Pesquisador consagrado no campo das políticas educativas e do Currículo, Michael Apple tem sido uma voz alternativa no debate educativo contemporâneo, como bem se pode constatar na entrevista a seguir.
Apple: um conselho aos professores
Michael Apple is a professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has written extensively on the state of education in the US, deconstructing what knowledge is, what we are teaching our students, and how it is that we make meaning. His contributions include helping teachers learn how to confront issues in education, how to question knowledge, what knowledge is, and bringing to light the "hidden curriculum" in classrooms. He has published a vast compilation of books, articles and essays, all of them encouraging educators and students alike to question the dominant power and to wonder about how their knowledge came to be legitimated.
Prof Apple, you are considered to be at the forefront of progressive education. What would you say, in a word, is your desire for teachers?
Resistance. Resistance represents everything that I want teachers to embody. This does not mean that I want teachers to all be revolutionaries—what it means is that I want teachers to question the power dynamics in which they have been placed, and the race and gender relations of which they are a part. For too long, our society has been focused on complaining about teachers’ resistance to administrative and educational change. I think we should celebrate and encourage this resistance. Resist the dominant paradigm in society, which is based in an antiquated patriarchal system, and teach your students to resist and question as well.
What are the foremost issues in education, in your mind?
One of the most important issues to me is looking at how knowledge is created. Language, which is the primary means by which we make meaning, is context-specific, and is inundated with power relations. We need to question how language is created, and how it then creates knowledge.
The most important question we can ask of education is, Whose knowledge is considered legitimate? How do we know? Who controls the collection and distribution of knowledge? How is that collection and distribution linked to the unequal distribution of wealth? How will this knowledge be made accessible to students? How can we make this knowledge meaningful to students? These are some of the questions at the forefront of my mind. (www.perfectfit.org)
You said, in your article, Cultural Capital and Official Knowledge, that “I want us to think of knowledge as a form of capital. Just as economic institutions are organized (and sometimes disorganized) so that particular classes and class fractions increase their share of economic capital, cultural institutions such as universities seem to do the same thing.” What did you mean by that? (fromwww.perfectfit.org)
I want teachers and students alike to realize that education, like economic units, is a commodity, and we need to understand how it is that we distribute it. If we don’t acknowledge the commodified way in which we distribute education unequally, we will never be able to change it, and allow equal access to education for all students.
How would you describe education in general? How does that shape what you think we should change about education?
I think of education as a connection of economy, politics and culture. Textbooks, for example, which shape our curriculum in large part, represent what powerful groups have deemed as legitimate knowledge. Our curricula are the result of hegemonic and counter hegemonic movement. And, the more that we acknowledge that textbooks and curriculum are subject to multiple readings and interpretations, are a circuit of cultural production, the more we will be able to work with students to look for what they think is legitimate and meaningful knowledge, and not just take everything we read and see at face value. Everything, especially knowledge, is full of cultural contexts, of which we will probably never be fully aware; but the more we question this context and bring them to light, the better we will be able to provide our students with a quality education. (Apple, 1996)
What is one way that educators can work to bring the ways in which we deem knowledge as legitimate to light?
Critical discourse analysis is one way that I have found legitimacy in questioning where knowledge comes from, and whose knowledge is legitimate. Language has a role in producing meaning, and it always has a social context. The dominant discourse is a product of historical synthesis of events, social formation and culture, and it looks organic, but is often a result of the forces of society. We need to be careful and aware of these forces. Critical discourse analysis has as its goal to destabilize authoritative discourse, and to generate agency. This means giving teachers and students the tools to allow them to see texts as embodiments of particular representations of social and natural world, and of particular interests. It is all about resisting what we see, questioning its origins, and creating new knowledge and ways of knowing. (Apple, 1996)
What do you predict to be the future of education in the US?
I am optimistic in some ways, and pessimistic in others. For example, I am not optimistic about the future of urban schools. I see their curriculum becoming more rigid, and less updated. This will become even truer as teachers are faced with having to do more and more work for less pay. The stress on teachers is incredible. This unequal distribution of benefits among teachers reflects the unequal distribution of wealth in larger society.
Teachers will also have to justify what they are teaching more and more, as ideologically-based groups try to push their own agenda in schools. This will only add to the stress that they face. This is part of the larger argument of what basic content should be taught in schools. However, more importantly, teachers are being told to focus more on how they teach, rather than on whatthey teach. Methods are trumping content, and this is dangerous. Without more of a focus on what they are teaching, teachers will have a hard time defending what they are teaching.
I hope that schools will continue to move away from a tracking system, and more toward a system that allows students to identify their strengths, and which provides teachers and personnel to help them develop those strengths. However, with the shortage in personnel growing greater all the time, it is unlikely that schools will be able to give much individual attention to students.
These fiscal constraints are having a profound impact on available resources for students. For one thing, as resources decline, there will be an accompanying decline in curriculum alternatives. Textbooks will get more and more outdated. This trend will be more obvious among poorer schools, and this will serve to increase the disparity between what privileged students will learn and what underprivileged students will learn. In short, without an increase in funding, without more attention paid to curriculum, students will continue to get the short end of the stick in education.
Additionally, curriculum is becoming more and more standardized, and teachers are losing control over what they are allowed and expected to teach. My fear is that as teachers use fewer of the skills that they have learned over the years, those skills will atrophy and be forgotten. They may begin to feel alienated from what they are teaching, which will lead to atrophy and burnout. This needs to be addressed.
Some of Apple’s Contributions to Education
Michael Apple has traveled extensively all over the world, bringing his message of education reform to anyone who wanted to hear it. He has also spent time in Africa, keeping schools whose status as an open school was threatened by government closure. He has taught in secondary as well as elementary schools, and has conducted studies of schools from the kindergarten level all the way to the university level. In these studies he looks primarily at the role of pre-determined curriculum, textbooks and knowledge determination on teachers and their classrooms. His concern is primarily for teachers, and for how they can move beyond the gendered, classed and politicized roles in the classroom.
Apple is also concerned with a return to conservative values, and with the conservative ilk that is now presenting itself more and more in schools. This concerns him because of a spiral of conditions that are presenting themselves. First, teachers are becoming more strapped for time, and are earning less and less money. This puts a strain on them in many ways, not the least of which is that they will have less time to spend on developing their own curriculum. Curriculum will become more and more standardized, and teachers will lose motivation to create original, engaging lessons. At the same time, conservatives who have political power will begin to demand more and more that teachers teach to their agenda, and that teachers justify what they are teaching. In short, the pressure will become too much for teachers, who have been taught in teacher school to focus more on methods, and less on content, and will not be able to defend their curriculum choices. In turn, they will burn out and either quit, or continue teaching without engagement. This is Apple’s worst nightmare.
The name of the game for Apple is resistance. Resisting cultural norms, resisting curriculum that was created without thought or question, resisting the urge to make things easy and painless. Without resistance, Apple argues, education will be on a steep decline.