“You can always Look It Up .. or Can You?” By E.D. Hirsch Jr.

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Hirsch’s basic message is that there is important subject matter content that all students need to learn that this content should be appropriately sequenced, uniformly paced and that its achievement should be objectively measured. Sequencing has to do with the logic of the subject matter and not the “age readiness” of the child, a concept which he dismisses with considerable scorn.

Thus Hirsch’s curriculum is content driven. Children need to master the simpler elements of this content before they can move on to the more complex ones and all children at a certain grade should receive this material at approximately the same time without wasteful repetition from one year to the next. Children must learn fundamental content regardless of the methods used to teach it. He rejects the idea that students can learn the tools of inquiry, or how to know, without learning the content entailed in specific subjects and he defends the use of memory and repeated practice feeling that they have been neglected because of an overemphasis on progressive education.

He is also a defender of whole class instruction because he believes that it is often the most efficient way of delivering knowledge and skills, and he is a harsh critic of “the project method”. Finally, he holds that the facts and skills that children should be taught in school must be continually measured by “objective” tests and that those who fail should receive remedial work and, if necessary, repeat the grade.

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