The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children

E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Author Houghton Mifflin $22 (169p) ISBN 978-0-618-65731-5

The notion of learning how to learn is a shibboleth in America's schools, but it distorts reading instruction, contends this provocative manifesto. Education theorist Hirsch decries a dominant "Romantic" pedagogy that disparages factual knowledge and emphasizes reading comprehension "strategies"—summarizing, identifying themes, drawing inferences—that children can deploy on any text. Such formal skills, he argues, are easily acquired; what kids really need is a broad background knowledge of history, science and culture to help them assimilate new vocabulary and understand more advanced readings. "Process-oriented" methods that apply reading comprehension drills to "vapid" texts waste time and slow kids' progress, Hirsch contends, and should be replaced with a more traditional, "knowledge-oriented" academic approach with a rich factual content. Hirsch repeats the call for a standard curriculum based on a canon of general knowledge (he touts his own core knowledge sequence as a model) made in his bestselling Cultural Literacy . That work drew fire from multiculturalists who accused Hirsch of promoting dead-white-male worship, but here he grounds his case in the latest cognitive-science research (with a healthy dose of common sense). Fluently written and accessible to teachers and parents alike, the book presents a challenge to reigning educational orthodoxies. (Apr. 24)

Reviewed on: 02/13/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 169 pages - 978-0-618-87225-1
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-547-34696-0
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