Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them

Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them

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by E. D. Hirsch
     
 

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The author of Cultural Literacy offers a powerful, compelling, and unassailable argument for reforming America's schooling methods and ideas.

From kindergarten through high school, the American education is the worst in the developed world, and the causes of its failure and any possible solutions to it are hotly disputed. For over fifty years, American

Overview

The author of Cultural Literacy offers a powerful, compelling, and unassailable argument for reforming America's schooling methods and ideas.

From kindergarten through high school, the American education is the worst in the developed world, and the causes of its failure and any possible solutions to it are hotly disputed. For over fifty years, American schools have operated on the assumption that challenging children is bad for them, teachers do not need to know the subjects they teach, that the learning "process" should be emphasised over the facts taught within it. Yet, as renowned educator and author E. D. Hirsch shows in The Schools We Need, this establishment ideology is a tragedy of good intentions gone awry. Hirsch argues that in eschewing content-based curricula for abstract—and disproved—theories of congnitive development, the educational establishment has done irreparable harm to America's students, and instead of preparing them for the country's highly competitive, information-based economy, the process-oriented curricula the establishment practices has severely curtailed their ability, and desire, to learn.

Suggesting a curriculum based on hard work, knowledge aquisition, and rigorous testing that has been proven successful time after time, The Schools We Need offers a proficient and workable solution. By providing evidence of numerous studies proving that fact-based education works, and a glossary of brief, authoritative explanations of educational phrases often used to dazzle teachers and the general public, Hirsch proves that if children are taught substantial knowledge and skills, and learn to work hard to acquire them, theirtest scores will rise, their love of learning will grow, and they will become enthusiastic participants in the information-age civilization.

The Schools We Need is a passionate and thoughtful book that will appeal to the millions of people who can't understand why American schools just don't work.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bestselling author Hirsch (Cultural Literacy) argues that American education, kindergarten through high school, has been undermined by a deep contempt for factual knowledge and an addiction to fads such as "project-oriented" instruction, "relevant" topics, "child-centered" activities and building students' self-esteem. In a damning, highly provocative, full-scale assault on today's educational establishment, this University of Virginia English professor calls for a return to a so-called traditional approach emphasizing drill, verbal practice, memorization and interactive classroom instruction. Hirsch, who advocates a grade-by-grade core curriculum, buttresses his pragmatic tack with cognitive-psychology research and international comparative studies of classroom practice. An enjoyable 30-page glossary demystifies educators' slogans, pet phrases and jargon. A rigorous polemic. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This title is the anticipated successor to Hirsch's popular Cultural Literacy (LJ 6/1/87), which for a decade has served as something of a bible for back-to-basics school reformers. For Hirsch, our current educational system has failed to reduce social inequity or enhance our economic competitiveness. The roots of failure are to be found in 1920s-style Progressivism (John Dewey et al.) and their allegedly hegemonic contemporary descendants. Hirsch pleads for abandoning Progressivism's "process" methodology in favor of a curriculum based on challenging content, common knowledge acquisition, and rigorous standardized testing. Important questions dog Hirsch's thesis, though, especially given our heterogeneous and fractious society. For instance, who gets to decide the content of this shared knowledge? Despite the tedious argumentation of the prose, Hirsch's centrality to the continuing debate over school reform makes his book essential for all education collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/95.]Jessica George, Illinois State Univ., Normal
Kirkus Reviews
A brick hurled at the windows of the K-12 educational establishment for serving up content-lite curricula that leave US elementary and secondary schools among the worst in the developed world.

Hirsch, whose Cultural Literacy helped launch the culture wars, traces the origins of "Thoughtworld" (the lock-step ideology pervading elementary education) to three elements—American exceptionalism, Romanticism, and professional separatism—which when combined culminated in an anti-fact, supposedly child- centered ideology first propagated by Columbia University's Teachers College in the 1920s. With the best intentions, educators, pointing to today's information explosion, have forsaken rigorous, subject-based instruction for buzzwords he claims are unproven in practice, such as "critical thinking skills," "project- oriented," "hands-on," "developmentally appropriate," "multiple intelligences," and the like. Despite his best efforts, Hirsch cannot easily dismiss the complaint that many of America's educational ills spring from a society disrupted by clashing ethnic groups and crumbling families. He is on safer ground in arguing that, because of these social problems, a demanding curriculum is needed to mitigate the effects of class on America's poorest children in their crucial formative years. Hirsch calls for national educational standards. Critics might argue that critical thinking skills serve as the only constant in periods when the conception of cultural literacy repeatedly changes. But without specific content-based objectives, Hirsch observes, children are likely to get little of substance—a dire outcome for all, but especially for disadvantaged children, who transfer in and out of schools the most. He is also likely to vex educational reformers in pointing out that bolstering student self-esteem does not raise achievement if praise comes without work.

Hirsch sometimes sounds like Dickens's Thomas Gradgrind, harping on "facts." Still, an on-target indictment of an educational system that refuses to recognize the madness in its teaching methods.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385484572
Publisher:
The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/15/1996
Pages:
289
Product dimensions:
6.52(w) x 9.64(h) x 1.17(d)

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Schools We Need: And Why We Don't Have Them 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't let the depth of this book scare you. Dr. Hirsch has done a fine job of placing our current education establishment in its historical context. He makes the fascinating argument - a counterintuitive one - in which he says that progressives who seek social change need traditional, knowledge-based education, NOT progressive education (which is the status-quo). He enthusiastically describes and has written Core Knowledge Curriculum. He presents the intriguing 'social justice' and 'fairness' argument for this Core Knowledge and details the reasons why children from disadvantaged homes will benefit because they will catch up. Educating our children must return to traditional teaching methods. It took Dr. Hirsch ten years to make the discovery that students in college do not have basic knowledge. Please buy and study and underline this book - for the sake of our future.
2350cafeguy More than 1 year ago
This book is good for teachers both new and old. It shows that the same arguements have been arond for a while and this education system we have needs to be seriously looked at.
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