- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Education Press (30 Sept. 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1612509525
- ISBN-13: 978-1612509525
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
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Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Theories Paperback – 30 Sep 2016
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"Hirsch's call for 'a better-educated citizenry' should be heeded by educators and administrators alike." --Publishers Weekly
"Hirsch's call for curricular coherency through deep content knowledge is a welcome proposal in an era of narrowed curriculum and skills-based high-stakes testing." --Pamela Bolotin Joseph, Educational Review
From the Back Cover
Why Knowledge Matters addresses critical issues in contemporary education reform and shows how cherished truisms about education and child development have led to unintended and negative consequences. Drawing on recent findings in neuroscience and data from France, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., provides new evidence for the argument that a carefully planned, knowledge-based elementary curriculum is essential to providing the foundations for children's life success and ensuring equal opportunity for students of all backgrounds.
"Knowledge matters! Anyone who has struggled to read an article stuffed with technical or legal jargon, or with arcane references to obscure places and events, has had a taste of what it's like to be a child who has been deprived of the cultural touchstones that literate adults take for granted. Hirsch is performing a brave and invaluable service by reminding us that proficient reading depends not just on skilled eyes and ears but on an educated mind."
--Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of The Language Instinct and The Sense of Style
"Hirsch has done it again. He has produced the most clear and well-grounded argument for why a knowledge-centric education is critical for enhancing educational equity. He pulls no punches. Why Knowledge Matters provides thoughtful solutions to important education issues."
--Susan B. Neuman, professor and chair, Teaching and Learning Department, Steinhardt School, New York University
"If you are frustrated and angry about the over-testing of students, the narrowing of the curriculum, the scapegoating of teachers, and the persistence of the achievement gap, you must read this brilliant book. Hirsch persuasively explains how all these phenomena are related, and points the way forward to a better education for all."
--Daniel T. Willingham, professor, University of Virginia
E. D. Hirsch, Jr. is the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation.
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Hirsch also argues for the transmission of cultural knowledge specific to the nations in which the education is taking place. He therefore recommends a curricular programme designed to introduce children to what 'every American (or English) child needs to know'. He is an advocate of the idea of a core curriculum common to all national schools and, by implication in England, a national curriculum that doesn't mince words about the cultural knowledge that children in English schools need to acquire through their schooling. He does not only recommend this kind of education. He also shows what goes badly wrong when knowledge is jettisoned, illustrating this with powerful case studies from France and the USA.
Hirsch has sometimes been treated like a 'pariah' (his own words) because of these views, but he is finally coming into his own, both in England, where his influence is apparent in the recently revised national curriculum, and in the USA via the Common Core State Standards, which President Trump unfortunately appears neither to understand nor to like.
This is a book that needs to be read by anyone, in any Western country, charged with educational decision-making.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Why Knowledge Matters refines and updates the arguments of some of Hirsch's earlier work--with references to cognitive science, analyses of the Common Core State Standards and other recent developments, and reflections on the curricular "revolution" in France. Hirsch makes his points with wisdom and wit, avoiding politicization and dogma while stressing the communal purposes of education. (It is this commonality, he notes, that allows students to form their own opinions and tastes through interchange with each other.) The book abounds with helpful references--studies, histories, first-hand accounts, literary works, and much more.
It has to be said again and again, and Hirsch says it here: privileged children gain much of their broad cultural knowledge outside of school; poor children depend largely on school for such knowledge. So school cannot be a free-for-all, where some people learn things and others do not. The instruction has to be deliberate and substantial. (I would add that such instruction can benefit privileged/advanced students as well; they have opportunities to structure their learning, view topics from new perspectives, and challenge themselves to new levels.)
If you are a member of the "choir"--that is, if you already support the idea of strong curriculum, then the book can take your thinking further. I especially enjoyed the parts with which I slightly disagreed; they challenged me to refine my views. No going to sleep at my post here.
I recommend this book for teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, students, journalists, and anyone else interested in education as a public good.
A simple look at standardized state-level elementary Language Arts tests proves the point: How can we expect to make sense of what our youngsters really learn at school when they have to respond to test questions such as "Which paragraph in the passage above best answers the following question..." or "Which of the following might be the best subtitle for paragraph #3?" Perhaps the worst culprit of all (as acknowledged by Hirsch) encountered on tests is "Which of the following best represents the main idea of the passage" when even teachers and instructional coaches gather to debrief after the test and can't agree on which is the best answer. Really? ...and then we wonder why our children do so poorly on tests, all the while having completely purged the curriculum of any grammar instruction,etc.?
Kudos to Mr. Hirsch for not only shedding light on the failure of so many of these upstart educational theories, but also for backing up his own research with the latest proven international findings (e.g., in France and Japan) and for doing it without mean-spirited name calling.
Especially if used in conjunction with his previously published "nuts and bolts" grade-level essential knowledge workbooks, our teachers and parents would be so much better off listening to what Hirsch has to say than to get lost in the fuzzy musings of so many educational theorists out to make a quick buck.