Postmodernity, Tertiary Education and the New Knowledge Discourses

Peter Roberts
Vol 21, Number 1, p.53
I am delighted to have this opportunity to respond to Michael Peters' Macmillan Brown Lectures of 2000. In my view, the issues raised in the lectures are of fundamental importance for all educationists in this country. Indeed, they have international significance. Much of what Peters has to say about the politics of neoliberal reform, the commodification of knowledge, and education under conditions of globalisation resonates strongly with themes considered by critical scholars in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and other countries. Tertiary education continues to feature prominently in New Zealand public discourse, with the release of a Tertiary Education Strategy document (Ministry of Education, 2002) setting out government priorities over the next five years and announcements of new funding proposals in the 2002 Budget. With a general election looming, questions al!out student loans and fees are likely to again become the object of heated debate. Educational concerns at other levels in the system, for example, over secondary teachers' salaries, have also gained considerable media attention. In this environment, the contribution Peters makes to a deeper understanding of the philosophical issues behind the rhetoric and the reforms is vital. This paper reflects on, and extends, some of Peters' key ideas on postmodernity, neoliberalism and education. The first section highlights some of the main features, as I see them, of Peters' argument, and selects three points in the lectures for further comment. This preliminary discussion leads, in the second section, to an assessment of recent developments in tertiary education in New Zealand, with a particular focus on the new \"knowledge\" discourses.