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ERIC Number: ED500322
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 12
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Why Do We Have a Knowledge Deficit? Policy Perspectives
Hirsch, E. D., Jr.
WestEd (NJ3)
"Policy Perspectives" presents visiting authors' own views and/or research on issues relevant to schools and communities nationwide. The idea that reading skill is largely a set of general-purpose maneuvers that can be applied to any and all texts is one of the main barriers to our children's overall low achievement in reading, argues the author of this "Policy Perspectives." It leads to activities that are deadening for agile and eager minds, and it carries huge opportunity costs. These activities take up time that could be devoted to gaining general knowledge, which, according to the author, is the central requisite for high reading skill. He asserts that his call for a revolution in the teaching of subjects related to reading is issued in a period when activities in the elementary grades of the public schools are overshadowed by the provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Because of the exigencies of this law, the time could be ripe for making better ideas prevail. The author argues that the inherent conflict between the dominant principles of naturalism (natural, engaging activities) and formalism (all-purpose, how-to knowledge) leads to resentment of the idea that the children should be constantly tested, since the new accountability provisions of NCLB, it is thought, have forced schools to engage in all of this soul-killing drill in clarifying and summarizing. The internal conflict between the principles simply generates the need for continual reform, and offers an enemy that is always to be resisted, even when it has been generated by the drills that go with formalistic ideas. The author concludes that, this conflict of ideas is, then, the root cause of the impasse between NCLB and the schools, for the only way to improve scores in reading comprehension and to narrow the reading gap among groups is systematically to provide children with the wide-ranging, specific background knowledge they need to comprehend what they read. (Contains 25 endnotes.)[This issue of "Policy Perspectives" was excerpted from "The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children" by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. (2006).]
WestEd. 730 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107-1242. Tel: 877-493-7833; Tel: 415-565-3000; Fax: 415-565-3012; Web site:
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Teachers; Administrators; Researchers; Policymakers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: WestEd, San Francisco, CA.
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001