Legitimation of Poverty in School Economics Textbooks in South Africa
Keywords:poverty; critical discourse analysis; ideology; legitimation; textbooks
In South Africa, the school textbook remains a powerful source of content knowledge to both teachers and learners. Such knowledge is often engaged uncritically by textbook users. As such, the worldviews and value systems in the knowledge selected for consumption remain embedded and are likely to do powerful ideological work. In this article, we present an account of the ideological orientations of knowledge in a corpus of school economics textbooks. We engage the tenets of critical discourse analysis to examine the representations of the construct “poverty” as a taught topic in the Further Education and Training Economics curriculum. Using Thompson’s legitimation as a strategy and form-function analysis as specific analytical tools, we unearth the subtext of curriculum content in a selection of Grade 12 Economics textbooks. The study reveals how power and domination are normalised through a strategy of economic legitimation, thereby offering a “legitimate” rationale for the existence of poverty in the world. The article concludes with implications for curriculum and a humanising pedagogy, and a call for embracing critical knowledge on poverty in the South African curriculum.
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