Apple’s discussion of cultural commodity is interesting. His essential sense of how cultural capital is created in our schools informs his sense of where the school as an institution is failing. He says that “just as our dominant economic institutions are structured so that those who inherit or already have economic capital do better, so too does cultural capital act in the same way” (31). This Marxian view suggests that the reproduction of middle-class values is the ultimate goal of education as it currently exists. He goes on to show that this reproduction occurs through the transmission of “high status knowledge” that promotes a system where power is unequally distributed based on established class roles. As there are a number of implications to his views that I think are important to tease out, I would like to posit some questions for us to consider.
1) What do we make of Apple’s distinction of “scientific” and “ethical” criteria (37)? How does the difference in these criteria help reinforce the ideology Apple is trying to undermine?
2) How are we meant to understand “technical knowledges” (34) and what can we understand from Apple’s stated (but underdeveloped) goal of “polytechnic” education?
3) Apple interrogates the idea of “economic utility” as a force of inequity. Yet, is carreer preparation not an important goal? If not, than is education simply a theoretical or academic exercise? I think this question stems in part from my readings in ENG 506 (such as Friedman or Pink), which demands that technical skills be emphasized so that students can meet the demands for living in an increasingly “flat” world.
4) Thinking about the preoccupation with negotiating conflict in Ch. 5, how should classroom processes develop? What is the role that conflict and engaging in conflict play in education? We might also think about his idea of “institutional” and “biographical” meanings here (78).
5) This is kind of a self-reflective question, one that I don’t think we need spend much time on in class. Given Apple’s interest in the postmodern social sciences and humanities, I see his reaction against science as a school discipline as an attack on an area of inquiry that establishes its discourse in “factual” (rather, proveable) theory. This is a long-standing point of contention between the sciences and the humanities, with barbs about the quality and functionality of each other’s projects thrown periodically (and sometimes, furiously). Given this way of approaching his critique on the subject, to what degree is Apple engaging a particular ideology? What are the characteristics of that ideology? I find it fascinating that, while Marxian critics excell at discerning the ideological underpinnings of al manner of social and cultural institutions, they often fail to recognize, or downplay, their own ideological assumptions. This is more an observation about critics subscribing to a wide range of totalizing structures (Freudian/Lacanian/Jungian psychoanalysts, post-structuralists, etc.).
6) This is the big question: How do we reconcile, at the local level, the ideas Apple advocates for with the insistance on measuring outcomes through high-stakes, standardized assessment that, like it or not, we will all be dealing with in our professional careers? Testing and accoutability are the dominant forces in American educational culture and discourse, and we are engaging in that culture and discourse. To ignore them would be a mistake. How can we institute change? Look closer still at the problem. If control of educational policy is ever localized, would that make teachers the new arbiters of policy? Or, perhaps administrators? Or the school board? Or parents? Is the issue of what we teach ever fully in our hands?
I look forward to a lively discussion of these issues tonight.