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In spite of his prominence in the literature of curriculum, Joseph Schwab's ideas are hard to categorize and can, therefore, be hard to understand. In this paper I attempt to illuminate some aspects of his thinking by considering an exchange of letters I had with him over the period 1979-1982. Study of this correspondence is revealing both for what he has to say and for the way he says it. Away from the temptation to write 'scholarly' prose he deploys an 'oral' style which has amuch more natural affinity with his style of thinking. I suggest that the idea of 'orality' provides an important key to his philosophy of action, and that its manifestation in his writings has to be understood against a background of his close connection with European thought on the one hand and his inherent skills as a teacher on the other.