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Cultural Literacy and the Language of Upward Mobility

There is, without question, a language of privilege in America that excludes those who do not speak it fluently. And it is within our power as educators and policymakers to influence children’s acquisition of that language. But doing so will require a degree of clarity and candor to which we are unaccustomed when we talk about education.

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Shared Knowledge and the Right Kind of Nationalism

In a new article, Core Knowledge founder E. D. Hirsch, Jr. explores the complex nature of nationalism and its relation to public schooling in the United States. “My thesis,” writes Hirsch, “is that our young people’s low opinion of their own country has been intensified by the current disrepute of nationalism in any form in our schools and universities. This anti-nationalism has been a big mistake.” Hirsch goes on to explore the role of schools in fostering “the right kind of nationalism.”

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Why Knowledge Matters, E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s New Book Affirms Why Knowledge Matters

The ideas that thirty years ago prodded a scholar of English literature from the halls of academe into elementary school classrooms continue to motivate E. D. Hirsch, Jr. today. “I am still chiefly motivated by the social injustice of our dominant theories and their unwitting destruction of the American dream,” Dr. Hirsch affirms in the…

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What Americans Want to Know

Sometimes, dreams really do come true. In June, I called for knowledge equality through a new, crowd-sourced effort to specify what all of our children should have the opportunity to learn. Now, a similar project is underway. Eric Liu, of the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship and American Identity Program and Citizen University, is calling on all of us…

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Differentiation’s Dirty Little Secret

I’ve been visiting a lot of elementary schools lately, and I’ve noticed a dangerous pattern: instruction that’s called “differentiated” but looks an awful lot like tracking. To varying degrees, I’ve seen it in high- and low-scoring schools, some using Core Knowledge, some not. Here’s a typical scenario (abstracted from my admittedly limited experience). The whole…

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Dear Chiefs: This Is Your Chance to Close the Reading Achievement Gap

Assuming all goes as planned, we should have a new federal education law by the end of the year. Dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), this version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would greatly increase states’ options for evaluating schools and teachers. As this ESSA cheat sheet explains: States would still have…

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This Is Not Your Father’s Geography

Missouri: Jefferson City, Corn. Kansas: Topeka, Corn. States, capitals, crops. That’s pretty much what my geography education consisted of. I didn’t even see a topographic map until I was in college—a boyfriend took me hiking. It was as an adult, reading Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, that I realized…

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The High-Tech Road to Literacy

Every time I see a toddler with an iPad, I cringe just a little. I try to hide it. I know I’m supposed to be amazed at the little genius. I also know that the device could be useful, especially as the toddler becomes a preschooler and starts learning letters and numbers. Still, beyond a…

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Help Wanted: Smartphone and Grit Required, Knowledge Optional

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never seen a position description for a good job that didn’t have a long list of knowledge, skill, and character requirements. It makes me wonder why those focused on “21st century” careers seem to place skills and character—or problem solving, team work, and perseverance—far above knowledge. David Brooks provides…

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The Triumph of Training over Education

Not all that long ago, college followed a predictable pattern: two years of general education requirements followed by two years of courses in the chosen major. No longer. As this review of course requirements shows, even some of the liberal arts colleges have minimized requirements outside the major. Of all the potential causes for the…

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