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The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children Paperback – April 1, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0618872251 ISBN-10: 0618872256 Edition: Reprint

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An important message, eloquently expressed." --Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works

"If we did what E.D. Hirsch said, and made sure that all students, regardless of race, income, or neighborhood, were exposed to a rich, challenging, sequenced curriculum in important subjects, schools could make a much bigger difference than they already do." --Ed McElroy, president, American Federation of Teachers

"[Hirsch] wants to reverse the current emphasis on reading as a mechanical process and replace it with content-rich curriculum that will turn all children into knowledgeable readers. It's a worthy goal for our schools in an increasingly competitive globalized world." New York Post

"On many fronts, Hirsch's book challenges the conventional educational wisdown. Parents ought to check it out." --Rocky Mountain News

"[A] powerful argument . . . [Hirsch's] well-reasoned, common-sense proposals address a vital issue, and his book provides a valuable addition to the debate on public policy in education." --Richmond Times-Dispatch

About the Author

E.D. Hirsch, Jr. is the Linden Kent Memorial Professor of English at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and the author of Cultural Literacy, The First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, and The Core Knowledge Series. Dr. Hirsch is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been a senior fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is president of the Core Knowledge Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to educational reform.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618872256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618872251
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. is the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and professor emeritus of education and humanities at the University of Virginia. He is the author of several acclaimed books on education issues including the best-seller Cultural Literacy. With his subsequent books The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them, The Knowledge Deficit, and The Making of Americans, Dr. Hirsch solidified his reputation as one of the most influential education reformers of our time.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
62%
4 star
23%
3 star
15%
2 star
0%
1 star
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See all 13 customer reviews
Students with special knowledge of subjects are better readers of materials that deal with those subjects.
Richard B. Schwartz
In a nutshell, he says public school students spend way too much time learning reading “strategies” and way too little time reading actual content.
marisolstice
Good content about the nature of langauge aquisition and how a lack of vocabulary and background knowledge can limit its development.
Cynthia Julian

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
The reason I gave this book four stars is that despite the short length, it is a fairly dense book that dangles captivating ideas without fleshing them out clearly until the very end. You keep getting the feeling you know what the author is getting at, but he never gets to the details. Specifically, it seems as though he is never going to tell just what the common knowledge every student should have actually is. In spite of this, it is a worthwhile treatise on problems in education, and specifically the area of reading competency. Everyone, including parents and teachers, suspects that there is a problem with No Child Left Behind and similar standards in education. Hirsch's book suggests one possible way of looking at it. He claims that the stated goals are actually incongruent with what they are testing. Specifically, he points out that reading comprehension is basically a function of background knowledge, but that reading tests often attempt to test generic skills such as comprehension and identification of main ideas, sequence, intent, and the like. His solution is to advocate a standardized curriculum nationwide, grade by grade. He points out that by teaching a standard set of background information, we could avoid many problems that students experience when moving from school to school, and we could level the playing field between students who come in with a lot of prior knowledge and those that do not. He seems to admit, in a roundabout way, that such findings do not mesh well with current ideas on pedagogy and may be difficult to institute because they fall into the realm of unthinkable for cultural reasons.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Karin Chenoweth on January 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
Some of this book is a reintroduction of old themes for E.D. Hirsch. But Chapter three is where he lays out some fascinating history, helping us understand how fragile and precious the American experiment in democracy is and how it needs to be nurtured by an educated citizenry that can draw on common knowledge.

I'm a long-time fan of Hirsch's, so I may be biased. But chapter three is worth the price of this book and is worth reading and rereading for the way it draws on the insights of Abraham Lincoln and many of the founders of the nation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Julian on May 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
I found Hirsch's argument informative and thought provoking. Good content about the nature of langauge aquisition and how a lack of vocabulary and background knowledge can limit its development. Discussion of how schools can use his observations about langauge to close the "shocking education gap".
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
All of Hirsch's books on education are similar. All are right and all are important. The thesis remains the same: colleges of Education have fixated on how-to methods rather than content-rich methods. They believe that `the more we know how . . . the more we learn,' whereas, Hirsch argues, `the more we already know, the more we learn.'

He has illustrated this in various ways. My favorite is to offer a passage and then to note the number of things you have to already know in order to understand that passage. Passages with recognizable words may still be unintelligible if you are ignorant of the subject. Students with special knowledge of subjects are better readers of materials that deal with those subjects.

The problem is, how do we structure a curriculum in such a way as to insure (or at least help insure) that our young, fellow citizens will share enough common knowledge to be able to grow as readers and learners? The bottom line is that, lacking a common curriculum, our students fall behind the students in other countries at their grade level. Moreover, the argument that we have trouble doing that because of our diverse, unequal society, is specious. Other countries with diversity and inequalities are able to surpass us because of their common, core curricula.

In The Knowledge Deficit Hirsch focuses on reading and the methods for teaching and enhancing it. He also, very interestingly, focuses on the roots of college-of-education ideology in romanticism. The book is brief and to the point, accessible to all readers (there is even a section on the definition of the `general reader') and very important in its conclusions.

I particularly like his notion of expressing ourselves to `strangers'. In our homes we speak in a familiar shorthand.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By candace tannous on August 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a place for "knowledge" in education. How about that! Hirsch effectively argues that reading comprehension would improve for kids today if they had more background knowledge, more general knowledge that previous generations seemed to gather naturally. Why the huge deficit in basic info? It's complicated. Hirsch's ideas are winning the argument and have caused the current trend toward placing more nonfiction in curricula.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Lee on November 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Hirsch lays out a lot of research to build his claim that American reading skills suffer, especially at the low end, because local control of the curriculum is tantamount to no control.
Mechanical reading skills and reading strategies, while necessary at times, do not advance the ball when it comes developing a deep understanding of complex content. We need to think seriously about what the common cannon of understanding should be in each grade so students aren't reading random unrelated content that leaves many out in the cold.
The metaphor I liked compared choosing a systematic series of K-12 reading topics to deciding whether to drive on the right, or left side, of the road. Either traffic system works, but each country has to choose one or the other so its citizens know how to drive with each other on busy streets. Likewise we have to decide which grade to teach the Mayflower. It doesn't matter if it's 1st grade, 2nd grade or 8th grade it can be taught well at every grade. But it shouldn't be taught by one teacher in 1st the next in 2nd and so forth boring the students who have read about it before and displacing content that they haven't encountered. The lack of a system hurts mobile students from low SES backgrounds the most, Hirsch says, leaving them so they can't understand what their fellow citizens are writing or saying.
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