Archive for March 8, 2011

Postmodern “Thinking” in a Post-Soviet Country

Because it is International Women’s day I feel that I have a “right” to write what I want to today.  How’s THAT for a “postmodern” sentence!? I’m returning to the subject of postmodernism. By definition it is probably a term that is most misunderstood as it is bandied about by academicians in the West.  However, it affects me as a western educator in a post-Soviet country such as Kazakhstan. If you go back to an earlier blog that I did on Feb. 13th, almost a month ago, you will see what a Kazakh person who knows many languages and has been exposed to much western thinking, what he wrote.

I will try to make clear in this blog posting what postmodernism is and isn’t and how such should not be promulgated to unsuspecting Kazakhs who want to be educated by western standards. Do we really have the best education to deliver to a country that is Asian AND Muslim while still coming out from under the dominance of Russia and Soviet communism?  You have one complicated mass of ideologies, cultures, rituals, languages and thinking.

So, the following is what *I* think and it could change a bit tomorrow (due to reader feedback) but my main intent is to show how tragic the consequences are when western educators neglect certain things in education by rushing to the latest fad or theory.  First I must establish what “postmodernism” is, if I understand it correctly.  The best that I can explain is that whatever I write next will not matter to you the reader.  Even if I have a perfect thesis statement and even if I make my points crystal clear, it is no longer what *I* set out to do with writing in this blog, as I have done since the fall of 2007.  No, from a postmodern way of thinking, it is all about YOU the reader and how YOU interpret these words of what I write.  It is no longer about the writer’s purpose or what they are trying to persuade or convince their reader to know or think.

Therefore, no matter what “truth” I may write about what I have observed in this country of Kazakhstan, it doesn’t matter because, according to postmodernists, it is all relative.  Another way to define is that there are NO absolutes or anything goes, if it is right for one person, it might not be right for the next person after that.

We used to take Civics courses back when I was going to school, I’m not sure what they teach young people in American high schools anymore.  We were taught to be a patriotic, loyal American, and we put our hand to our heart and sang the National Anthem. We knew all the words and sang with gusto.  Now, I’m not so sure kindergarten children know how to say the Pledge of Allegiance.  For one thing, there are many cultures mixed in to the classroom, so there is already a clash of which language should be spoken, Spanish or English. Has anyone heard the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish? Don’t answer that!

I’m not opposed to having all the mix of cultures in the U.S. classrooms. I’m an ESL/EFL teacher and this is my bread and butter to teach English.  My great grandparents sailed from Norway and many of my peers ancestors when they moved to the U.S. made sure they dumped their own language from the Old Country because they wanted to fit in to get a better job by learning English.  We used to have a classical curriculum where you were required to study other languages, know your country’s history, even appreciating what the Greeks and Romans experienced…

Now, in our university classrooms we have classes on Women’s studies, Indian studies, Black studies, GLTB studies, etc.  All those people who came from the Old Country to settle the great lands of the U.S. are made out to be criminals, especially in the Midwest. (Why don’t they pick on those who rushed to California for the better weather and gold? Hmmm…that is where Hollywood is located, question answered)  In order to salve the conscience of the postmodernists, it is fine to denigrate the hardworking settlers of the fly-over country and exalt all other minorities.

Therefore, according to postmodernists, the dead white males (and females) who made all the discoveries to make life easier out on the frontier of our new land, THEY are the despicable ones.  Yet, these same postmodern people will be opposed to meat and against fur which is what not only the new frontiersmen did in order to survive, but the Indians lived off the land killing animals.  Seems that is the livelihood of the Kazakhs as well, they lived off the killing of their sheep and cattle.  Are they better off now after Stalin forced collectivization and industrialization?  Is there any postmodernist in the U.S. ready to read and study about this marginalized people group in Central Asia?

Postmodernism gets really confusing because if students major in Women’s Studies for instance, what kind of a job will they get afterwards? Seems instead they have a warped view of men and society and come out more angry and bitter.  Is this the kind of education we want to promote among the Kazakhs who go to the West to get their education?  Do they need to know how to become more greedy and selfish?  Unfortunately, during communism days that was what was pounded into their parents minds about the evils of capitalism.  Yet, if that is true, there is no concept of servanthood and giving service to the customer which came along with running a good business.  I’m glad to say Kazakh people in the “service” industry are catching on.  You get repeat customers if they are treated well.

That leads me to my next point of what we, as Americans, know as “public servants.”  This used to be a term where we understood that politicians SERVED the people but now I’m not so sure if we are resigned to the fact that it is about maintaining power and control.  So, with the elections coming up in Kazakhstan on April 3rd, do the Kazakhs really believe that the best candidate will win because he will continue to serve the people?  Will that always be true or will there come a time that the leaders of western countries will provide poor examples of public servants.  I think that is true already but I don’t want this to be about politics.

For now, I want to conclude that I see the products of our American educational system where they believe that everything revolves around them. If they think a certain way, then everyone else will (or should) think that way as well.  There is not even an attempt to find out what another side of a problem or argument might be or that they might even disagree about their perspective.  Only because a postmodernist who is schooled to be “tolerant” to all other faiths and religions will believe what another thinks and believes is fine for that person.

(to be continued)

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