likelihood of the rise of freedom.

These two theories are very significant in understanding adult education despite the fact that they hold contrasting ideologies. They have helped to give a better understanding of crucial adult education practices. They have also demonstrated how adult education justice should be handled and how it should be improved. The modernists, who are of the same opinion as the critical theorists and thought about adult education may have created for adult educators an overreliance on western judgment, rationality, and critical thinking, leading to the presumption that such cognitive forms have a universal application and a privileged position of legality. The postmodernists believe there is reason to shed light on the different discourse systems and cognitive processes in the classrooms in order to translate thinking and language systems for their students. Adult educators should work to enable adult learners to code switch among discourses and cognitive systems. Adult educators should teach students to recognize other forms of discourse. They should avoid portraying dominant discourse and privileged cognitive forms such as rationality, western critical thinking, or science as the highest orders of thought or as the only solutions to tribulations. Such approaches can marginalize learners whose backgrounds do not reflect the main cultural centrer.


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