Cultural Literacy Essay - Critical Context

E. D. Hirsch Jr.

Critical Context

Cultural Literacy is one of several works published in the 1980’s that confronted the issue of educational quality in the United States. Released about the same time as this book was Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (1987), a critique of college education and one that created far more controversy than did Cultural Literacy. Other widely publicized commentaries were the National Commission on Education’s A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (1983), a study chaired by David P. Gardner, President of the University of Utah; the United States Department of Education’s The Nation Responds: Recent Efforts to Improve Education (1984), a reaction to the Gardner report; and two books by Ernest L. Boyer, commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America (1983) and College: The Undergraduate Experience in America (1987). Many other heated controversies over the content of American education arose in this period, such as the two-year debate (1986-1988) over the Western culture course at Stanford University.

What is especially notable about this book is that it was part of an active attempt to revitalize American education. Shortly after it was released and made the best-seller lists, Hirsch...

(The entire section is 526 words.)