Let's hope this forthcoming book by E. D. Hirsch will help curtail the prevailing worst practices.
New Book on Reading by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., to Be Called The Knowledge Deficit
Charlottesville, VA August 25, 2005 —This March, Houghton Mifflin will publish a new book by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., that will answer questions plaguing educators all across the country. Why do American children fail to perform as well as children in other industrialized countries? Why, after fourth grade, do students experience a slump in reading comprehension? Why, despite federal government spending of a billion dollars a year on the Reading First program, do so many schools fail to meet the goals established by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)?
The book, entitled The Knowledge Deficit, answers these questions not by looking at funding or legislation, but by looking at what children are actually being taught. This, says Hirsch, is where the problem lies. Our children are not learning how to read because they are subjected to a watered-down curriculum that fails to build the background knowledge essential to reading comprehension. Many schools excel at teaching the mechanics of reading, at giving kids the decoding skills they need to make out individual words. However, by fourth grade, students’ deficit in background knowledge trips them up. A steady diet of fictional stories and instruction in abstract thinking skills leaves students starved for facts ─ facts about history, geography, science, literature, mathematics, music, and art. Because of their knowledge deficit, students cannot comprehend the texts they are asked to read in fourth grade and beyond.
Hirsch not only diagnoses the problem with reading in America and explains why students are failing to make adequate yearly progress under NCLB, he also shows how these problems can be corrected. This book builds upon decades of research into school curricula that Hirsch has conducted since his best-selling Cultural Literacy captured the American imagination in the 1980s. The new book is likely to be a bombshell, blasting to smithereens the received ideas of the education school thoughtworld that determine what and how kids are being taught in America today.
Drawing on extensive scholarship and vast knowledge of cognitive psychology, as well as on recent practical experience in school reform, Hirsch points the way out of our current morass, showing educators, policy makers, and parents how we can overcome the achievement gap that leaves poor students, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic, behind. Only by doing this, says Hirsch, can we fulfill the democratic imperative that first drove the creation of America’s public schools.