Saturday, June 10, 2006

thinking through some ideology and curriculum Part I

Looking at Michael Apple’s Ideology and Curriculum.

How I’m using Apple in my project: To reiterate (the now, slightly old) argument that the school is an ISA (in Althusser’s words). In Apple’s words (paraphrasing Gramsci):

As Gramsci argued, the control of the knowledge preserving and producing sectors of a society is a critical factor in enhancing the ideological dominance of one group of people or one class over less powerful groups of people or classes. In this regard, the role of the school in selecting, preserving, and passing on conceptions of competence, ideological norms, and values (and often only certain social groups’ ‘knowledge’) – all of which are embedded within both the overt and hidden curricula in schools – is of no small moment. (57-58)

In other words, schools reproduce the economic and social stratification in society. Apples encourages us to question whose interests are served through school curriculum and makes the, by now, generally accepted argument that classrooms are not insulated from the outside world and education is inherently political. Apple goes on to point out that schools have a history and a relationship to “other powerful institutions in ways that are both hidden and complex” (62). The “knowledge that got into schools in the past and gets into schools now is not random. It is selected and organized around sets of principles and values that come from somewhere, that represent particular views of normality and deviance…” (63). While Readings sees Universities as ideologically empty, he does propose that we question “the disciplinary form that can be given to knowledges” (177). And the question should be “what it means to group knowledges in certain ways, and what it has meant that they have been so grouped in the past” (177). Readings’ argument through here is complex and compelling, and I see it possibly intersecting with Apple in interesting ways—pointing to both their similarities and dissimilarities.

Readings suggests a certain “rhythm of disciplinary attachment and detachment” that ultimately requires disciplinary structures (and therefore, in my mind, the grouping of knowledges) to “imagine what kinds of thinking they make possible, and what kinds of thinking they exclude” (176). In this way Readings seems to carry on a version of Apple’s thinking that the formal and informal knowledge that is taught in schools “need to be looked at connectedly…. For these everyday school practices are linked to economic, social, and ideological structures outside of the school buildings” (65). It is here that I see Readings doing something “new” and something critical pedagogy and cultural studies should take into consideration. Much of critical pedagogy seems to work from this idea that Apple (among many others) puts forth and espouses an “unveiling” of this link between education and the “economic, social, and ideological structures outside of the school buildings.” But the point Readings makes is that these forces are not outside the University—the corporatization is the current structure of the University. It is within. It has infiltrated. So the difference lies in seeing school as a part of the socio-economic structures, one that reproduces these structures and seeing it as the site of the economic itself, the site of corporatization both in the way it is beholden to corporate interests and in the way it is becoming (or has become) a University in its own rite. So while Apple focuses on school as the site of producing workers for industrialized society, Readings can look at both that and the way the University is producing consumers.

No comments: