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        established in 1977      



Readers' Guide to Education
An introduction to some publications that have shaped the field of education.



Ideology and Curriculum
Michael W. Apple
(1942–– )
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979)


“I think we are beginning to see more clearly a number of things that were much more cloudy before. As we learn to understand the way education acts in the economic sector of a society to reproduce important aspects of inequality, so too are we learning to unpack a second major sphere in which schooling operates. For not only is there economic property, there also seems to be symbolic property––cultural capital––which schools preserve and distribute.” Michael W. Apple, Ideology and Curriculum, 1979, p. 3.


s one of the first to establish “curriculum as political text,” Michael Apple noted that not only schools but their “handmaiden,” the curriculum, served as a method of reproducing the social, cultural, and economic patterns of society. If one work ushered in a form of educational dialogue––critical, thoughtful, and reminiscent of the exhanges in The Social Frontier from the late 1930s––it has been Michael Apple’s Ideology and Curriculum. During While Apple’s Education and Power (published in 1982) may have had a farther reach, Ideology and Curriculum marked the beginning of an emerging form of discourse.


Historic video footage of Michael Apple
from the 1976 Milwaukee Curriculum Theory Conference
portions from “What Do Schools Teach?” by Michael W. Apple and Nancy R. King

Comments on Ideology and Curriculum Twenty Years
After Its Publication (1999)
by Michael W. Apple

reprinted from the Museum of Education's Books of the Century Catalog

“Ideology and Curriculum represents a collective accomplishment. It was meant to bring together the national and international literature on the relationship between curriculum, teaching, and evaluation on the one hand and differential cultural, political, and economic power on the other. By collective accomplishment, I mean the following. The field of curriculum studies and the larger field of education have been dominated by technical perspectives; but these fields had always had a tradition of critical social and cultural analysis of the ends and means of education. The task was to stand on the shoulders of the women and men who had engaged in such critical work, extend their analyses, and push the field in new and more powerful directions at the same time.

“The context in which it was written was complex. The “liberal” position that held that limited reforms of schools were both necessary and sufficient was in its ascendancy, at the same time as racial antagonisms and class and gender divisions were becoming more visible. A reductive and amoral vision of “science” and “technology” was also powerfully influential. For many activists inside and outside of education, the separation between one’s “academic” work and one’s political work was deeply problematic, especially since the failures of liberal policy were all too visible. Something considerably more radical was necessary.



“Yet there was another complexity. Even though the field of education was dominated by technical and/or simplistic reformist impulses, on both sides of the Atlantic there were emerging traditions of thinking about the connections between culture and power. In the United States, critical theory, the sociology of knowledge, and social phenomenology had come together within critical curriculum studies. In the United Kingdom and France, these and other traditions were being merged in the sociology of education in the work of Bernstein, Young, Whitty, Dale, Bordieu, and others. It quickly became clear that on both sides of the Atlantic similar questions were being asked and a range of similar traditions were being turned to. Thus, Ideology and Curriculum was able to take advantage of both the U.S. and European traditions in critical social, cultural, and educational scholarship as my contacts with scholars in Europe began to grow over the decade of the 1970s.

“There were four distinct audiences I had in mind when I wrote the book. The first was mainstream educators who had less understanding of the relationship between education and differential power. The second audience was constituted by “romantic” critics of education and those who believed that child-centered and/or somewhat more democratic reforms could be instituted in schools without considering the connections between schools and the larger field of power in which they operated. The third group were those people who were politically knowledgeable and who had either engaged in analyses of the relationship of schooling to the unequal economy (for example, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America) or had been influenced by them. The most popular of these kinds of analysis at the time were all too economistic and had little understanding of the ways in which cultural struggles went on in schools. They saw both schools and people as simply mirroring or being totally controlled by economic forces. Further, they almost never went inside schools to actually examine what went on. This seemed much too reductive to me. Finally, as someone who had been educated in three overlapping traditions––education, philosophy, and sociology––I wanted to make a contribution to the sociology of knowledge and to the development of a set of concepts that would push each of these fields forward. Thus, the book was meant to provide an interdisciplinary perspective that demonstrated that by drawing on what was exceptional material from a number of fields, and then integrating them into a new set of lenses, a more focused examination of the limits and possibilities of education could be developed.

“The book was actually meant to be much longer. I was aware that it developed much of its argument around a theory of domination and gave too little space to issues of agency, resistance, and contradiction. But, even though the arguments seemed partly incomplete to me at the time, it also seemed wise to publish Ideology and Curriculum even with its limitations in order to intervene into the educational and political debates that were raging at the time. The book was then followed three years later with Education and Power, a volume that placed much more emphasis on the areas that were under-developed in Ideology and Curriculum.

“Given the intellectual and social ferment of the times and given the need for a more rigorous examination of the politics of curriculum and teaching that go on in real schools, these books came out at exactly the correct time. Even with its limitations, Ideology and Curriculum proved to be one of those volumes that enabled the succeeding generations to become more rigorous in their understanding of and action upon one of the dominant institutions of our and many other societies. Since I wanted to contribute to and extend the long tradition of enabling people to stand on the shoulders of all those whose vision of education is both socially and culturally critical, I am pleased that it accomplished much of what it set out to do.”           
Michael W. Apple, 1999

Craig Kridel, editor/arrayer (2000). Books of the Century Catalog (Columbia, SC: Museum of Education), pp. 116-117.


Opening Lines
“A few years ago I was asked to write a personal statement for a volume that was reprinting a number of my papers. In that piece, I tried to document the kinds of political and personal commitments that I felt provided an irreducible minimum set of tenets which guided my work as educator. In summary, I argued strongly that education was not a neutral enterprise, that by the very nature of the institution, the educator was involved, whether he or she was conscious of it or not, in a political act, I maintained that in the last analysis educators could not fully separate their educational activity from the unequally responsive institutional arrangements and the forms of consciousness that dominate advanced industrial economies like our own” (p. 1).

The Museum of Education's on-site exhibition

“The study of the interconnections between ideology and curriculum and between ideology and educational argumentation has important implications for the curriculum field and for educational theory and policy in general. For as I shall argue throughout this volume, we need to examine critically not just ‘how a student acquires more knowledge’ (the dominant question in our efficiency minded field), but ‘why and how particular aspects of the collective culture are presented in school as objective, factual knowledge.’ How, concretely, may official knowledge represent ideological configurations of the dominant interests in a society? How do schools legitimate these limited and partial standards of knowing as unquestioned truths?” (p. 14).

Ideology and Curriculum by Michael Whitman Apple (l942– ; University of Wisconsin). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. [viii; 203 p.; 23 cm.]

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