The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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

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

Product Details

  • File Size: 512 KB
  • Print Length: 197 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Publication Date: April 1, 2007
  • Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003JTHWCI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,018 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Whew! This one was a bit of a slog, but worth reading. The Knowledge Deficit by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. The author makes the case that Americans are terribly lacking in general knowledge that ought to help us be literate citizens, and help define our common culture. I admire his idealism and zeal for public school reform, although in my opinion, that is a losing battle from the start. Brain science and education are not my specialties, but he has a convincing argument for how to teach reading comprehension. In a nutshell, he says public school students spend way too much time learning reading “strategies” and way too little time reading actual content. They stay at a low level of literacy, because reading comprehension depends on background knowledge. Authors assume the general public has some familiarity with many topics. So, if someone reads an article about baseball, he needs to know how the game is played, and maybe what the World Series is, or he will have a hard time comprehending the article, even if he is a “good” reader.

Hirsch would like to see more time spent reading (history, arts, literature, science) in the classroom so that everyone has a “common core” of knowledge. Not to be confused with the most recent Common Core! He also delves into the lack of any coherent, continual curriculum for the public schools, and the disservice it does to students, especially those from lower social classes.

As a homeschooler, about half the content of this book was not particularly relevant (other than reaffirming my decision to keep our kids out of public school at this point). It does help pinpoint why the system is so broken. And I found the reading section useful, and thought-provoking.
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