E.D. Hirsch is a renowned researcher from the University of Virginia who wrote the bestselling Cultural Literacy in 1987. It l launched a foundation and myriad curricular reform efforts that proved effective but have not been widely adopted due to ideological resistance and inertia. Hirsch describes himself as a political progressive committed to social equality whose academic work has, however, largely been given credence by conservatives and attacked by progressives.
Redeemer Classical School Board members read and discuss important works of education philosophy together, and right now we’re reading Hirsch’s The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, a follow-up to Cultural Literacy that expands its argument. We plan to post podcasts of discussions of this and future board books, and this blog will feature excerpts of the book as we work our way through it in the next few months. Here are two.
“Although our political traditions and even our universities may be without peer, our K-12 education is among the least effective in the developed world. Its controlling theories, curricular incoherencies, and what I call its ‘naturalistic fallacies’ are positive barriers to a good education. Scholars from abroad who study American schools are astonished that our children, who score very low in international comparisons, are actually as competent as they manage to be.” By the way, this has not changed since the 1990s, when Hirsch wrote the book. “Considering their very American vitality and independent-mindedness, one thinks ruefully of what these children could become under a good, demanding, and fair educational system!”
“We are moving, it is predicted, toward the bookless classroom or even toward an abandonment of the classroom entirely. The school as we currently know it will be a thing of the past. Such radical, ‘break-the-mold’ thinking disarms the criticism that the ‘project method’ has been tried for many decades with generally poor results. While we wait for the bookless and brickless classroom to arrive, futuristic enthusiasm for computers serves mainly to divert attention from past failures and perpetuate progressivist thought and practice.”