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Preface to the Third Edition
This new, updated edition reflects important changes that have occurred in the world since 1991, changes in history, science, and the arts that have become part of our common awareness, such as Harry Potter, the Persian Gulf War, El Nino, global warming, DVDs, laptop computers, and the recently named Southern Ocean.
Most of the entries that appeared in the 1989 edition still appear here, illustrating how durable literate culture is and how valid was the idea that gave rise to this book: namely, that we can communicate with one another in our national community only because we continue to share and take for granted the knowledge that we hold in common. To possess this shared knowledge is to be a member of the cultural community — to be an insider. Not to possess it is to be excluded from full communication with other members of the community — to be an outsider. In our democracy we want all children to have the opportunity to be insiders. That is why we have made this book.
That is also why my colleagues and I started the Core Knowledge Foundation (www.coreknowledge.org), whose mission is to bring this knowledge to all children through our schools. The entries in this book overlap with the topics studied in the early grades in Core Knowledge Schools.
The overlap of the topics in this book with the topics studied in good schools is especially important today, when schools, under the influence of the national No Child Left Behind Act, are spending more and more classroom time trying to improve children’s reading abilities. For children to understand writings in textbooks, magazines, books, and newspapers, they must possess the background knowledge that such writings take for granted. Cultural literacy and literacy are intertwined. Knowing the information contained in this book is a big step toward being a good reader and being a full participant in our society.
Copyright © 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.