Textbooks That Cover
What Parents Want Taught
I look through my son's school textbooks, I don't see very many of the stories
and subjects that I used to enjoy studying. I know things have changed in a
generation of textbooks, but I feel badly that he isn't reading a lot of the
same great books, poems and other pieces of writing that I loved as a child.
What can I do?
can do what a lot of parents are doing, to deal with an overstandardized,
disappointing curriculum with textbooks that are overstuffed with material that
isn't very helpful or interesting: you can supplement your child's educational
reading by buying textbooks on the free market.
series that comes highly recommended is the Core Knowledge series, by E.D. Hirsch.
He is a retired professor of education, humanities and English from the
University of Virgina. He became concerned about the lack of what he called
"cultural literacy" among Americans, and wrote the book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know in 1987. He
followed that up with The Schools We Need
and Why We Don't Have Them, and The
basic concern is that people who don't have much knowledge aren't very good
readers and aren't very good thinkers. Even though he is a social liberal, he
became alarmed at how the liberal establishment within public education began
to value the "process" of learning and thinking over the "content" of learning
and thinking. Schools focus more on teaching kids "skills" than actual facts and
content on which to use those skills. It used to be that you went to school to
gain knowledge; now, Hirsch warned, we are going to school supposedly to learn
how to learn, but we graduate without much in the way of a knowledge base on
which more knowledge can be built.
his Core Knowledge curriculum is made up of what a large team of experts in
various fields - teachers, parents, scientists, historians, multicultural
leaders, and so on - decided should be in a "common core" of curriculum in America's
schools. It's supposed to be the academic content that no child should go
Core Knowledge textbooks are designed to be supplemental to the existing,
skills-based curriculum in schools, in sequence with what's already being
taught, but supplying those important and culturally-relevant materials which
are too often missing in the public-school curriculum.
example from the Core Knowledge website is the common second-grade social
studies focus on the local community, chiefly discussing the presence of the
local park, library, fire station and shopping mall. In stark contrast, the
Core Knowledge textbook for second-grade social studies delves into China,
India, ancient Greece and the American Civil War.
educators have complained that using a pre-selected curriculum limits their
academic freedom of choice, but the Core Knowledge response is that most
educators find it liberating, not confining, to have these materials gathered
in advance, and they are still free to teach the concepts as they would like.
For instance, they can lead the children in putting on a short play about
China, or to construct a world globe out of papier mache, or to work as a group
on a model of a battle in the Civil War.
The goal is for children to leave
school with a large amount of "shared knowledge" that can help them unite in an
increasingly knowledge-based America standing on a large piece of common
Homework: See www.coreknowledge.org/CK/about/articles/miscon.htm