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Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know Paperback – April 12, 1988
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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.Read more ›
Hasn't the popularity of "Dummies" books raised a red flag anywhere? What does that say about the average American reader's view of him/herself? Do we sense that we're educationally lacking?
Too many of America's young people do not have, because they haven't been taught, the knowledge they need to preserve the exceptional way of life they've inherited. They know Harry Potter and West Wing but not the Peloponnesian Wars or who said, "To be or not to be." They are culturally illiterate.
Cultural literacy is the background information we need to know in order to understand and to communicate in our society. Without it we wouldn't understand what a reviewer says when he likens Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" to "Cinderella" or when a pundit says the environment is a politician's Achilles heel.
"To be culturally literate," Hirsch says, "is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world." Readers must understand the writer's unspoken "systems of associations."
I've taught college-level writing classes and have been astounded to meet students who have never read a book, who don't understand the simplest references to classical literature and who, frankly, don't care.
This ignorance threatens our very existence as a free nation. One of the most important points Hirsch makes is the need for the average citizen to understand enough science to comprehend debates about environmental and political issues. He cites the debate over the Strategic Defense Initiative and says of the voting public, "...Read more ›
A fine example is in the medical profession where the first year focuses narrowly on the rote memorization of the body. Without a set knowledge (knowing) of anatomy and the related maladies it is impossible to make effective diagnosis (analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating).
As an educator I have experienced first hand the industry driven mandate to produce a more effective group of critical and creative thinkers. In the process we have tragically discovered that such an endeavor is impossible without first teaching content. The kernal of Hirsch's position is that critical and creative thinking are absolutely intertwined with specific content. We as educators, parents and members of society are cheating our children and our futures if we fail to mutually and communaly provide a central frame of reference (or schema). Without such a frame of reference, contribution to and therefore extension of our culture will become but a distant memory.
We have been asked to focus upon the process of guess and go and the cult of the "How did you arrive at that solution?" over the precise "what are we putting into their heads". This is of course saying nothing of the cult of the self esteem. The result? I have seen the result as manifested in declining test scores, a rise of self absorbtion and an ever narrowing of world awareness.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Old book, and as the author correctly pointed out, his list of notable places, things, and especially people have changed since the book was published, but the main ideas of the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by T. Dreiling
This book was an excellent read regarding educational issues in contemporary America. I will certainly consider other purchases by E.D. Hirsch.Published 3 months ago by David Ebbert
"Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?" These song lyrics could have been written by the author of this book. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Goggle-Eyed Slewfoot
An education explained! what our children are severly lacking ,absolute truths. very helpful for homeschool.A civil society needs this base knowledge in common to stay united.Published 8 months ago by Respite
A handy book for any personal library or student prepping for collegePublished 10 months ago by Katherine Margeson
The 1988 version of Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. is a boring ramble about what every American needs to know. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mr. Math Expert
I had to buy this book for a class but wound up really liking it. I've re-read it a couple of times just because it really makes me think about how I interact with other people. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Jessica Brown