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Young, M. (1971) Knowledge and Control


‘...what might be meant by the notion of knowledge being socially organized or constructed.’


 'The school curriculum becomes just one of the mechanisms through which knowledge is ‘socially distributed’. 


 ‘ far and by what criteria were different knowledge areas stratified.  I would argue that it is the most important, for it is through this idea that we are led to consider the social basis of different kinds of knowledge and we can begin to raise questions about relations between power structure and curricula, the access to knowledge and the opportunities to legitimize it as ‘superior’, and the relation between knowledge and its functions in different kinds of society.’


‘If knowledge is highly stratified there will be a clear distinction between what is taken to count as knowledge, and what is not, on the basis of which processes of selection and exclusion for curricula will take place.’

‘This type of curricula organization presupposes and serves to legitimate a rigid hierarchy between teacher and taught, for if not, some access to control by pupils would be implied, and thus the process of exclusion and selection would become more open for modification and change.’


‘Over-simplifying’, ‘the dominant characteristics of high-status knowledge, which will hypothesise as the organising principles underlying academic curricula. These are literacy, or an emphasis on written as opposed to oral presentation; individualism...which focuses on how academic work is assessed and is characteristic of both the ‘process’ of knowing and the way the ‘product’ is presented; abstractness o f the knowledge and its structuring and compartmentalising independently of the knowledge of the learner; finally...the unrelatedness of academic curricula, which refers to the extent to which they are ‘at odds’ with daily life and common experience.’

If the status of knowledge is as above then the organizing principle of academic knowledge would be ‘abstract, highly literate, individualistic and unrelated to non-school knowledge.’

Following this the ‘conditions under which (non-academic) curricula will be organized in terms of oral presentation, group activity and assessment, concreteness of the knowledge involved and its relatedness to non-school knowledge.’



Young, M. (1998).The Curriculum of the Future: From the ‘new sociology of education’ to a critical theory of learning’. London. Routledge Falmer


The curriculum is not simply imposed on pupils and teachers. The curriculum is a ‘historically specific social reality which teachers act on and thus transform’.


The dominant view of the curriculum is summed by the words of Maxine Greene (1971): ‘a structure of socially prescribed knowledge external to the knower, there to be mastered.’

Young calls this dominant view of the curriculum as the ‘curriculum as fact’ view.


‘Curriculum as fact’ is ‘mystifying’ because ‘it presents the curriculum as having a life of its own and obscures the social contexts in which it is embedded; at the same time it leaves the curriculum as given- neither understandable or changeable.’


The curriculum is socially produced.

When treated as fact= ‘The curriculum becomes  something to be preserved or brought up to date for high achievers, modified or made more relevant for low achievers...’


‘Keddie (1971) describes well what is involved in such a conception of curriculum and teaching. She argues that, in order to succeed in school, students must become initiated into the teacher’s forms of knowledge and avoid questioning its grounds.’