Conservative Politics and National Curricula

  • Michael W. Apple


Education is deeply implicated in the politics of culture. The curriculum is never simply a neutral assemblage of knowledge, somehow appearing in a nation’s texts and classrooms. It is always part of a selective tradition, someone’s selection, some group’s vision of legitimate knowledge. It is produced from cultural, political, and economic conflicts, tensions, and compromises that organize and disorganize a people. As I argue in Ideology and Curriculum and Official Knowledge, the decision to define some groups’ knowledge as the most legitimate and official while the other groups’ hardly surfaces says something important about society (Apple, 1990 and 1993).

Think of social studies texts that refer to the ‘Dark Ages’ rather than the historically more accurate, less racist ‘age of African and Asian Ascendancy’ or books that treat Rosa Parks as a naive African American woman too tired to go to the back of the bus, rather than discussing her training in organized civil disobedience at Highlander Folk School. Realizing that teaching, especially at the elementary school level, has largely been defined as women’s work (with its accompanying struggles over autonomy, pay, respect, and deskilling) documents the connections between curriculum and teaching plus the history of gender politics (Apple, 1988). Thus, differential power intrudes into the heart of curriculum, teaching, and evaluation. What counts as knowledge, how it is organized, who is empowered to teach it, what is an appropriate display of having learned it, and who is allowed to ask and answer these questions constitutes how dominance and subordination are reproduced and altered in this society (Bernstein, 1977; Apple, Spring 1988, pp. 191–201).


National Curriculum National Testing Western Tradition Conservative Politics Common Culture 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael W. Apple

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