Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wolfe, Alan. "In Defence of a Common Culture." CHRISTIANITY TODAY February 4, 2010.

Hirsch, E. D. The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. E.D. Hirsch is a great American, a scholar who cares deeply about the youth of this country, what they are taught, and how likely they are to become engaged and thoughtful citizens. Hirsch describes himself as having enjoyed a "comfortable life as a conference-going literary theorist" before realizing that the failure of American schools to offer students actual content rather than faddish pedagogical innovations was not only turning young people into cultural illiterates but also was preventing those at the bottom of the ladder from improving their prospects in life through education. The founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and the author of the controversial Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (1987), Hirsch was adopted by the Right early in the culture wars. But his actual political sympathies are more in line with Albert Shanker, the longterm leader of the New York City teacher's union (to whose memory the present book is dedicated). Hirsch's new book is called The Making of Americans, and while he describes it as both departing from and building upon his previous work, it does more of the latter than the former. Disappointingly there is little new to be learned; anyone who has already read Diane Ravich's Left Back will not glean more history and, indeed, anyone who has read Hirsch's previous books will pretty much know the contours of the argument. Still this book is valuable because it offers a clearly written, highly accessible, and brief statement of the issues that have guided Hirsch for the past two or three decades. Reading William Bennett from the Right or almost any product of a major school of education from the Left, one could be forgiven for thinking that the American school wars were a battle between progressive educators seeking to teach students about the wonders of race, ethnicity, and gender on the one hand and old-fashioned disciplinarians worried about the seductions of relativism and hedonism on the other. The most important contribution Hirsch makes to the way we think about educating our youth is to get us out of using terms such as Left and Right. All wars eventually end, even culture wars. It is time to take the ideology out of our educational battles, a task for which E.D. Hirsch is particularly suited. . . . Read the rest here:

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