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Letter from E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

The Core Knowledge Sequence

Dear Friend of Core Knowledge, 

The Board of Trustees of the Core Knowledge Foundation has long desired to make the Core Knowledge Sequence freely available for all non-commercial use. Frankly, what has held us back is simple economics. Even nonprofits need to pay bills, and the Sequence, our guide to the specific knowledge that forms the foundation of a sound, well-rounded education, has long been our biggest seller. Income from its sale allows us to break even so we can continue to advocate for a solid elementary curriculum and support a growing network of Core Knowledge schools.

While Core Knowledge is still worried about breaking even, times have changed. Today, more people recognize that a core curriculum is critical to significant educational improvement.  Growing acceptance of our fundamental proposition is now being evidenced in the promising decision of several states to get behind a common core of K-12 standards in language arts and math.   It would be contrary to our basic mission if we did not try to help this promising new effort prosper and succeed.  

From its founding in 1986, Core Knowledge has worked to help teachers and parents understand that all of our most important goals in education — reading comprehension, language competence and critical thinking — depend on broad knowledge, and cannot be successfully attained through a language-arts instruction alone. To their credit, the authors of our emerging common core state standards understand this concept. However, standards alone are not sufficient to guarantee success. The effectiveness of the new language-arts standards will depend on the implementation of coherent, cumulative, and content-specific grade-by-grade curricula in infused into language arts and the other subjects.

So the question has become not how can we give away our most valuable publication and foundational piece of intellectual property, but how can we not?

In the old sailing days you had to wait for the flood tide before setting forth, so you didn’t miss the tide. That, according to Shakespeare, was true for more than sea voyages:  

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

Or as Will Rogers put it

Even though you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. 

For those of you who are old hands on this voyage, thank you for your support throughout the years. If you are new to Core Knowledge, welcome aboard. I have never been more optimistic about the prospect for deep, meaningful, and lasting change in our schools.  

The Core Knowledge Foundation is proud to offer this free download of the Sequence and looks forward to answering any questions you may have.


E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

E. D. Hirsch, Jr.