chapter  1
The State and the Politics of Knowledge
ByMichael W. Apple
Pages 24

Formal schooling by and large is organized and controlled by the government. This means that by its very nature the entire schooling process-how it is paid for, what goals it seeks to attain and how these goals will be measured, who has power over it, what textbooks are approved, who does well in schools and who does not, who has the right to ask and answer these questions, and so on-is by definition political. Thus, as inherently part of a set of political institutions, the educational system will constantly be in the middle of crucial struggles over the meaning of democracy, over definitions of legitimate authority and culture, and over who should benefit the most from government policies and practices. That this is not of simply academic interest is very clear in the increasingly contentious issues surrounding what curricula and methods of instruction should be used in our schools. Think for instance of the whole languageversus-phonics debate and the immense political controversies this has demonstrated in local communities and in state legislatures. Or think of Diane Ravitch’s (largely erroneous) arguments that “real knowledge” is no longer taught and that political and educational “progressives” have captured the teaching and curriculum in most schools throughout the past century (Ravitch, 2000). Even though her assertions are both empirically and historically incorrect (Apple, 2001b), these and similar arguments have been circulated largely uncritically by the mainstream media, by increasingly conservative foundations, and by political groups.