E. D. Hirsch, Jr. (1928–) from “Rise of the Fragmented Curriculum,” Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (1987)

  • Lee Morrissey


The decline of American literacy and the fragmentation of the American school curriculum have been chiefly caused by the ever growing dominance of romantic formalism in educational theory during the past half century. We have too readily blamed shortcomings in American education on social changes (the disorientation of the American family or the impact of television) or incompetent teachers or structural flaws in our school systems. But the chief blame should fall on faulty theories promulgated in our schools of education and accepted by educational policymakers.


Past Half Century American Education Cultural Memory National Education Association Gradual Disintegration 
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  1. 2.
    J. S. Chall, C. Snow, et al., Families and Literacy, Final Report to the National Institute of Education, 1982. Also, J. S. Chall, “Afterword,” in R. C. Anderson et al., Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading (Washington, DC: National Institute of Education, 1985), pp. 123–24.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    P. S. Anderson, Language Skills in Elementary Education, 2d ed., (New York: Macmillan, 1972), pp. 209–210.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    My understanding of this historical process is based chiefly on the following historical works to which the reader is referred for detailed accounts and interpretations: L. A. Cremin, The Transformation ofthe School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876—1957 (New York: Knopf, 1964)Google Scholar
  4. Patricia A. Graham, Progressive Education: From Arcady to Academe (New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1967)Google Scholar
  5. Diane Ravitch, The Troubled Crusade (New York: Basic Books, 1983)Google Scholar
  6. David K. Cohen, “Origins,” in The Shopping Mall High School ed. A. G. Powell, E. Farrar, and David K. Cohen (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985), pp. 233–308.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    See Cremin, The Transformation ofthe School. The process after 1957 is traced in Ravitch, The Troubled Crusade, especially chapter 2. A concise overview of the process (just 16 pages long) can be found in “The Continuing Crisis: Fashions in Education,” the third chapter in Diane Ravitch, The Schools We Deserve: Reflections on the Educational Crises of our Times (New York: Basic Books, 1985).Google Scholar

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© Lee Morrissey 2005

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  • Lee Morrissey

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