Transparency and Paradigms

Wendy Crebbin (
Tue, 21 May 1996 11:03:01 GMT+1000

Dear Lois and Hemant

I enjoyed your historical analysis of the roots and development of
postmodernism which has added to my store of knowledge about the
social evolution of theories.

Hemant made the observation that there are considerable barriers which
to our ability to "operationalize justice and freedom in the manner that
have been used to describe them by western philosophers"

And Lois concluded on a note about the excitment and " revolutionary"
potential of postmodern philosophy, saying -

>" Like all paradigms, postmodernism emerged out of a new vocabulary with new
> concepts and new imagery, and this new vocabulary directs our attention to
> new new ways to carve up experience"
and the
>" remarkable paradox that even
> postmodern ideas themselves only live in an artistic construction of our
> language (the constructs) that our culture has taught us and that continue
> to echo so magically in all of our minds".

When I read and re-read these messages I thought that I would like to
talk about some of my research where I have found myself struggling
in my own mind with a tension between modernism and postmodernism. I
too am old enough to have a strong grounding in the faith of science
and our leaders, as well as God, to resolve all of the problems of
out world. Which means, I have found that my mind is well trained to
think in terms of meaning and definition as unproblematic. Yet in my
personal experience, and in my research I am swamped by the complex,
problematic and contextual. Where I am working with personal
meanings which include contradicting values, beliefs and actions. And
where in relationships such as teaching the assumptions and
expectations of the teacher and their students are frequently

This is made more complex because I am trying to situate these
meanings within the meanings of teaching and learning from the
institution in which these people are working, and the national
system which funds the institution (and therefore pays the teachers).
These institutional and national meanings, whilst varied, tend to
foucs very much on teaching, teachers and their students, very much in
gerneric terms rather than consideration of individual beliefs or
values or how these might impact on the interactions.

Which is another level of my struggle, because I have one set of
data, particularly policy statements, which according to postmodern
political theories, are deliberately set up to present issues in
modernist terms as unproblematic and uncontested - whilst my data
from teachers is very 'postmodern and messy'. But they are all drawing
from and contributing to the same set of meanings.

All of which is a wonderful example of contestation over meanings and
of individuals actualising their own meanings in total awareness that
they are selectively reading the discourses from other levels. But in
writing about this research, the very words of conflict and
contestation set a dicotomy of Otherness which I am trying to avoid.

I am wondering now whether justice and freedom in a postmodern sense
are also for-ever becoming, brought into being only through their
actualisation. And whether the teachers in my study are as close as
we get to being free to shape our own lives, based on our values and

Thank you for listening to me
I look forward to your responses

Wendy Crebbin