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The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools
Yale University Press / 2009 / Hardcover
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Summing up a lifetime of investigation, Hirsch argues that the core problem with American education is that theorists, especially in the early grades, have for the past 60 years rejected academic content in favor of "child-centered" and "how-to" learning that are at odds with the way children really learn. 272 pages, hardcover.
From the bestselling author of Cultural Literacy, a passionate and cogent argument for reforming the way we teach our children
Why, after decades of commissions, reforms, and efforts at innovation, do our schools continue to disappoint us? In this comprehensive and thought-provoking book, educational theorist E. D. Hirsch, Jr. offers a masterful analysis of how American ideas about education have veered off course, what we must do to right them, and most importantly why. He argues that the core problem with American education is that educational theorists, especially in the early grades, have for the past sixty years rejected academic content in favor of “child-centered” and “how-to” learning theories that are at odds with how children really learn. The result is failing schools and widening inequality, as only children from content-rich (usually better-off) homes can take advantage of the schools’ educational methods.
Hirsch unabashedly confronts the education establishment, arguing that a content-based curriculum is essential to addressing social and economic inequality. A nationwide, specific, grade-by-grade curriculum established in the early school grades can help fulfill one of America’s oldest and most compelling dreams: to give all children, regardless of language, religion, or origins, the opportunity to participate as equals and become competent citizens. Hirsch not only reminds us of these inspiring ideals, he offers an ambitious and specific plan for achieving them.
E. D. Hirsch, Jr., founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation, recently retired as professor of education and humanities at the University of Virginia. His previous books include Cultural Literacy and The Knowledge Deficit.
Hirsch's 1987 bestseller, Cultural Literacy, generated an intense debate over its proposals for education reform, namely that all schools should teach a standard core curriculumthe information every American should be equipped with in order to participate in the national cultural life (e.g., everyone should understand the term Achilles heel; know who said, To be or not to be or who wrote the Gettysburg Address). Hirsch's new book fine-tunes his philosophy while rebutting the criticism that cultural literacy fostered a conservative white curriculum that didn't take into account the learning styles and knowledge base of minority groups. Although must reading for educators, the book undoubtedly will reignite the earlier controversy. For example, Hirsch questions the wisdom of charter schools and educational vouchers, insisting that a trans-ethnic common educational experience can be had only in public schools attended by rich and poor together. However, in the context of the continuing shortcomings of American education and armed with the support of prominent educators, Hirsch once again challenges the prevailing child-centered philosophy, championing a return to a subject-centered approach to learning. (Sept.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
“The most cogent and persuasive version of [Hirsch’s] views that I have seen. . . .This is not just a good book. It is an important book.”—Robert Scholes, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities Emeritus, Brown University
“E. D. Hirsch is one of the very few academics in this country who can write for a wide audience about complex issues without ever condescending, oversimplifying, or falling into a populist rant.”—David Labaree, Professor of Education, Stanford University
“Beyond linking acquired knowledge to viability in the work place. . . [Hirsch] attempts to reclaim public schooling as a fundamental part of the political project embarked upon by the founders and continued by Lincoln.”--Terrence O. Moore, Claremont Review of Books
“In this important defense of the idea of a common national curriculum, E. D. Hirsch makes a lucid and convincing case that our habit of confusing such a curriculum with retrograde social and educational views has given us ‘sixty years without a curriculum.’”—Gerald Graff, 2008 President, Modern Language Association
“Once again, E.D. Hirsch has written a powerful and illuminating book about public education in America. This time he not only highlights ‘the knowledge deficit’ that has long impaired our students' reading abilities, he also explains how this deficiency is undermining the role of education in developing an informed citizenry. With all the talk in Washington about national standards and what it means for a high school student to be ‘college ready,’ this book is an essential read.”— Joel I. Klein, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
“E.D. Hirsch's The Making of Americans is a wonderful book that is must-reading for everyone who cares about our children and our country. It is the one book I would recommend to every legislator and school board member.”—Diane Ravitch, author of Left Back and The Language Police
"In this new book, E.D. Hirsch, a relentless advocate for universal common education, makes clear the very special relationship between education and democracy. Now more than ever we need his lessons to become part of our common wisdom.”—Randi Weingarten, President, The American Federation of Teachers
"Based on research in cognitive studies and results from 'core knowledge' schools, Hirsch's case is clear and compelling. His book ought to be read by anyone interested in the education and training of the next generation of Americans."—Glenn C. Altschuler, The Boston Globe
". . . Hirsch builds on [his] earlier work and widens the lens to connect his ideas on education reform to the fundamental rationales for our system of public schools in the United States. . . . American education would be far better off if leaders heeded Hirsch's sound advice to restore a common-core curriculum."—Richard D. Kahlenberg, The American Scholar.
“E. D. Hirsch is an antidote to our culture wars, our polarization, our taste for demagoguery, our feel-goodism. Reading him always reminds me of this country's great potential. That is what makes him such a great American.”--Alan Wolfe, Books & Culture
“E. D. Hirsch has contributed what is to me the most persuasive idea of the past half century on how to improve the performance of American education.”--Nathan Glazer, Education Next
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