While going through ed school I had the dubious pleasure of encountering postmodernism and "critical pedagogy" on several occasions. One such occasion was a course required for middle grades endorsement. The only book used in the course was called Affirming Middle Grades Education edited by Carl W. Walley and W. Gregory Gerrick (Allyn and Bacon).
A nebulous title like that does not bode well and indeed the book is about all kinds of things except academic achievement. You'll find chapter headings and topics like Middle Grades Teacher Advisory System (this is big), Interdisciplinary and Interthematic Curriculum Designs (educationists are obsessed with interdisciplinary and thematic units, more often than not contrived), Morally Responsive Teaching, Team Teaching, Community Building...
The weirdest chapter was The Excluded Middle: Postmodern Conceptions of the Middle School. It's couched in thick postmodern jargon and obsessed with "power arrangements". It argues for a "fundamental shift away from the status quo power arrangements. The survival of the planet is at stake." Education must no longer serve "social structures" (whatever that is) and "unjust power arrangements" and embrace a "postmodern vision." The author urges that "society must be the function of education," as John Dewey and George Counts are said to have "insisted". Apparently this means that "the primary focus of education" must be the improvement of society and the creation of a "just, caring and ecologically sustainable community." Middle schools must adopt this vision or students and teachers will never be "empowered".
Schools must move away from "linear organization of curriculum on scope and sequence charts...mastering proficiency in discrete skills...memorizing officially sanctioned information (could the author mean academic subjects?)...accountability...written tests..." The author proclaims that we "have now entered a postmodern era" despite those who cling to "hegemonic schooling structures." Postmodern education "promotes diversity, understanding and a new social imagination with 'multiple points of consent.'"
What should education be about? Condemning "modern power structures." What will be "the hallmark of postmodern learning environments?" You guessed it! "Multiculturalism; eclecticism; cooperative practices; interdisciplinary experiences; community based projects; racial and gender inclusiveness; ecological and spiritual sensibilities; shared power arrangements; just economic structures that support health, nutrition and psychological well-being of all citizens..."
So education is all about welcoming some "structures" and condemning other "structures". The "structures" that education "must be prophetic" in condeming turn out to be, once again, "modern power structures."
I would have liked to learn some specifics about these nefarious "modern power structures," but apparently the author feels they are self-evident and that repeating the phrase endlessly is sufficient. This is odd since these "modern power structures" that education must not serve (how is education serving them now?) are evil incarnate and "have resulted in holocausts, genocide, starvation, ecological destruction, massive poverty, slavery, patriarchal domination, colonization, environmental degradation and other horrors of the twentieth century." They surely deserve to be described in great detail so we can recognize them and stare them in the face en masse.
The author issues this dire warning: "If education does not focus on these issues, then it is complicit in the continuing modern holocausts."
Adopt the ill-defined postmodern stew or you are a criminal!
This is some of the crap prospective teachers must endure to become "certified."
BTW, the author of this chapter is Patrick Slattery, Associate Professor of Education at Texas A&M University where he teaches "curriculum theory" and "foundations in education" among other things.