This article places art and design education into their social contexts and traces processes through which some art forms are given centre place whereas others continue to be marginalised. The relationships between cultural elites and the lay public, cross-overs between different cultures, and the transitions to which art forms and practices are subjected under the rules of market economics are, to some extent, mirrored in educational settings and curricula. While this article is not directly about the arts curriculum in New Zealand, links have been made with that particular document in order to compliment articles by other writers in this issue. I argue that strategies of distance and differentiation (between system and life-world theory and practice, or ethnicity and repressive multiculturalism, see Žižek, 1997: 45; 1998: 997) will be replicated in schools an universities, unless a number of assumptions are put into question. While, for example, The Arts in the New land Curriculum document (The Ministry of Education, 2000) encourages cultural diversity and the respect for difference between cultures, these concepts are neither explored nor rendered specific. This entails a danger of perpetuating naturalised views of culture that have a history of enshrining racisms. The arts curriculum also values community links - but, on closer inspection, what is meant is the arts community. This begs the question as to how much arts education will attend to problems around the marginalisation of practices that have not been accorded the status of art. An indication of this problematic is perhaps evidenced by the fact that words such as decoration or ornamentation are not mentioned once in the whole document.