132 of 137 people found the following review helpful
Not what I expected but OK
, February 1, 2006
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Paperback)
First off I think some reviewers are giving people the wrong idea of what this book has to offer. I think they meant to review the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy and not this book. After reading some of their reviews I purchased this book and it is not exactly what they led me to believe it was.
This book is made up of essentially two parts. The first part Hirsch put forth his theory that Americans are losing their ability to communicate effectively because they are lacking a common knowledge on certain core items. He sites back when people had a more standard education and were forced to read more because of a lack of television they were more commonly grounded in the same types of information.
To explain this theory simply he illustrates giving directions in a city when people assume you are a native to that city. The directions are simple because it is assumed one is familiar with certain landmarks (core knowledge). When giving directions to someone the believe to be a tourist, the directions get a lot more detailed because these people presumably lack the same knowledge of landmarks (core knowledge).
It is a very interesting theory and he backs it up with a lot of research. This book would be of great interest to anyone that is an educator by profession. It might be a little boring to anyone else. Some people have commented that this is a very conservative or right-leaning book. I really don't see that at all. He looks at this theory from the perspective of other cultures as well and the theory holds up. He does say that things people need to know to be culturally literate are often based on Western culture. This is true for the most part. He should not be vilified for pointing out the obvious. He doesn't say that one society is better than another. He just acknowledges that people of different cultures tend to have knowledge of certain things and that it is helpful to be familiar with those items.
The second part is an extensive list of cultural knowledge that experts have agreed on 90% of the time to be relevant. This is only a list. In no way does it define them or elaborate on them. That is what is supposedly spelled out in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, the book I thought I was getting.
If you are an educator or interested in educating get this book. If you are interested in getting an education then skip this one.
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