Power discourse and the curriculum: silences in the high school geography curriculum of South Africa

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Virginia Tech

South Africa is currently undergoing a process of political change. Educational renewal inevitably will be an important part of the restructuring of that society. This study examines the use of school textbooks as instruments of domination. It explores the proposition that the dominant ideology in a society is perpetuated by the discourse in school textbooks, while at the same time the voices of subordinated people are silenced within textbooks. To investigate these notions, the study analyzes the discourse in a South African high school geography curriculum and textbook, to search for discursive strategies which perpetuate the dominant ideology of apartheid. Apartheid ideology is dedicated to maintaining white supremacy. In practice, apartheid means the spatial separation of the population along racial/ethnic lines. Therefore apartheid shaped South Africa's space and environment. The study is informed by theoretical perspectives of power relations which explore the nexus among power, knowledge, and discourse. Discursive strategies used in the text to silence the voices of subordinated people are identified. This provides geographers, and others involved with textbooks, with a tool to analyze textbooks. Measures are proposed which could be implemented to give voice in curricula and textbooks to marginalized people.