The Challenges Facing Teachers Today: A Conversation with Michael W. Apple

Michael W. Apple is the John Bascom Professor of Curriculum & Instruction & Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1970-2018). He is the author and editor of over 50 books and the advisor of 119 doctoral students. His influence on global critical pedagogy and inclusive curriculum studies (in particular, a critique of “official knowledge” and the “hidden curriculum”) is far-reaching in educational theory and practice. Apple questions what counts as legitimate knowledge: what and whose knowledge is of most worth, and how is knowledge distributed? He reveals the dominance and subordination model in traditional schooling and the ways schools control meaning, and students. Apple argues for a critical consciousness formed from the histories and experiences of the students that is transforming and empowering. He is now in “light retirement” and continues to teach, mentor, and challenge.

The Challenges Facing Teachers Today, Act 1

In Part 1 of the conversation with Lucia and Tina, Apple talks about his life as an activist educator-scholar and the major influences and experiences in his own formation as a teacher. The culture of “official knowledge,” with its test-driven structure, creates a unequal system. Apple critiques the current focus on and privileging of technology, STEM, charter schools, and the displacement of education programs in higher education in favor of neoliberal training programs such as Teach for America. Organizations such as Rethinking Schools (where a former student Wayne Au is an editorial board member) are working to expose the hidden curriculum.

Michael W. Apple

What Does a Democratic School Look Like?, Act 2

Participatory democracy requires students who are able to transform their knowledge to solve problems in community (The Algebra Project is one example). Apple examines the keywords of democracy, power, and freedom and the need of educators to reassert their control over these words. Apple is optimistic that educators, in collaboration with unions and grassroots movements for social change, can reclaim education from the market-driven push of the neoliberal right wing. Collective voices can reclaim the narrative, and create new, transformative alliances.

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