Thursday, February 25, 2010

Week 8: The schools we need and why we don't have them

Week 8: The schools we need and why we don't have them, by E. D. Hirsch

It took me forever to read this book by the Cultural Literacy guy, E. D. Hirsch. His main theme here is that the US needs a common core curriculum in all public schools, and that anyone looking to further "progressive" goals like social justice and equality is going to have to adopt educational philosophies that are usually considered conservative.

I do agree with quite a few of his ideas--he's got me convinced that we should have a common curriculum in the US (good luck getting that one passed), and that the American insistence that we are unique and can't learn from other countries' successes is wrong. But I disagree with his position that nearly all children will learn at approximately the same pace if you give them solid, slow-and-steady instruction. In my experience, some kids are just not going to learn to read by age 6--and as long as they're getting plenty of oral instruction and aren't made to hate the whole idea of reading, that will work out just fine.

Hirsch wrote this book in about 1999. Since then, we've seen a lot more of what he was protesting in public schools. It doesn't look like he'll get his way anytime soon.

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