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Table of contents

Conscious economic manipulation by those in power is often seen as a determining element. While this is certainly important, to say the least, it gives only one side of the picture. The economistic position provides a less adequate appraisal of the way these outcomes are created by the school. It cannot illuminate fully what the mechanisms of domination are and how they work in the day-to-day activity of school life. The focus, then, should also be on the ideological and cultural mediations which exist between the material conditions of an unequal society and the formation of the consciousness of the individuals in that society.

On Analyzing Hegemony 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,6 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.

Thus, we can now begin to get a more thorough understanding of how institutions of cultural preservation and distribution like schools create and recreate forms of consciousness that enable social control to be maintained without the necessity of dominant groups having to resort to overt mechanisms of domination. What I shall try to do in this introductory chapter is to portray, in rather broad strokes, the kinds of questions embodied in the approach and program of analysis which guides this book.

In my discussion, I shall often draw upon the work of the social and cultural critic Raymond Williams. While he is not too well known among educators and this is a distinct pity his continuing work on the relationship between the control of the form and content of culture and the growth of the economic institutions and practices which surround us all can serve as a model, both personally and conceptually, for the kind of progressive arguments and commitments this approach entails. There are three aspects of the program that need to be articulated at the beginning here: 1 the school as an institution, 2 the knowledge forms, and 3 the educator him or herself.

Each of these must be situated within the larger nexus of relations of which it is a constitutive part. The key word here, obviously, is situated. However, we must be careful of misusing this tradition of interpretation. All too often, we forget the subtlety required to begin to unpack these relations. We situate the institution, the curriculum, and ourselves in an overly deterministic way. This is too easy to say, unfortunately, and is much too mechanistic.

It also presupposes an idea of conscious manipulation of schooling by a very small number of people with power. As I shall argue, one of the keys to understanding this is the concept of hegemony.

If You're a Student

The control of schools, knowledge and everyday life can be, and is, more subtle for it takes in even seemingly inconsequential moments. The control is vested in the constitutive principles, codes, and especially the commonsense consciousness and practices underlying our lives, as well as by overt economic division and manipulation.

For hegemony supposes the existence of something which is truly total, which is not merely secondary or superstructural, like the weak sense of ideology, but which is lived at such a depth, which saturates the society to such an extent, and which, as Gramsci put it, even constitutes the limit of commonsense for most people under its sway, that it corresponds to the reality of social experience very much more clearly than any notions derived from the formula of base and superstructure.

This notion of hegemony as deeply saturating the consciousness of a society seems to be fundamental. At the same time, he points out how educational institutions may act in this process of saturation. At the same time the passage catches the crux of how the assemblage of meanings and practices still leads to, and comes from, unequal economic and cultural control.

It thus constitutes a sense of reality for most people in the society, a sense of absolute because experienced [as a] reality beyond which it is very difficult for most members of a society to move in most areas of their lives. But this is not, except in the operation of a moment of abstract analysis, a static system. On the contrary we can only understand an effective and dominant culture if we understand the real social process on which it depends: I mean the process of incorporation. The educational institutions are usually the main agencies of transmission of an effective dominant culture, and this is now a major economic as well as cultural activity; indeed it is both in the same moment.

But always the selectivity is the point; the way in which from a whole possible area of past and present, certain meanings and practices are chosen for emphasis, certain other meanings and practices are neglected and excluded. Even more crucially, some of these meanings are reinterpreted, diluted, or put into forms which support or at least do not contradict other elements within the effective dominant culture.

If what we learn were merely an imposed ideology, or if it were only the isolable meanings and practices of the ruling class, or of a section of the ruling class, which gets imposed on others, occupying merely the top of our minds, it would be—and one would be glad—a very much easier thing to overthrow. Notice what Williams is saying here about educational institutions. It is similar to the point I argued earlier about the possible relationship between the school as an institution and the recreation of inequality.

This makes the concepts of ideology, hegemony, and selective tradition critical elements in the political and analytic underpinnings of the analyses found in this volume. Here, the basic act involves making the curriculum forms found in schools problematic so that their latent ideological content can be uncovered.

Questions about the selective tradition such as the following need to be taken quite seriously. Whose knowledge is it? Who selected it?

Why is it organized and taught in this way? To this particular group? The mere act of asking these questions is not sufficient, however. One is guided, as well, by attempting to link these investigations to competing conceptions of social and economic power and ideologies. In this way, one can begin to get a more concrete appraisal of the linkages between economic and political power and the knowledge made available and not made available to students.

We ask our students to see knowledge as a social construction, in the more disciplinary programs to see how sociologists, historians, anthropologists and others construct their theories and concepts. There exists in curriculum development, and in teaching, something of a failure of nerve.

Curriculum Ideologies

Thus, as I shall demonstrate in Chapter 5, for instance, the constitutive framework of most school curricula centers around consensus. Yet we do teach elite and military history. Whatever economics is taught is dominated by a perspective that grows out of the National Association of Manufacturers or its equivalent. These are only a few examples of the role of school in creating a sense of false consensus, of course. Let me precurse some of the arguments that I shall develop in greater detail in Chapters 6, 7, and 8. This reduction of understanding speaks to the technicization of life in advanced industrial economies.

Political and economic, and even educational, debate among real people in their day-to-day lives is replaced by considerations of efficiency, of technical skills. And at the same time considerations of the justice of social life are progressively depoliticized and made into supposedly neutral puzzles that can be solved by the accumulation of neutral empirical facts,15 which when fed back into neutral institutions like schools can be guided by the neutral instrumentation of educators.

The claim to neutrality is important in this representation, not merely in social life in general, but in education in particular. We assume that our activity is neutral, that by not taking a political stance we are being objective. First, there is an increasing accumulation of evidence that the institution of schooling itself is not a neutral enterprise in terms of its economic outcomes.

Let me now note, actually reiterate, the second reason a claim to neutrality carries less weight than it might. The claim ignores the fact that the knowledge that now gets into schools is already a choice from a much larger universe of possible social knowledge and principles. Since these values now work through us, often unconsciously, the issue is not how to stand above the choice. Rather, it is in what values I must ultimately choose.

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The very categories we use to approach our responsibility to others, the commonsense or constitutive rules we employ to evaluate the social practices that dominate our society, are often at issue. For it is the case that our sense of community is withered at its roots. Our inability to think in other than abstracted individualistic terms is nicely expressed once again by Raymond Williams in his argument that the dominance of the bourgeois individual distorts our understanding of our real social relations with and dependence on others.

We think of my money, my light, in these naive terms, because parts of our very idea of society are withered at root. In a society whose products depend almost entirely on intricate and continuous cooperation and social organization, we expect to consume as if we were isolated individuals, making our own way.

We are then forced into the stupid comparison of individual consumption and social taxation—one desirable and to be extended, the other regrettably necessary and to be limited. From this kind of thinking, the physical unbalance follows inevitably. Unless we achieve some realistic sense of community, our true standard of living will continue to be distorted. It is precisely the lack of an adequate sense of society that is crippling us. Our concern for the abstract individual in our social, economic, and educational life is exactly that—it is merely an abstraction.

It does not situate the life of the individual and ourselves as educators , as an economic and social being, back into the unequal structural relations that produced the comfort the individual enjoys. It can act as an ideological presupposition that keeps us from establishing any genuine sense of affiliation with those who produce our comforts, thus making it even more difficult to overcome the atrophication of collective commitment.

Thus, the overemphasis on the individual in our educational, emotional, and social lives is ideally suited to both maintain a rather manipulative ethic of consumption and further the withering of political and economic sensitivity.

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  • It makes their curricular and teaching practices relatively impotent in exploring the nature of the social order of which they are a part. An exceptionally important element in this kind of argument is the idea of relation.

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    Instead of this rather positivistic approach, things are given meaning relationally, by their complex ties and connections to how a society is organized and controlled. In understanding these hegemonic relations we need to remember something which Gramsci maintained—that there are two requirements for ideological hegemony.

    Ideology and Curriculum 3rd Edition - PDF Free Download

    This is a very personal question, one that is by far the hardest. It requires an analysis of what social and economic groups and classes seem to be helped by the way the institutions in our society are organized and controlled and which groups are not. To hold our day-to-day activities as educators up to political and economic scrutiny, to see the school as part of a system of mechanisms for cultural and economic reproduction, is not merely to challenge the prevailing practices of education. These practices may need changes, of course, and there is still a place for such ameliorative reforms, some of which I shall propose later in the volume.

    And this is exactly the point, for if taken seriously, it must lead to a set of commitments that may be wholly different than those many of us commonsensically accept. All of this centers around a theory of social justice.

    Ideology and Curriculum 3rd Edition

    My own inclination is to argue for something to the left of a Rawlsian stance. For a society to be just it must, as a matter of both principle and action, contribute most to the advantage of the least advantaged. It has its basis in a number of empirical claims as well. For example, the gap between rich and poor in advanced corporate nations is increasing.

    Educational Ideology and the School Curriculum

    The distribution and control of health, nutritional, and educational goods and services is basically unequal in these same industrialized nations. After some initial gains, the relative progress of women and many minority groups is either stagnant or slowly atrophying. It may be the case that these institutions are organized and controlled in such a way as to require rather large-scale changes in their relationships if progress is to be made in eliminating any of these conditions.

    I realize that this is rather controversial, to say the least. Nor do I expect that everyone will accept all that I have written here. Rather, and this is important, I have been convinced by evidence available to all of us if we are willing to search and to question, if we can learn to analyze hegemony. In fact this is part of the program I would like to explicate here.

    It involves more than a modicum of reading, study, and honest debate in areas many of us have only a limited background in.