Who is E.D. Hirsch, Jr.?Why do we care what he has to say?Click on the link below for a brief biography:http://www.coreknowledge.org/ed-hirsch-jr
What is Cultural Literacy?According to Hirsch, cultural literacy is, “the network of information that all competent readers possess” (Cultural Literacy, pg. 2).Why is it important? If you ask Hirsch, he will tell you that cultural literacy is vital for national communication and comprehension. A person lacking cultural literacy is not truly educated.
How can we better understand Hirsch’s view of cultural literacy? Imagine you turn on an episode of a hit television show, like Revenge. However, this is the first time you’ve watched it, and the show is already half-way through its second season. You can understand the language that the characters are speaking, you can read their body language, but you have difficulty truly comprehending what is occurring on the show. You lack the prior knowledge (knowledge you would have had if you had viewed the series from the beginning) necessary for understanding. Even though you understand what is happening on a superficial level, the words and actions of the characters do not have meaning for you. A lack of cultural literacy can be compared to turning on a show mid-season. “Culturally illiterate” students have the decoding skills necessary to read, but they lack the background knowledge, or cultural literacy, needed to truly comprehend the texts that they are given.
What are some of the topics and facts included in this concept of cultural literacy? Watch the video below for examples:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LadSZ-tB_A
How many items in that video did you recognize?Do you think knowledge of people and topics like Andy Warhol, Shirley Temple, and the War of 1812 are necessary for a person to be considered educated?Do you consider yourself culturally literate?If it were up to you, what would you include in your own list of items that make up cultural literacy?
What does Hirsch have to say about his brainchild? Watch this video to find out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROIujiY1uZUWho decides what is included in cultural literacy?Think, how does cultural literacy fit in with multicultural education? Is this model Eurocentric and elitist? Or does explicit instruction of cultural facts benefit students from different cultures?Lucky for us, Hirsch has provided his very own Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Check it out below:http://books.google.com/books?id=GAzOg4eQl2YC&printsec=frontcover &source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
Cultural Literacy How does Hirsch’s ideas fit in with the other philosophers we’ve studied so far?His ideas clearly differ from Dewey’s. According to Hirsch, Dewey’s school of thought was “full of the educational half-truths of romantic formalism” (Cultural Literacy, pg. 121). Hirsch felt that Dewey’s model for education led to tracking, inconsistency in curriculum, and a growing achievement gap for those who did not have exposure to cultural literacy at home. Hirsch focuses more on the content of curriculum than the method of instruction.What parallels can you draw between Hirsch and, say, Delpit? Ravitch? Mann?
What do some critics say?“Though Hirsh’s books have made the best-seller lists, his theories have been challenged by other educators on pedagogical and social grounds. Critics contend that students using the Core Knowledge curriculums are taught what to think not how to think. In the effort to cover all the essential facts, there is concern more emphasis may be placed on the amount of content covered rather than depth of understanding. The approach has also been criticized for its Eurocentric perspective and marginalized attention to other ethnic and cultural influences in shaping history.” -PBS
How do Hirsch’s ideas fit into the current conversation about education?Lately, the focus has been on the new Common Core Curriculum. (Click here for an overview of the Common Core http://www.corestandards.org/about- the-standards )What does Hirsch think of implementing a Common Core? Read his thoughts in the following blog excerpt:http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest- bloggers/ed-hirsch-jr-common-core-stand.html
Have Hirsch’s ideas helped improve education? According to this article from the New York Times, Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum shows promise:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/nyregion/nonfictio n-curriculum-enhanced-reading-skills-in-new-york- city-schools.html?ref=edhirschjr
Final Thoughts What do you make of Hirsch’s ideas for education reform? Who do you think would win in a debate, Hirsch or Dewey?Is cultural literacy truly the key to success for all of our students? Or will learning much of this content result in nothing more than giving students a chance to win on an episode of Jeopardy?
References Works Cited "About the Standards." Common Core State Standards Initiative. Common Core State Standards Initiative, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <http://www.corestandards.org/about-the-standards>. "Core Knowledge Foundation : E. D. Hirsch, Jr." Core Knowledge Foundation : E. D. Hirsch, Jr. Core Knowledge Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <http://www.coreknowledge.org/ed-hirsch-jr>. Cultural Literacy. YouTube. YouTube, 25 Apr. 2009. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LadSZ-tB_A>. "E.D. Hirsch, Jr." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://www.pbs.org/kcet/publicschool/innovators/hirsch.html>. "Hirsch and Cultural Literacy on McNeil/Lehrer News Hour." YouTube. YouTube, 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROIujiY1uZU>. Hirsch, E. D., Joseph F. Kett, and James S. Trefil. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. New York: Vintage, 1988. Print. Hirsch, E. D., Joseph F. Kett, and James S. Trefil. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. Google Books. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?id=GAzOg4eQl2YC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summar y_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>. Hirsch, E. D., Jr., and Valerie Strauss. "E.D. Hirsch Jr.: Common Core Standards Could Revolutionize Reading Instruction." Web log post. The Answer Sheet -. The Washington Post, 4 June 2010. Web. 29 Oct. 2012. <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/ed-hirsch-jr-common- core-stand.html>. Phillips, Anna M. "Nonfiction Curriculum Enhanced Reading Skills, Study Finds." The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/nyregion/nonfiction-curriculum-enhanced-reading-skills-in- new-york-city-schools.html?ref=edhirschjr>.