Cultural Literacy

April 10, 2007

E. D. Hirsch is famous now for his insistence that there is a body of knowledge that all children should learn, lest we turn into an unconnected society of people with so little in common that we lose our focus and direction as a nation.

This concept appeals to people on many levels. It sounds logical. It appeals to anyone who benefits from compulsory schooling, from government to unions to special interests to textbook producers and many more. It’s comforting to think that we can fall back on what everyone should know, that the argument can remain in the confines of determining the subjects to be covered and not branch out into broader and more demanding considerations.

The questions for this conversation are: 

Do you believe there is a body of knowledge everyone should hold in common? If not, explain why not. If so, who do you think should define it, do you think obtaining it should be compulsory, and who do you think should enforce its attainment?

For more on what education should look like, see: What is Education?