The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools [NOOK Book]

Overview

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. ...

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The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Jay Mathews
In this intriguing, irresistible book, Hirsch tells of life as the odd man out at the University of Virginia…Those who consider Hirsch an aged crank who wants to stuff public schools into a jingoistic straitjacket should read this book. So should those who think our children need more and better instruction in their historical and literary roots. He lays it all out for foe and friend to judge, in the clearest form since his ground-breaking 1987 book, Cultural Literacy.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
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 curriculum—the 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.)
Library Journal
Controversial educational theorist Hirsch (Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know) returns, here arguing that a single radical reform—the return to a nationally standardized K-6 curriculum—will fix what ails the modern educational system. He notes that decades of permissive educational strategies have left Americans without a foundation of common knowledge to build upon. At home, test scores have steadily declined, and abroad we rank in the bottom quartile of OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) countries. Since high academic achievement is demonstrably related to reading comprehension and thus to a functional body of general knowledge, argues Hirsch, conveying that general knowledge should be a precursor to all other learning. He also envisions such a curriculum as a great equalizer for the multitudes of people who make up the United States. VERDICT Hirsch's tone is conversational but authoritative, and he deftly elucidates the issues at hand in an engaging manner for a general audience. His book will give engaged educators and concerned parents—whether or not they agree with him—a lot to discuss.—Robert Perret, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow
American Scholar

". . . 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.

— Richard D. Kahlenberg

Boston Globe

"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

— Glenn C. Altschuler

Washington Post Book World

Selected as one of the Best Books of 2009 in the Society and Culture category, Jay Mathews, Washington Post Book World

— Best Books of 2009

Books & Culture

“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

— Alan Wolfe

Education Next

“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

— Nathan Glazer

Independent Publisher Book Award

Silver Medal Winner for the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Education/Academic/Teaching category

Claremont Review of Books

“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

— Terrence O. Moore

Robert Scholes
“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
David Labaree
“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
Gerald Graff
“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
Joel I. Klein
“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
Diane Ravitch
“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
Randi Weingarten
"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
American Scholar - Richard D. Kahlenberg
". . . 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.
Boston Globe - Glenn C. Altschuler
"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
Washington Post Book World - Jay Mathews
"Pleads for a coherent, content-based, multi-year curriculum to save our democracy from factionalism, inequality and incompetence."—Jay Mathews, Washington Post Book World (Best of 2009 Review)
Washington Post Book World - Best Books of 2009
Selected as one of the Best Books of 2009 in the Society and Culture category, Jay Mathews, Washington Post Book World
Books & Culture - Alan Wolfe
“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
Education Next - Nathan Glazer
“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
Independent Publisher
Silver Medal Winner for the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Education/Academic/Teaching category
Claremont Review of Books - Terrence O. Moore
“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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300155853
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 887,292
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 The Inspiring Idea of the Common School 1

2 Sixty Years without a Curriculum 34

3 Transethnic America and the Civic Core 65

4 Linguistic America and the Public Sphere 94

5 Competence and Equality Narrowing the Two Achievement Gaps 123

6 Competence and Community Renewing Public Education 152

Appendix 1 Core Knowledge History/ Geography Thread, K-2 189

Appendix 2 Content is Skill, Skill Content 210

Notes 223

Acknowledgments 248

Index 249

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