The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Author Yale Univ. $25 (261p) ISBN 978-0-300-15281-4

Hirsch's 1987 bestseller, Cultural Literacy , generated an intense debate over its proposals for education reform, namely that all schools should teach a standard core curriculum—the information every American should be equipped with in order to participate in the national cultural life (e.g., everyone should understand the term “Achilles heel”; know who said, “To be or not to be” or who wrote the Gettysburg Address). Hirsch's new book fine-tunes his philosophy while rebutting the criticism that “cultural literacy” fostered a conservative “white” curriculum that didn't take into account the learning styles and knowledge base of minority groups. Although must reading for educators, the book undoubtedly will reignite the earlier controversy. For example, Hirsch questions the wisdom of charter schools and educational vouchers, insisting that a “trans-ethnic” common educational experience can be had only in public schools attended by rich and poor together. However, in the context of the continuing shortcomings of American education and armed with the support of prominent educators, Hirsch once again challenges the prevailing “child-centered” philosophy, championing a return to a “subject-centered” approach to learning. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/29/2009
Release date: 09/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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