Cultural Literacy - Issues & Term Paper

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Excerpt from Term Paper: goes on to say some critics see Hirsch's efforts to bring culture into the classroom are not so much "cultural literacy" but more like "cultural indoctrination." Not only is the Hirsch strategy and methodology seen as flawed, Andre and Velasquez continue, the "content" he prescribes is subject to criticism. For example, the question of "Whose form of knowledge, culture, vision, history and authority will prevail as the national culture?" should be asked, and Hirsch knows that is an issue. "Will they, like Hirsch, be white, middle-class males?" Andre wonders, and will they be elitist?

Hirsch meanwhile answers these accusations in his Core Knowledge Web site, saying that the contend must arise from "a broad consensus of diverse groups and interests." That consensus should include the parents, teachers, scientists, "professional curriculum organizations, and experts on America's multicultural traditions." The "central motivation behind" his core knowledge initiative is "to guarantee equal access for all to knowledge necessary for higher literacy and learning" (Hirsch (

Seven: If there are identifiable political tones within Hirsch's view of what American students should study they would be considered progressive, or "liberal" in today's vernacular. For example, on page 300, "Reagan, Ronald" (a very conservative president) is seen as a man who promised to "work towards a balanced federal budget" but in fact "the federal government went deeper into DEBT throughout Reagan's presidency" (Hirsch 300). If Hirsch was a political conservative, he would not likely have used the fact of Reagan piling up the national debt. And on page 301, "Religious Right" is defined as "A coalition of RIGHT-WING (Hirsch's emphasis) Protestant fundamentalist leaders" but a conservative author would not have used "right wing."

Annotated Bibliography

Booklist. "Reference Books Bulletin: The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy." (2003): 1702.

In the first edition of Hirsch's book, the author was criticized as being "elitist," but the Subsequent editions add "tools for assessing cultural literacy" that makes sense and Now it does "keep up with changes in American culture."

Chylinski, Manya S. "Hirsch, E.D. Jr., & others. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know." Library Journal, 127.18 (2002): 78-80. Chylinski writes that the book has been given "an exciting update" - "sorely needed"...for those "who like to have a great reference work..."

Giddings, Louise R. "Beyond E.D. Hirsch and Cultural Literacy: Thinking Skills for Cultural

Awareness." Community Review Vol. 16. (1998): 109-119. Hirsch's arguments "seem

Reasonable and logical," Giddings writes, but asks, "Who decides what is important to be Learned?" And also, "Who controls what cultural information is conveyed to the public?"

Gold, Sarah F.; Rotella, Mark; Andriani, Lynn; Chenoweth, Emily; Scharf, Michael; & Zaleski,

Jeff. "The new Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (Book): Nonfiction What Every American

Needs to Know." Publisher's Weekly 249.39 (2002): 59. It "will be a godsend" for Home schoolers and teachers looking to give students a basic reference..."

Krystal, Arthur. "At Large and at Small: What Do You Know?" The American Scholar 68.2

1999): 7-14. Krystal is "not persuaded that every American should know what's on the list," and he's not sure the list "really suggests what most literate Americans do know."

Krystal puts down the book's usefulness.

Mecham, John. "What you need to know now." Newsweek 150.2 (2007): 34-37. Mecham's

Point is that far from the original debate when the first edition of Hirsch's book came out today the tone is more positive, and yet, "there cannot be a single, definitive list of what Americans should know..."

Nesselrodt, Pamela S. "Share the Knowledge: A Review of the Core Knowledge Series." Journal

Of Education for Students Placed at Risk 1.1 (1996): 99-104. The author believes Hirsch's

Idea that core knowledge should be share is "solid." The program is "dynamic," not "static,"

And that is as it should be.

O'Neil, John. "Core Knowledge & Standards: A Conversation with E.D. Hirsch Jr." Educational

Leadership (1999): 78-79. This interview very fairly points out what Hirsch's real thrust is Rather than attack it with loaded questions. Hirsch says about 50% of curriculum should be Core knowledge and 50% in the teachers' hands.

Peltier, Gary; & Noonan, David W. "Influential Publications in Education 1950-2002."

Clearing House 76.4 (2003): 215-217. These editors call it "a surprise" that Hirsch's book

Made the list of influential publications. Some researchers studying student achievement

Apparently believe that the book will become one method to "improve test scores."

Woo, Elaine. "Educator Hirsch Winning Cultural Literacy Debate." Human Events 53.6 (1997):

14-16. The liberals "bashed" Hirsch's first book, calling him "the boogeyman of public education," but ten years later, Hirsch is loved by liberals, and by many educators. Hirsch's message "resounds common sense, educationally and politically correct."


On pages viii-ix of his book's Preface, Hirsch points to Horace Mann and Herman Melville in an attempt to present the idea that education should embrace culture as well as facts and formulas. In a democracy, Hirsch writes, bringing Mann into the context, there should be a strong link between "community and communication"; there should be shared knowledge in the community to enlarge "the cultivated class or caste a wider area over which the social feelings will expand" (Hirsch viii). He also quotes from Melville, in terms of America as a place for a diversity of thought and ethnicity; "Our blood is as the flood of the…[continue]

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