Beneath the Surface

“Schools do not only control people; they also help control meaning. Since they preserve and distribute what is perceived to be ‘legitimate knowledge’—the knowledge that ‘we all must have,’ schools confer cultural legitimacy on the knowledge of specific groups.”

-Michael Apple

“Every educational system is a political means of maintaining or of modifying the appropriation of discourse, with the knowledge and the powers it carries with it.”

-Michel Foucault

My understanding of what Apple and Foucault are implying here is that cultural dominate ideologies are being implicitly conveyed through the education system. Another way of understanding this is looking at the power of the hidden curriculum. The ‘knowledge’ that is being transmitted in schools goes beyond curriculum outcomes and indicators; they are “maintaining” a particular discourse that has been created and reinforced by power structures. So what does this mean? Students are being socialized to believe that what they see and experience in schools is how society is suppose to work. This could be what is being taught in History class or in the literature they read, it could be a lack of support and attention to those from low SES families, EAL students who are struggling with the material, and/or students with a cognitive impairment. On the flip side it, could be the circumstance that a school has many resources to provide fortunate students with endless opportunities such as high quality technology.

The role of the teachers in this perspective can be different depending on the individual, in my opinion. Depending if the teacher believes in equity and anti-oppressive education, the teacher can decide what to incorporate in history lesson and literature, and so on. They can challenge dominate ideologies that include gender issues, streaming, white privilege, among others. However, I would also argue that Kumashiro’s concept of “common sense” plays a large role in this.  The quality of teaching is a huge subject, but I think it is important to address when dealing with socialization and challenging the power-structures around them. The teacher has the opportunity to deconstruct and recreate the meanings and mindsets within a school system. However, this is much easier said than done.The student, in this case, is a child who is adapting and reacting to their experiences. The opportunities for students that are present in the school system varies with different students. When Foucault talks about the power knowledge carries, I believe he is implying that those in control of deeming what is “legitimate knowledge’ are those already in power and in order to be successful, this knowledge is the tool to get you there. We can see how this benefits some and not other because the means of acquiring this success is not attainable for all people.

One thought on “Beneath the Surface

  1. It is true how we have been learning certain subjects in schools that have been fooling the dominant culture that that has been the norm of society which is normal. But when I think about it deeply, I realize that in my history class we have been taught history the wrong way, and focused only on European history rather than learning about treaty education and residential schools which now makes me upset. And at that time in high school I thought what I we learning is the right materials. So you are correct that the ones in power have much control in education and incorporating the materials in schools.


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