Commentary Magazine


Article Preview

The Making of Americans, by E.D. Hirsch Jr.

- Abstract

Facts. They are not always welcome in American public-school classrooms. In his new book, The Making of Americans, E.D. Hirsch Jr. quotes from a letter, written by a teacher, to the New York Times: “High schools need to focus on critical thinking, not facts.”

Here is a problem. For as Hirsch notes, this anti-fact attitude is not limited to one teacherly correspondent but is also doctrine in education schools, where it is preached with fervency despite being supported by “no knowledgeable cognitive scientist.” It is an idea that works hand in glove with the equally popular and batty notion of “child-centered” learning, which straight-facedly maintains that a 5-year-old can and should determine what subject matter he studies and when and how he studies it. Somewhere along the way, opposing such piffle became a “conservative” position rather than just a commonsensical one, and so Hirsch, a distinguished scholar and educator, writes that though he is a “political liberal,” he “was forced to become an educational conservative.”



About the Author