Apple (2010) Global crisis, social justice, and education

For some time I have been deeply interested in the work of Michael Apple. Apple’s writing on the politics of curriculum (specifically 1990, 1995, 2000), his work with James Beane on democratic schools (see 1995, 1999, 2007), and more recently his edited works in the field of critical education (2009, 2010) have helped me form some of my core values around learning, society and humanity.

Over the last month, I have also taken an interest in the work of Leigh Blackall(Leigh’s Blog). Leighs interests in deschooling, free schools and social change caused me to contact him. After looking over some blogged reading notes of Leighs, and having a short Twitter conversation with him I will be posting a few reading notes of my own starting with Michael Apple’s newest work here. I hope they are helpful to those considering these topics.

Apple, M. (2010). Global crisis, social justice, and education. New York: Routledge.


This is a very important work for those seeking change in learning. Global crisis, social justice, and education is an affirmation of so much thinking and reading I have done on the need for a mutation in education. My doctoral research looks at a nexus of critical education and the possibilities of networked learning ecologies to fundamentally shift the non-democratic systems of education. This book has been a good resource in many ways. The silent power of neo-liberalism is easy to set aside in the world of internet freedoms. Apple helps us remember that as reseachers, designers, and practitioners in the field we have a role to play in international human rights, the common good, and as critical scholar/activists in our learning communities.

Apple uses Rosa (2008, p.4) in Global crisis, social justice, and education to introduce the seminal arguments of critical education (p.19):

Radical Democracy is not just born out of our option to participate in the ordinary political infrastructure. It is a process involving the ongoing democratization of civil society, the constant interrogation of how exclusion on the grounds of multiple markers occurs even when progressive projects are unfolding, and problematizing of conditions that fail to clal into question the various ways in which economic systems undermine political cultures, The term encodes democracy as unfinished. Educators need more exposure to such language given the reality of schools as highly undemocratic spheres where various oppressive ideologies converge in front of a captive audience. A democratic political system cannot com to fruition if the institutions of that society are undemocratic, anti-democratic, or fail to (re) create the structures and conditions that lead to further democratization. Democracy flourishes when democratic cultures are the norm.


In Global crisis, social justice, and education, Apple outlines an argument and challenge for critical educators and weaves the need for critical education (a nexus of scholarly endeavor: ideation, research, development, and activism), post-colonial mentalities and systems thinking to address the multifaceted pressures facing global education, in a globalized world.


Apple et al. use four regional case studies, the US, Japan, the Israel|Palestinian state , and Latin America to prove that critical educators (teachers, researchers, learners) and social movements are needed to countervail the neo-liberal, and neo-conservative designs (against social justice and progressive education) surfacing as reform movements around the world as entrenched facets of globalization.


Apple frames global crisis using a neo-marxist (world sytems theory) and radical democractic framework to explain how an integrated international economy effects core and periphery states. Global crisis emerges when the states both core and periphery adopt neo-liberal (market based reforms that further marginalize subaltern groups ,and place increasing power with corporations and business) and neo-conservative ( hegemonic control through militarism and economic policy). Apple argues that these forces denude social justice through “reform’s”. These reforms focus on socio-economic policy, and education. Apple argues that neo-liberal and neo-conservative “reform” actively sideline democratic and progressive education initiatives that foster awareness and action for the subaltern and state in favor of curriculum standardization (US, Israel, Japan), unfair distribution of educational resources to subaltern groups (Palestinian State, United States, Mexico) and in many cases human rights violations Palistinian State, Isreal). Apple et. al use this framework to highlight effective progressive movements working to counter neo-liberal and neo-conservative reform and to call on those in the field of education to proliferate the frameworks of critical education in research and practice.

Apple et al. illuminate the social movements, critical educators (p.40-45 Byrd Academy)(1), (p.55, role of “schools”) and the power of new networked learning;(p.94-100),(p.136-153 see note 17 Caspi(1979) and The Kedma School,(170-185 CEAAL), that are challenging neo-liberal, and neo-conservative hegemonic proliferation. In doing so we are given both inspiration, and example of movements, projects and people working to address critical education and globalization. These progressive schools are unique according to Apple because they have risen in opposition to neo-liberal and neo-conservative “reforms” in areas where where these policies are prolific and well entrenched (The United States, Japan, Isreal/Palestinian State, and Mexico).

Specifics of Interest: On Our Role as Researchers and Practitioners

Apple states that the new critical educator may engage in research acting as secretaries to social movements centered around education….Apple et al provide reminders, ideas and resources both theoretical and empirical regarding critical education, and the role of the “organic”,or “Public” intellectual. (He uses Gramsci from the Prison Journals well here (p.17).

“I and many others have argued that education must be seen as a political act”

” The restructured role of the researcher–one who sees his or her task as thinking as rigorously and critically as possible about the relations between the policies and practices that are taken for granted in education and the larger sets of dominant economic, political, and cultural relations, and then connects this to action with and by social movements is crucial to what we are doing with this book.”

Apple reminds us that education can and should be viewed as activism.

I have at my core a belief and share with Apple as a critical educator that education can be the determinant of peace and unity in our world. That said I believe that world systems theory and the economic division of the world described by Apple et al. has led to a very dangerous place for humanity. The huge division of wealth and access to resources in the world has led to radicalization and anti-democratic policy’s in education.

How we recognize the role of critical education in our network learning ideation, research, design and practice is of concern to me. Leigh Black
, Stephen Downes, and George Seimens and recently Florian Schneider have all given me cause for hope.


Apple on Critical Education: this is a good Introduction (translation is edited out here) See original here.

Apple, M. W. (1990). Ideology and curriculum. New York: Routledge.
Apple, M. W., & Beane, J. A. (2007). Democratic schools: lessons in powerful education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Apple, M. W. (2000). Official knowledge: democratic education in a conservative age. New York: Routledge.
Apple, M. W. (1995). Education and power. New York: Routledge.
Apple, M. W., Au, W., & Gandin, L. A. (2009). The Routledge international handbook of critical education. New York: Routledge.
Apple, M. (2010). Global crisis, social justice, and education. New York: Routledge.
Apple, M. Theory, Research, and the Critical Scholar/Activist. Educational Researcher March 2010 39: 152-155)
Gramsci, A. : Prison Journal’s on Education and “selections 1st ed.”(1971)
Rosa, R. (2008) Savage Neo-Liberalism Education Review, 11, 1-17

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  1. many thanks Thomas. I've bookmarked this post to my Delicious under deschooling and free-learning, as well as added the video of Apple speaking to my Deschooling playlist. I've retweeted you into Richard Hall, Joss Winn and Dougald Hine (if you weren't already communicating with the "UK Connection" 🙂 also Roberto Greco in San Diego. Persoanlly, I am finding these people are writing the most radical, so I hope we can strengthen a network with them.

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