The other day a colleague and I were discussing what to teach in this post-postmodern age, generally agreeing that rehashing the theory-science wars was counterproductive, and that teaching deconstructive critique (as a purely epistemological exercise) was out of steam. See Latour. But I did urge that practicing deconstruction be considered as a still important element of our being instituted, being in institutions, instituted beings. Such play is obnoxious. But I think it important to remember, across Burke's "way of seeing is a way of not seeing" that the institution continues to enforce barriers and boundaries instituted in the late 19th century. For all the talk of postmodernity, the University changed little, if at all, in its expectations and operations.
In preparing for my graduate class tonight on Contemporary Rhetorics, I chose to read Derrida's "University in the Eyes of its Pupils" (in a move toward post-pedagogy, each student was asked to read three different essays related to postmodern theory, their choice). I first read this piece in Thomas Rickert's Institutional Rhetoric course, and I must say it remains my favorite Derrida essay. At one point, Derrida makes an argument that I think succinctly expresses Heidegger/Lyotard/Reading's critique sof an increased technological/efficient/excellent university and Foucualt's arguments for how the increased discursive-institutional dispersion of power complicates resistance. Derrida:
A State power or the forces that it represents no longer need to prohibit research or to censor discourse, especially in the West. It is enough that they can limit the means, can regulate support for the production, transmission, and diffusion. The machinery for this new "censorship" in the broad sense is much more complex and omnipresent than in Kant's day, for example, when the entire problematics and the entire topology of the university were organized around the exercise of royal censorship. Today, in the Western democracies, that form of censorship has almost entirely disappeared. The prohibiting limitations function through multiple channels that are decentralized, difficult to bring together into a system. The unacceptability of a discourse, the noncertification of a research project, the illegitimacy of a course offering are declared by evaluative actions: studying such evaluations is, it seems to me, one of the tasks most indispensable to the exercise of academic responsibility, most urgent for the maintenance of its dignity.
A few posts ago, I made mention to Richard Miller's open ended slow reading, something I would equate with the arguments for post-pedagogy advocated by Byron Hawk and Thomas Rickert. But we have to be ready to fight for such possibilities, because I fear the increasing drive for "excellence" (scare-quoted to summon the specter of Readings) in assessment will not be open to the open-ended and student-directed. It wants teleological ends and directed students. In an atmosphere of accountability and expediency, teachers teach and students learn from teachers--how can students learn and teachers learn from students? I don't think the Power that is will legitimate the impetus of such a question.
But I increasingly feel the call to fight for it.