Cultural Literacy

1215 Words 5 Pages
Brandon Jones
Professor Boeck
RWS 100
October 31, 2014
Prompt 2: Evaluating a Text As a country America is culturally illiterate, leading to problems with citizens effectively communicating in society. In his essay, “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” E. D. Hirsch suggests that the country must make specific educational adjustments to obtain a higher level of national literacy. Throughout the developed world, the standard of literacy for the modern citizen is rising, and Americans are far behind. What was acceptable 50 years ago is not today; societies today must be sufficiently literate in order to maintain a sound economy. One of Hirsch’s main claims is that the country should aim for high literacy in order to have
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In his essay, Hirsch defines cultural literacy as, “background information…that enables [citizens] to take up a newspaper and read it with adequate level of comprehension” (238). Meaning that each citizen would have a conceptual understanding of standard material, such as being able to make a reference to a piece of literature where everyone across the board will be able to understand. However, America falls far behind many other industrialized countries. With only two-thirds of the population being literate, the country is surpassed by nations such as Japan where their high level of literacy can be attributed to their industrial efficiency (237). Later on in his essay Hirsch goes on to claim that, “The achievement of high universal literacy is the key to all other fundamental improvements in American education” (238). The education system would benefit more if each member of society became more culturally aware. Modern education must teach students to communicate effectively with one another through universal references such as pieces of literature or common sayings that can connect the society together. In order for this idea of cultural literacy to become true, each citizen must be able to identify any piece or written or spoken English that is addressed to to the public audience. Schweizer supports Hirsch’s claims in his essay by stating that students could hardly recognize …show more content…
Higher social classes receive better educations than those students in areas of the country stricken with poverty. In her essay, “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work” Anyon provides reasoning for Hirsch’s claim that American students are not in touch with basic cultural references that each member of society should be able to identify. Anyon identifies social class as a person’s occupation and income level (252). She claims that the current schoolwork being provided to “working-class children” is preparing them for wage labor and routine jobs later on in life (270). This is due to the fact that schools in low-income areas do not focus on the relevance of the material or how they connect to each other, but rather teaching to the test to create results. Through her text, Anyon illustrates that this teaching method could be the reason why cultural literacy is not attained in an educational setting such as this one. This creates a low standard of national character which Hirsch defines as important to educational policy (248). Later on his essay. Schweizer writes, “My students are perhaps performing so poorly on general knowledge issues because most of them come from underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds” (53). This statement is backed with support from Anyon’s essay when she concludes that education is directly related to the economic

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