Sociologists of education who are interested in the school curriculum have long faced a paradox. The curriculum is avowedly and manifestly a social construction. Why, then, is this central social construct treated as a timeless given in so many studies of schooling? In particular, why have social scientists, who traditionally have been more attuned than most to the ideological and political struggles that underpin social life, largely accepted the ‘givenness’ of the school curriculum? As the curriculum wars rage in American higher education over the choice of ‘canon’, it seems to be a good time to begin again to theorize the school curriculum.