Developments in a postmodern reconstruction of education

Year: 1994

Author: Sedunary, Eileen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In Australia, the story of education in the latter half of this century has been told by some as the achievement and subsequent dissolution of a social democratic or Keynesian "settlement". In such accounts, attention is given to the fracture of liberal and progressive advances with the ascendancy of countervailing economic and ideological conditions, and the view is that a different consensus is now being mobilised around economic rationalist or New Right principles.

While recognising the usefulness of this interpretive approach, this paper proposes another, contending perspective on recent history. It identifies certain critical developments as early, ambiguous expressions of a "postmodern" reconstruction of education. It looks at two chronologically linear and ostensibly contradictory movements- radical education and the new vocationalism-and points to their historically novel, common character. Assembling the broader theoretical basis of this alternative perspective, the paper considers anew conditions of continuity and discontinuity. Throughout, the focus is on events and writing in Australia, but with some comparative reference to English experience and literature.