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Lesson Plans


Re: recommended readings/postmodernism

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henry (taylorh)
Wed, 26 Mar 1997 09:58:28 -0700 (MST)

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OK Diane, here comes the second installment.

First, thanks to the people who have sent encouraging notes off-list. I
feel somewhat uncomfortable and pompous declaiming and defining, I also
enjoy sharing my perspectives. Again, nothing I write is a definition of
any significance. I hope can make these things a little more accessible
or interesting.

Now...

Constructionism - Deconstructionism - Reconstructionism and Construct-iv-ism:

Underlying all of these ideas is the notion of parts or components in
relationship to some whole or phenomena. The basic idea is often credited
to Leucippus and/or Democritus, two Greek guys who lived around 5 B.C.E.
The original has had very broad applications and is named "atomism".
Of course these fellows were talking mainly about the material world, but
it seems to be fairly predicitable that humans will "map" or translate as
metaphors our sensory experience in the material world into the
representation we have inside our heads and from there into the structure
of our ideas. (Sometimes this causes problems when we want to insist that
ideas work with the same logic or pattern as material things. "It ain't
necessarily so.")

Constructionism, deconstructionism, reconstructionism, and contstructivism
(here after known also as con-n, decon, recon, and con-v) then, from my
perspective, are notions about how ideas or knowledge are put together
and related.

Constructionism

We can thank Piaget, I'm told, for construct-iv-ism, (which I'l get to
last) and probably Levi-Strauss for most of the discussion of
constructionism which, I think, originates partly in Levi Strauss' term
bricolage.

Bricolage is a French word, for those unfamiliar with it, and has to do
with building things out of the materials at hand rather than those on
the blueprint or at the local Home Depot. This happened or happens a
great deal in Europe where it was once quite common to rip up the marble
of an abandoned, falling down, Roman building to put up walls for a
church, farmhouse, or barn. Just grab a pile of handy rubble and start
building. Artists do this too, sticking things onto a canvas, painting on
a door, putting a stuffed goat through an old tire, or displaying urinals
or bottle racks as art.

And not only artists... We get into this discussion because philosophers
and theorists have found uses for thinking about ideas in just the same way.

Construction is simply a matter of putting together ideas and experiences to
build knowledge or understanding. Constructionism is an agreement or body of
knowledge about the process of building.

Deconstruction:

Deconstruction becomes important when the ideas or phenomena assembled
into perceptible wholes begin to appear to some to prevalent or overbearing.
When the larger ideas begin to assume what may be a life of their own and
people begin to make arguably unwarranted suppositions based on those ideas.

The basic strategies of deconstruction have been around a pretty long
time. Rhetoric, which used to be one of the 3 major subjects in classical
education, had a number of ways and rules for analyzing and tking apart
an opponent's ideas in debate. The Poststructuralists seem to have
reformulated and recycled older uses (bricolage! construction!) to creat
a "new" formal tool: deconstruction. Deconstruction destabilized
arguments built on assumed facts and monolithic theories. It was embraced
by the Postmodernists.

Postmodernists love language and words. It seems that it's virtually
impossible for quite a few of them (us/me) to discuss anything without
bringing into play all the best words they (I) know and playing with all
the shifting nuances of meaning that they can think of. It's like word jazz.
It can be a lot of fun. And as long as the audience is other PoMos there
isn't much harm in it. When anyone else not "into" that kind of gaming
comes along they can find themselves with a real headache. For that
matter too few postmodernists bother to deconstruct postmodernism or
deconstruction which is acknowledgedly implied in the ideas themselves.
Altogether too many PoMos begin to take themselves and their ideas much
too seriously and then we are back again where we started. Postmodernism
and Deconstruction have become huge monoliths!

So, my advice on deconstruction is to take things apart that have become
too big and formal. Point out the problems of large formal institutions
or institutionalized ideas and leave it at that.

I really enjoy jazzing around in PoMo-esque language. But it's no fun when
people start going "Huh?" and miss the funny parts. Neither is it fun to
get brickbats thrown at you by people who take themselves and their ideas
too seriously. Well, too seriously from MY point of view, at least.

I'll get back on track now.

Reconstruction:

This is a rather new idea for me so I'll have to be brief. Essentially
most of what I am finding and have found on it is in some way related to
JudeoChristian theology. Given that, it is hardly surprising to find it
linked to more Traditional sets of ideas which seem to be in opposition
to Postmodernism which is perceived as nihilistic.

With Reconstruction one begins with paradigm which exists or existed or
perhaps beginning to be seen as seriously challenged or failing.
Reconstruction, as I am understanding it, is the attempt to stabilize
that which deconstruction destabilized. Also I'm seeing the possibility
that Reconstruction is seen as a much needed "fix"; an admission
(sometimes) of flaws or errors and a serious attempt to fix things up, to
repair the breach.

As an era, and, even more so, as a nation, we have become infatuated with
the new, the adaption of radical changes. Traditional subcultures, in
terms both of knowledge and religion, have been severly challenged.
Preservation is vitally important to such traditions and it is worth
consideration.

Just as in any ecology we would attempt to preserve species diversity it
appears quite probable that in cultural ecologies (metaphorically
installed in our heads) there could be some valuable things or ideas lost
if we fail to allow or adequately encourage cultural diversity, diversity
if communities of ideas.

Ideas are hardy things. Many an idea has appeared dead and been
resurrected in later eras. Sometimes the resurrection brings much change
but not always. Still when the light of an idea goes out it is hard to
tell when it will be found again or how soon a need for some variation on
it may be needed.

As it appears I'm headed towards a discussion of aspects of Pluralism,
I'll save it for the next note. This one is already longer than I wanted.
I get carried away sometimes. :)

Now I hope that there may be some opposing perspectives to my
perspective. I do not feel like an authority and I would enjoy the chance
to learn from any challenges that anyone out there would care to make.
I've always seen listservs more as seminars anyway. I'm willing to say
something foolish to provoke a discussion.

thanks for reading this far.

-henry


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