Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know
Amazon Link ==> Cultural Literacy <== Amazon Link
An Amazon Review By R. Tiedemann on July 13, 2002
Put this on your To-Read-No-Matter-What list.Hasn’t the popularity of “Dummies” books raised a red flag anywhere? What does that say about the average American reader’s view of him/herself? Do we sense that we’re educationally lacking?
Too many of America’s young people do not have, because they haven’t been taught, the knowledge they need to preserve the exceptional way of life they’ve inherited. They know Harry Potter and West Wing but not the Peloponnesian Wars or who said, “To be or not to be.” They are culturally illiterate.
Cultural literacy is the background information we need to know in order to understand and to communicate in our society. Without it we wouldn’t understand what a reviewer says when he likens Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman” to “Cinderella” or when a pundit says the environment is a politician’s Achilles heel.
“To be culturally literate,” Hirsch says, “is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world.” Readers must understand the writer’s unspoken “systems of associations.”
I’ve taught college-level writing classes and have been astounded to meet students who have never read a book, who don’t understand the simplest references to classical literature and who, frankly, don’t care.
This ignorance threatens our very existence as a free nation. One of the most important points Hirsch makes is the need for the average citizen to understand enough science to comprehend debates about environmental and political issues. He cites the debate over the Strategic Defense Initiative and says of the voting public, “…their education should have provided them with the general facts and principles needed to understand the terms of the debate — how a satellite works, what a laser is and can do, and under what conditions such a system would be likely to succeed or fail.” He neglects to mention the historical, social and political backgrounds that enter into the debate but his point applies to those as well.
The highest stakes are involved here. The last election was a primary example of the ignorance of the American voter. Many still don’t understand what happened and are merrily led down a primrose path of misunderstanding by an equally Constitutionally (as in the US Constitution)uninformed press. Further, and even sadder, they don’t bother to find out!
Read CULTURAL LITERACY. Absorb it. Make it your mantra and work to see that the next generation of Americans learns the background of their culture as well as the history, sociology and science they need to protect our way of life at the ballot box.