The Theory Behind the Dictionary-summary
The Theory Behind the Dictionary explains the author's view on why cultural literacy is important for a person's success in reading and therefore learning new things. He emphasizes background information instead of specific information. He writes that successful reading requires a knowledge of shared information that is understood by our American population as a whole and that there is a direct correlation between reading ability and learning ability.
He also states that we learn most easily when we attach new infromation with old knowledge, therefore, in order to learn new things, we must have a general knowledge of a wide range of subjects so that we can make such connections. If we don't have much prior knowledge, it can make learning new concepts increasingly harder. This is what continues to fail today's students because more and more early-childhood schools are abandoning traditional stories and concepts for cutting edge information and modern materials. Hirsch says that this hurts the children by not giving them the background information they need to understand further readings since everything written in our culture implies some sort of common knowledge and without it, leaves many struggling to understand what should come easily to them. This also increases the gap between those that can learn because they have the background knowledge and those that are continually stuck because they lack it.
Hirsch also believes in "school-transmitted cultures" where teachers are the ones who perpetuate modern nations by the transmission of the literate national culture and language. It is simply not enough to teach them how to read. This can only bring them so far as pronouncing the words, but they must know the cultural language to understand it and read more diverse writings. This is why the standardized tests we all take have multiple selections for the reading sections. If there was only one passage, there is a chance that a child might know about it anyway. Having a broad variety makes it easier to see if a child can answer questions on categories beyond what they might be familiar with.
It is important to remain teaching our cultural literacy and also to preserve it. This is what allows us to communicate with those from other generations and people from different regions and races. he defines literacy as the ability to communicate effectively with strangers. He also says that the way we can help the underclass rise economically is by "teaching them shared, traditional literate culture." And, until everyone learns this, we cannot make any serious progress as a society.
Do you believe it is possible to learn well and succeed without this shared, traditional knowledge?
Is our culture doomed to illiteracy if we continue to ignore such knowledge in our schools?
Are standardized tests accurate in fore-telling out learning abilities and measuring our literacy progress?