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Despite the vast differences between the Right and the Left over the role of education in the production of inequality one common element both sides share is a sense that education can and should do something about society, to either restore what is being lost or radically alter what is there now. The question was perhaps put most succinctly by the radical educator George Despite the vast differences between the Right and the Left over the role of education in the production of inequality one common element both sides share is a sense that education can and should do something about society, to either restore what is being lost or radically alter what is there now. The question was perhaps put most succinctly by the radical educator George Counts in 1932 when he asked Dare the School Build a New Social Order?, challenging entire generations of educators to participate in, actually to lead, the reconstruction of society. Over 70 years later, celebrated educator, author and activist Michael Apple revisits Counts now iconic works, compares them to the equally powerful voices of minoritized people, and again asks the seemingly simply question of whether education truly has the power to change society. In this groundbreaking work, Apple pushes educators toward a more substantial understanding of what schools do and what we can do to challenge the relations of dominance and subordination in the larger society. This touchstone volume is both provocative and honest about the ideological and economic conditions that groups in society are facing and is certain to become another classic in the canon of Apples work and the literature on education more generally.


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Despite the vast differences between the Right and the Left over the role of education in the production of inequality one common element both sides share is a sense that education can and should do something about society, to either restore what is being lost or radically alter what is there now. The question was perhaps put most succinctly by the radical educator George Despite the vast differences between the Right and the Left over the role of education in the production of inequality one common element both sides share is a sense that education can and should do something about society, to either restore what is being lost or radically alter what is there now. The question was perhaps put most succinctly by the radical educator George Counts in 1932 when he asked Dare the School Build a New Social Order?, challenging entire generations of educators to participate in, actually to lead, the reconstruction of society. Over 70 years later, celebrated educator, author and activist Michael Apple revisits Counts now iconic works, compares them to the equally powerful voices of minoritized people, and again asks the seemingly simply question of whether education truly has the power to change society. In this groundbreaking work, Apple pushes educators toward a more substantial understanding of what schools do and what we can do to challenge the relations of dominance and subordination in the larger society. This touchstone volume is both provocative and honest about the ideological and economic conditions that groups in society are facing and is certain to become another classic in the canon of Apples work and the literature on education more generally.

30 review for Can Education Change Society?

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    I’ve recently finished another book edited by Michael Apple, a large Routledge extravaganza on the sociology of education. Wonderful stuff, covering a maze of questions. At the end of that there are a couple of articles on education and social class and one of those makes the point that Bernstein did not believe that education was really capable of changing society. Now, that probably seems a bit counter-intuitive, I suspect. The thing is that we can all think of people whose lives have been stri I’ve recently finished another book edited by Michael Apple, a large Routledge extravaganza on the sociology of education. Wonderful stuff, covering a maze of questions. At the end of that there are a couple of articles on education and social class and one of those makes the point that Bernstein did not believe that education was really capable of changing society. Now, that probably seems a bit counter-intuitive, I suspect. The thing is that we can all think of people whose lives have been strikingly made better by their lucky relationship with the education system. It is a standard trope of our society. As precisely that person myself, I'm hardly going to argue education can't change lives. In some ways the title of this one, “Can Education Change Society”, seems to appeal to our most cherished beliefs – that if our society is ever to be able to change at all it will have to be on the basis of a more effective education system. You know, when Obama or Bush get up and say that for America to have a future no child must be left behind they are saying something about change and about education effecting that role of education. So, what is Bernstein’s point? Well, the problem is that no one really does argue that education has no role in bringing about change. It is a bit like asking ‘will having lots of money make you rich?’ The issue at hand, I guess, is whether education on its own is likely to bring about change in society. Winning the lottery will certainly make you rich, but as a strategy for becoming rich it isn’t the most likely. And in some schools the chance of getting an education that is likely to change your life is about as slight as the chances of winning the lottery. So, I guess the questions really ought to be, what kind of education is likely to change society? which bits of society do you want to change? and is education enough to bring about that change? Now, Apple was a personal friend of Paulo Freire (in Education talk, something like having been a friend of John Lennon) – quite a lot of the start of this book discusses their friendship and their disagreements and discussions. As he says, their discussions went on for hours and weren’t (what might be called here in Australia, pissing competitions - you know, masculine games to see who can urinate furtherest up a wall). They were arguments that resembled dances more than street-fights. The point wasn’t to win – the point was to uncover the truth. How rare is that? A lot of this book looks at historical struggles in the US around the intersections between race, gender and social class – it looks at the interweaving of other struggle for equality (gay and lesbian, people with disabilities and so on) have literally sought to change our society and how these struggles have sought to use education as a tool to achieve this change. What is particularly interesting here is Apple’s response to the standard Marxist idea that all struggles for emancipation are, at root, side shows to the class struggle. That those seeking emancipation ought to put their efforts behind the class struggle as this is the main game in town and the only one likely to provide any hope for their emancipation. Unfortunately, Marxists have been all too happy to say ‘the time is not yet ripe’ – but actually, all forms of oppression and exploitation are equally repulsive and all provide training in human decency and democracy. As such ignoring the needs of those seeking justice merely helps to push them away from those who ought to be fighting in their corner. One of the things the left seems to struggle with is the whole idea of working in a united way. The right has proven much better at this, despite the clear and profound differences that exist between sections of the right – neoliberals, Christian fundamentalists and managerialists don’t really have all that much in common, but they have found ways to stress their common ground and more or less overlook their differences. They present the left as dangerous and godless ‘socialists’, using the handy tactic of lumping all of your enemies together under one label – and having a cardboard cutout enemy makes unity much more easy to sustain. This book makes clear that it is not only the left who are seeking to change society through education. In fact, the right has proven infinitely more effective at doing precisely this than the left ever has. They have made neoliberalism the common and unquestioned truth. A remarkable effort given that neoliberalism has brought us to the brink of disaster and may yet push us over the edge. It is terrifying that people seeking to improve educational access to coloured communities in the US might think it is a good idea to introduce voucher systems – but such is the world we have allowed where neoliberal solutions are presented as common sense and the only sensible solution to real problems that exist. He talks about how hurricane Katrina was used to destroy the public education system in New Orleans, destroying education as a pathway for black teachers to move into the middle class and to effectively gentrify areas that had been the home of people of colour prior to the hurricane. This is The Shock Doctrine writ large. Like I said at the start of this review, education is an important part of any hope we have of changing society. Apple’s point, however, is that education isn’t something that sits outside society, but rather it is deeply embedded in society. Education is certainly a tool we can use to change society – but it is our actions that will really change society. And it is our actions that have a deeply educative power. that Matthew guy in the Bible even said the same thing - by their fruits you shall know them - it is hardly a new idea. I didn’t know anything about George Counts or Du Bois before reading this. It is all a part of American history I’ve never had access to before. And his discussion of Freire’s legacy in Brazil is also incredibly interesting. So, I guess the short answer is that education can change society – but not on its own and not even as the main tool.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    4.5 stars. this book is a powerful call to action and a carefully written summary/synthesis of much of apple's other work. at times the writing is redundant/repetitive, but sometimes thats not such a bad thing when the ideas are (in my opinion) so important.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mason

    Interesting read, some chapters are certainly better than others. Great reflection on some of Paulo's work, putting theory and practice into context for teachers and progressive educators trying to push things in the right direction in the 21st century.

  4. 4 out of 5

    courtney

    Thought-provoking, but poorly written and often redundant

  5. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    Really interesting information. A little heavy with "education buzzwords"

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vishesh Kumar

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Ullyot

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily

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    Greg

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    Christien

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    Lesley

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alejandra

  13. 5 out of 5

    Farshad Shahkarami

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eva Gonçalves

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bob

  16. 5 out of 5

    Keith Heggart

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jaehee Lauren Park

  18. 4 out of 5

    Claudio

  19. 5 out of 5

    Milan Segedinac

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jayme

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    Natasha

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    Danielle P

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    John

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    Joonas Pitkänen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Danslarue Hsu

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    Jake Gates

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Stoetzel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Narek Manukyan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mohammad M.

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