Those who want to learn more about how the public school system has failed disadvantaged children and thereby fosters social inequalities should read E.D. Hirsch Jr.'s new book called The Schools We Need. The author of the best-selling Cultural Literacy has produced an impressive critique of our public educational system which, he says, is "among the least effective in the developed world."
The American education "Thoughtworld," as Hirsch calls the dressed-up yet decades-old ideas of the education establishment, "is a juggernaut that crushes the independence of the mind." The faulty, anti-knowledge theories originating in the early 20th century have been merely recycled to formulate the impressive-sounding jargon that "experts" use today. These entrenched slogans have
"led to the total absence of a coherent, knowledge-based curriculum, but are nonetheless presented as novel theories based on the latest research and as remedies for the diseases they themselves have caused."
Hirsch defines the public schools' deceptive vocabulary. He makes a broadside attack on the prevailing pedagogical fads that "process" should take priority over the acquisition of knowledge, that teachers do not need to know the subjects they teach, and that it is unnatural and unfair to challenge children academically through content-based curricula.
Hirsch argues that requiring children to learn a core curriculum, using methods that emphasize hard work, learning facts, and passing tests, is the best and probably the only way to reduce social and economic inequalities. Neither more money nor "school choice" will do the job. The children from disadvantaged families need a core curriculum with real content if they are to become successful citizens in the information-age civilization.
A child's mind is hungry for knowledge, stimulation, and learning, and it is a tragedy that schools fail to provide these things. Educators would do well to heed Hirsch's convincing and well-documented conclusions