The Knowledge Deficit
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“This book,” says E, D. Hirsch, Jr., “offers solutions to the related problems of low reading abilities in American children and the needlessly wide achievement gaps between ethnic and racial groups.”
Hirsch shows how our schools generally manage to teach the mechanics of reading but fall short in conveying the broad knowledge needed for true reading comprehension. This knowledge deficit results in part from a misguided focus on formalistic reading skills.
To produce “citizens who are well educated and competent regardless of economic, ethnic, or racial background,” we must, says Hirsch, “abandon process-oriented notions like ‘reading comprehension strategies’” and instead work within “a structure in which each grade, especially grades one through five, builds knowledge cumulatively . . . upon the preceding grade.”
We will achieve a just and prosperous society only when schools ensure that everyone commands enough shared knowledge to communicate effectively with everyone else.
— E.D. Hirsch, Jr.