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ERIC Number: EJ930461
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0748-8475
Cultural Literacy: Is It Time to Revisit the Debate?
Schweizer, Bernard
Thought & Action, p51-56 Fall 2009
The author went to graduate school during the height of the culture wars, when the debate over the place of cultural literacy in the curriculum and the legitimacy of the great books approach was still raging. The first college class that he taught was structured around the theme "education and the making of knowledge," with E.D. Hirsch and Paulo Freire figuratively butting heads in the reading assignments and classroom discussions. His mentors at the Duke Writing Program encouraged him to view proponents of cultural literacy like Hirsch and Teachout with massive suspicion as the purveyors of a narrow set of privileged, specifically western, masculine, White values masquerading as universal truths. He duly inculcated this vision into his freshmen, encouraging them to abhor the "banking concept of education" and instead to embrace the flexible, diverse, democratic, ad-hoc concept of learning propagated by Freire. That debate, it appears, has largely been settled since then, but it is now enjoying itself within a circle of the faithful. In this article, the author revisits the debate and argues that the issue of cultural literacy is socio-economically coded. He contends that the problem with the argument that cultural literacy is irrelevant is that it does actually matter to some. The more people argue the unimportance of cultural literacy among the general populace, the more they relegate the possession of this knowledge to the province of a socio-economic elite, thereby contributing to a hardening of social stratification and a lessening of social mobility. The author ends by correcting a misconception of Hirsch's that students deprived of cultural literacy have "little chance of entering the American mainstream." This is far too optimistic. The American mainstream has already fallen behind an acceptable standard in cultural literacy due to the work of well-intentioned but misguided young faculty who fought Hirsch's ideas in the 1990s. (Contains 5 endnotes and a Bibliography.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A