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Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) [Paperback]

By E. D. Hirsch (Author)
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Item description for Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) by E. D. Hirsch...

Argues that American children are deprived of cultural literacy

Publishers Description
In this forceful manifesto, Hirsch argues that children in the U.S. are being deprived of the basic knowledge that would enable them to function in contemporary society. Includes 5,000 essential facts to know.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) by E. D. Hirsch has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/1998 page 129

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Vintage
Pages   251
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.08" Width: 5.24" Height: 0.73"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 12, 1988
Publisher   Vintage
ISBN  0394758439  
ISBN13  9780394758435  

Availability  10 units.
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More About E. D. Hirsch

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E. D. Hirsch has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Core Knowledge Series

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Children > Reference & Nonfiction > School & Education
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Education > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Education
4Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Education > General
5Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Education

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Reviews - What do customers think about Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage)?

Strong Indictment of Cultural Illiteracy  Jun 10, 2008
Author E.D. Hirsch makes a strong case for greater cultural literacy in the U.S.A., defined as shared cultural vocabulary and information to facilitate communication. According to the author, culturally literate nations make smarter decisions and faster reforms. Hirsch also takes schools to task for failing to do more than teach our kids to read and write - sometimes we barely do that - and for turning out students unable to think critically and imaginatively. Many would agree that we relate more by sports and film stars than than by shared ideals and knowledge. Historians often attribute periods of great national progress to pro-educational moves (Progressivism, GI Bill), and see the failings of people like George W. Bush as stemming at least partly from cultural illiteracy. Of course, one might ask this: has the USA ever had a truly culturally literate populace? Whatever your view, the author makes an interesting case, and provides a modest list of terms that every American should know - but not many do.
What every American should read  Dec 29, 2007
The only thing more disturbing than the clarion call sounded by E.D. Hirsch in this most timely work, is the fact that many Americans could probably read it and go, "huh?". Hirsch covers all of the important reasons why Americans should have cultural literacy, which he defines as shared cultural vocabulary and information that allows us to communicate and understand each other. Without a common knowledge of this shared history we risk losing the American ideals that have made us great- ingenuity, creativity, and excellent education.
He also comprehensively details the history of cultural literacy in America and where we went wrong. He painstakingly explores both sides of the debate over whether we should become culturally pluralistic or dissolve into an amalgam of cultural heterogeneity, correctly defending the position of universal literacy for all Americans.
All politicians, educators, parents, and literate students must read this book for the educational future of our nation.
I also recommend reading Hirsch's Dictionary of Cultural Literacy and also the one for Children.
excellent resource for those exploring traditional/classical curricula  Feb 24, 2007
I found this book in my research on classical curricula. It was referenced on the "core knowledge" curriculum cite. The basic premise is that children are not being taught what they need to know in order to have a common foundation of knowledge with others, and they are definitely not being taught the knowledge specific to our heritage, which would be Western and American culture. Hirsch does not really name it as such, because the multiculturalism fad really became prominent after the book was written (20 years ago).
The book is not really 272 pp long. The last 120 pages consists of footnotes and the "list" of what Americans should be familiar with in order to be "literate." This is basically an introduction; no specific curriculum is recommended.
What I found helpful is that Hirsch also gives us the historical background of why the classical tradition was dropped for the more "child-centered" and process-driven system, and the faulty logic that was accepted in that changeover.
If you are a classical educator or considering such, or just want another perspective on what is wrong with our current educational system, I think you should read this book.
The Most Definitive Book on Educational Theory of the 20th Century  Mar 19, 2006
Every American educator and most Americans in general need to read this book. It is the most ground breaking text to be written in the United States in the last 100 years. If all schoolboards and educators used this as a guide, we wouldn't have a problem with public education in this country. Unfortunately, the people who need to read it most, will be the ones who won't understand its message. Such is the paradox in American education today.

Do not confuse this book with its companion text "A Dictionary of Cultural Literacy", which several reviewers have done. The original explains Hirsch's theory of "necessary knowledge" and the latter gives brief explanations of all of the items listed in his original book. I agree with one reviewer that a bit more information on each item would be better in the "Dictionary", but it is already a large volume as it is.

Rene Navarre, MBA
Instructor, Remington College
Not what I expected but OK  Feb 1, 2006
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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