Review by Choice Review
Rare is the book in which readers go first to the appendix and devour it with gusto from start to finish. That is what happens, however, with Hirsch's Cultural Literacy. The 63-page appendix contains alphabetical lists, from ``abbreviation'' to ``Zurich,'' of names and terms that educated people should know. Hirsch's book, a logical addendum to The Philosophy of Composition (CH, Apr '78), has to do with how people read and perceive. Hirsch thinks the greatest impediment to learning is the lack of a common base of knowledge, without which it is impossible for people to understand their cultures. This book, like Hirsch's earlier book on composition, is conservative, probably a reaction to the educationally freewheeling 1960s, when books like Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner's Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969) held sway. But even Postman extinguished some of his own liberal fire in Teaching as a Conserving Activity (CH, Feb '80), which is the flip side of his earlier book. Cultural Literacy is thoughtful, intelligent, and provocative. Well written, fun to read, it is unique in being simultaneously accessible to general readers and all academic levels. It is required reading for the professional educator. Useful index; unobtrusive documentation.-R.B. Shuman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
A University of Virginia English professor makes an invaluable contribution to the debate on American education by insisting that literacy lies not merely in the bare skills of reading and writing, but also in the informational context of those skills. He maintains that our schools produce ineffective communicators because they fail to acquaint children with the common knowledge of American culture e.g., who Robert E. Lee or J. Edgar Hoover was; where Washington, D.C., or Chicago is; what the Bill of Rights or a grand jury is. Not knowing such things, a person will not understand much of what the news media convey, nor even the mundane allusions made in informal speech and even business correspondence. After an impressive presentation of the evidence and argumentation for his views, Hirsch concludes by proposing a broad scheme of curricular revision to restore cultural content to American education. Appended as a guide to what literate Americans ought to know is a long list of terms, names, and sayings that Hirsch compiled in consultation with historian Joseph Kett and physicist James Trefil. Notes; to be indexed. RO. 370.19 Literacy U.S. / Educational anthropology U.S. / Culture [OCLC] 86-21352
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.