Michael Whitman Apple Essay

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Michael Whitman Apple is among the most prominent critical educational theorists working in the United States and a leading social activist. A former elementary and high school teacher, he was vice president and president of the Teachers Union in Paterson and Pitman, New Jersey, from 1962 to 1966. Apple received his bachelor’s degree in education in 1967 from Glassboro State College, his master’s in curriculum philosophy at Columbia University in 1968, and his EdD in 1970 from Columbia University.

His unpublished doctoral dissertation, “Relevance and Curriculum: A Study in Phenomenological Sociology of Knowledge,” can be seen as the starting point for much of his subsequent work. In 1970, he joined the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1991, he became chair.

A profoundly complex figure—his thinking is broader than any label—his organic intellectuality draws from analytic philosophy, the new sociology of education, and political science. A prolific writer, his works include Education and Power, Teachers and Texts, Official Knowledge, Cultural Politics and Education, Democratic Schools (coauthored with James Beane), Educating the Right Way, and without any doubt one of the most important educational works of the modern era, Ideology and Curriculum.

Apple’s work exhibits three major (r)evolutionary stages in thinking—what has been described elsewhere as “Applean trilogies” (Paraskeva, 2007): (a) issues of power, identity, cultural politics, curriculum theory, and research; (b) critical teaching; and (c) the development of democratic schools.


  1. Paraskeva, J. (2007). Here I stand: A long revolution (Vol. 1). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
  2. Weis, L., McCarthy, C., & Dimitriadis, G. (Eds.). (2006). Ideology, curriculum, and the new sociology of education: Revisiting the work of Michael Apple. New York: Routledge.

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