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ABSTRACT This paper shows that the stated principles and content of the National Curriculum are those presupposed in any justification of education in a democracy. What it also shows is that the National Curriculum can only genuinely exercise its democratic role in the kind of society which provides the social and cultural conditions necessary for its practical application. But since the National Curriculum is being implemented in a society which lacks these conditions, any failure to provide an ‘education for democracy’ will not be a failure of the curriculum it prescribes, but of the kind of democratic society in which it is being enacted.