Politico’s list of the 50 “thinkers, doers and dreamers who really matter” includes, at number 8, E.D. Hirsch of the Core Knowledge Foundation and David Coleman, principal author of Common Core Standards.
“I’ve Been a Pariah for So Long,” Hirsch tells Peg Tyre.
At age 86, educational theorist E.D. Hirsch is finally being rehabilitated. For nearly 30 years, he has been labeled a blue-blood elitist and arch-defender of the Dead White European Male. Now, the retired English professor is finding that his ideas, once dismissed wholesale by the educational establishment, are being credited as the intellectual foundation of the national reform movement that has swept the country in recent years, pushing expanded access to preschool and the Common Core state learning standards to improve the chances of America’s poorer children.
In 1987, Hirsch argued in Cultural Literacy argued that children need background information to understand what they read.
In the index, he listed “5,000 essential subjects and concepts that Hirsch believed teachers should impart to their students, arrayed in alphabetical order: A.D., ad absurdum, adagio, Adam and Eve, Adams, John.”
“He showed the fundamental importance that knowledge plays to develop the foundations of literacy,” says David Coleman, who calls Hirsch’s work “absolutely foundational.”
The Common Core is a “delivery mechanism” for Hirsch’s ideas, writes Robert Pondiscio, who worked for Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Foundation, funded with the profits from his books.
The standards say:
By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. Students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades.
“One of the frustrations of supporting Common Core is seeing Hirsch’s simple, elegant, and irrefutable insight disappear into a miasma of sloppiness, opportunism, and obfuscation,” writes Pondiscio.