Wednesday, June 30, 2010

E.D. Hirsch and Core Learning As Against Child Centered Learning

Interesting is the tension between child centered learning and core learning theory.

Against child centered learning and the theories of Dewey, E. D. Hirsch argues for core knowledge in the school curriculum. In Cultural Literacy, Hirsch identified some 5,000 names, dates, essential facts and concepts that an educated person should know, in science, culture, religion, and art history. For Hirsch, education’s function is acculturation--the transmission of specific knowledge to the next generation. He argues that that knowledge is a necessary condition for full citizenship. And he argues emphatically that cultural literacy constitutes the only real way to opportunity for the disadvantaged.

If learning proceeds on any principle, and not just willy nilly, schools, core theorists argue, need to follow a carefully sequenced body of knowledge. For Hirsch, the most powerful tool for later learning is that sequencing as a broad base of knowledge in many fields. Against arguments based on change against core learning theory, core learning argues back that the basics of science and constitutional government, world history, mathematics and of oral and written expression do not change rapidly, but, rather, inform the basis for true lifelong learning.

The acquisition of core knowledge is not only done through memorization, but also through active learning strategies. A good command of factual knowledge is a necessary condition for a critical capacity. Otherwise, instead of critical analysis, students develop only uninformed opinions in the name of critical thinking.

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