Book Review of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know
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E. D. Hirsch, Jr. published Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know , a book that became a best-seller and a manifesto for the 'core knowledge' movement in school curriculum (also known as 'back to basics'). In Cultural Literacy, Hirsch identified 5,000 names, dates, essential facts and concepts that an educated person should know, in fields as diverse as science, culture, religion, and art history.

According to Hirsch, the main goal of education is acculturation, that is, the transmission of specific information shared by the adults of a particular society to the next generation. He argues that having familiarity with this information is a prerequisite for full citizenship. In his own words, "... literate culture has become the common currency for social and economic exchange in our democracy, and is the only available ticket to full citizenship.... Membership is automatic if one learns the background information and the linguistic conventions that are needed to read, write, and speak effectively." Moreover, he claims, "cultural literacy constitutes the only sure avenue of opportunity for disadvantaged children."