Monday, January 22, 2007

Do we have a problem with 'knowledge deficits'?

It would seem that conservatives are dominating the public discussion of educational reform. I found a review of E.D. Hirsch's new book (you remember him--Cultural Literacy, etc. from a few years ago.) He argues that problems in reading are really problems in knowledge.

Students' weak reading skills are because they have no context to help dig out the meanings of texts. They can sound out all the words, but they have little understanding.

His solution would be stronger core curriculum, heavily based on facts -- the standard E.D. Hirsch argument.

This thesis would grate against a freshman "toolbox" course. If the problem is based on lack of knowledge, providing more training on 'how' to read or study won't do much good.

I am sympathetic to the argument that the knowledge that students bring to campus is incredibly thin, and they often seem uninterested in going into detail.

Think of how easy it is to get kids to pontificate on current events, based on very little information--ask them to discuss something that requires some knowledge acquistion and see how far you get!

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