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Publisher's Summary

In this forceful manifesto Professor E. D. Hirsch, Jr., argues that children in the United States are being deprived of the basic knowledge that would enable them to function in contemporary society. They lack cultural literacy: a grasp of background information that writers and speakers assume their audience already has. Thus even if a student has a basic competence in the English language, he or she has little chance of entering the American mainstream without knowing what a silicon chip is or when the Civil War was fought.

A major best seller that has engendered a nationwide debate on our educational standards, Cultural Literacy is must listening for parents, teachers, and anyone else concerned with our future as a literate nation.

Click here to listen to E. D. Hirsch, Jr.'s The Schools We Need.
©1987 Houghton Mifflin Company (P)1995 Blackstone Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"Fascinating reading, particularly when we bear in mind that...it is an attempt to establish what all culturally literate Americans actually know, not what they ought to know....Mr. Hirsch's proposal merits serious consideration." (The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting Theory

The premise for this book is that in order to be literate, one must not only be able to read but properly understand the context of things mentioned in conversation by literate people. Literate people assume at least a basic knowledge of certain things and build everything else in conversation and education upon that basic knowledge. The authors are pushing for education that imparts knowledge of the things that are assumed to be understood by literate people.

It's an interesting listen. The text is academic and somewhat repetitive, but by the end of the book you clearly understand their very convincing argument. I'd consider this a very important book for parents and educators--if not to take and apply what the authors suggest, at least to be aware of it.

The last several hours of the book are almost worthless. The narrator reads a list from A-Z of the topics the authors consider important to be culturally literate. There is no conceivable way someone could listen to that for 4 hours. It's like reading the dictionary minus definitions. Aside from that, that list is freely available (updated with definitions) elsewhere online.

25 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Dawn
  • Champaign, IL, United States
  • 02-16-13

Is this narrated by a robot?

How could the performance have been better?

The narration sounds like some technological process was applied to squeeze out the pauses between words. It is very disconcerting and sounds like it was read by a computer program rather than a real person.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Waste of time

What disappointed you about Cultural Literacy?

I have the print version of this book which is excellent. The audio version just lists the topics with no details as in the print version. Do not waste your time and money on the audio version.

What could E.D. Hirsch Jr. have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Included the details for each topic as the print version does. I feel cheated.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

No

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Paul
  • West Blocton, AL, United States
  • 02-14-12

Disappointed

I have a copy of Cultural Literacy and it has a list of topics with a brief description of each that explains its relevance in American Culture. This audio book just lists a bunch of topics alphabetically. I thought this would be a fun book to listen to while driving, but who wants to listen to a random list of names and topics without any information to educate you about them? I just did not get this audio version.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Well written list of complaints & suggested read

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

If you would like a well compiled nearly 2 hour long list of suggestions to study, in order to be as culturally literate as the author, then this is is the book for you. If you would love to hear a meandering complaint on how the US school system is systematically depriving students of cultural literacy, than this is a fantastic listen.

Although you will not find any explaination of the listed items, their significance or how any of those listed subjects bear significance other then depriving these obviously superior beings of adequately educated people for them to talk to.

Would you ever listen to anything by E.D. Hirsch Jr. again?

No

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

an effective form of sedation.

Any additional comments?

complete waste of money

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Wil
  • Roseville, CA, United States
  • 12-29-09

Don't Waste a Credit On This

All that this book contains is a list of what "every American should know" without any details on any of those items. No joke, the whole book is just a list, droned out one item after the other. I feel like I got bamboozled.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Should Have a PDF

As a "sorta" well-read high school drop out, this book was helpful. For decades, I have wanted to know what "they" know and what I missed out on by not going to college.

So, this book was very useful as is the St. John's College book list.

(I'll be working my way through both lists for the next 10 years.)

I just wish the appendix was available as a PDF. I found one on the Internet and could have photocopied the list at the library, but that shouldn't have been necessary IMO.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Informational and interesting

Audio- The narration was done done at a reasonable pace for pedantic material, and not so monotonous that it would put a listener to sleep. Reading may be a preferred method to digest the information for many.
The book itself- I found this to be a very engaging topic, disseminated in a logical manner. I have recommended this to scholars, instructors and those I know to be "life-long learners."

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A little dated but still relevant

What did you love best about Cultural Literacy?

This is incredibly insightful and straitforward in its ability to explain how students learn and why education needs to be coherent and consistent across socio-economic and linguistic barriers.

What did you like best about this story?

The most effective peice was E.D. Hirsch's focus on how what people know translates into their ability to learn.

Which scene was your favorite?

The topic of multi-lingual education is resonate. His stance although potentailly controversial, makes sense. Multi-lingual education does offer some immediate benefits to non-English speaking students but could reenforce a hegemonic situation where those who are not forced to learn English and the cultural history perpetuated by traditional American are made to be second class.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

Without existing schema it is almost impossible to be engaged with new material.

Any additional comments?

This book will change the way you think about how culture fits in with education and how education then affects culture.