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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting worthwhile read
Interesting insights into how people learn to read. Hirsch makes the case that reading is not just skill but requires some content to provide context and make reading more efficient (and enjoyable). Also intriquing is the idea of defining the reading context in terms of a national literacy. (A good way to appreciate these issues is to try to learn a foreign language...
Published on 11 Mar 1999

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Trivial Pursuit Approach to Education
Hirsch, in his Introduction, argues that a four-word Shakesperean quotation, "There is a tide" (from "Julius Caesar," meaning "Act now!") would be a more apt business communication than providing a business audience with "lots of examples" and "reasons" to support the argument that it's essential to take action...
Published on 17 Feb 1999


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting worthwhile read, 11 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) (Paperback)
Interesting insights into how people learn to read. Hirsch makes the case that reading is not just skill but requires some content to provide context and make reading more efficient (and enjoyable). Also intriquing is the idea of defining the reading context in terms of a national literacy. (A good way to appreciate these issues is to try to learn a foreign language enough to understand the media of a foreign country.)
The controversial stuff comes from the rejection of the Rousseau/Dewey teaching doctrine, and the proposal for a national standard for teaching content knowledge in primary and secondary school. Hirsch claims that it is teaching doctine, rather than parenting, that is behind the lack of literacy in American children. This was not so convincing as he cites data that indicate that children who spent more time studying do better at reading. It is clear that Hirsch is embroiled in quite an educator doctrine controversy.
In any case, the list at the end of the book was a hoot, and I was pleased to find that I knew what most things were and had at least heard of everything else. It would have been nice if the list could have come with reference information but then the book would have been several times larger (maybe someone should come up with a web site devoted to the list). Running down items in the list has been a lot of fun and I still look at the list from time to time when I feel the need to expand my cultural literacy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The cultural genome and the limits of short term memory, 17 May 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) (Paperback)
The mind can only hold a small number of items in short term memory. Thoughts must be compressed and routed into long term memory or forgotten. Some of the destinations and compression schemes are, for literate people, taken from the shared culture. This book is a dictonary of that shared cullture. This material should be on-line in some way. I wish the authors had e-mail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is a must read for parents and teachers, 19 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) (Paperback)
As a future educator it is very important to familiarize oneself with various educational theories and this is one that definitely should be included one's repetoire. The concept of cultural literacy is very controversial in many ways, but it is well worth the discussion that it inspires. This book is bound to evoke a strong response from its readers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars worth the read, also check out the Dictionary, 23 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) (Paperback)
Worth the read, some interesting ideas to chew on. Someone mentioned in a review about putting the stuff in the list online. Well, there is a book by the Hirsch called "The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy" which might be a nice compliment to any classroom, I have one in my 3rd grade class.
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4.0 out of 5 stars give it a read, 31 Mar 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) (Paperback)
I thought it important to say that this books does not come from the same viewpoint as "Closing of American Mind" -- to which it is often compared. The ideas here deserve a read by anyone interested in education and especially by teachers.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for all concerned with education., 15 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) (Paperback)
I read this book in 1995 and found it fundamentally correct with respect to two ideas: 1) that a core of knowledge is necessary to infer, read-between-the-lines, and to understand wholly much written material; 2) that *content* is vital in education - the mental organization of which (though association and other means) is essential to becoming educated. To demonstrate another assertion, namely that public education is largely failing, Hirsch claims that a majority of high school seniors can not correctly answer this question: "in what decades did the Civil War, World War I, and World War II occur?" I was 35 when I read this and asked it of a 25-year-old architect - who would not even attempt it.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Trivial Pursuit Approach to Education, 17 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) (Paperback)
Hirsch, in his Introduction, argues that a four-word Shakesperean quotation, "There is a tide" (from "Julius Caesar," meaning "Act now!") would be a more apt business communication than providing a business audience with "lots of examples" and "reasons" to support the argument that it's essential to take action. Therein lies the problem, as Hirsch prefers canonical, elitist allusion to real argument. Hirsch's list of 5,000 items "that every American needs to know" is a fascinating collection of information that--it's clear--Hirsch *himself* has learned over the years. Whether WE need to know--for example--that cutting the Gordion knot means to "solve any complex problem quickly" is clearly debatable. One can't study Hirsch's list without feeling as if he's entered a time warp, as contemporary culture is almost wholly slighted (as are women and minorities, not surprisingly). There are few, if any, computer terms, only a handful of sports items--in a culture dominated by sports--and a list of musical performers that ends chornologically with The Beatles. Hirsch readily admits that he's advocating a "hazy, superficial" understanding of the terms on his list, but that doesn't stop him from positing that a recognition of those same items makes one culturally literate (and thus educated). No matter that each of us would create a different list of items that we think Americans should know. As the old joke goes, learning the items on Hirsch's list allows you to talk about anything for five minutes and nothing for ten. Nevertheless, this is a seminal work for understanding the thinking of those who've uncritically accepted the failure of public schooling in America. And it makes watching "Jeopardy!" a lot more fun.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OH THAT LIST!, 24 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) (Paperback)
In his treatise on the (lowly) state of US public education, Hirsch seems to stop short of theorizing his hypothesis. In fact, he appears as guilty of short changing students as the institutions he decries. I do not fully comprehend his want of a national core cirricullum, or how such a method would result in a nation of better readers. It seems to me that diversity is more important than a single national web of knowledge. I understand that if his list of 5,000 facts contained even a sample of the item, this book would be too cumbersome for bookstores. What I don't understand is why Babe Ruth is on the list, and Hank Aaron is not. Did someone say "elitism"?
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Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage)
Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Vintage) by James S. Trefil (Paperback - 1 May 1988)
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