Hirsch and Schemas

Hirsch seems to recognize the need for abstract schemata and generalizations, saying:

"In modern life we need general knowledge that enables us to deal with new ideas, events, and challenges. In today's world, general cultural literacy is more useful than what Professor Patterson terms 'literacy to a specific task,' because general literate information is the basis of many changing tasks."


"To understand how isolated facts fit together in some coherent way, we must always acquire mental models of how they cohere, and these schemata can come only from detailed, intensive study and experience."

Still, Hirsch insists that we teach the specific bits and pieces he collects in his literacy lists. He informs us:

"To know what educated people know about tigers but don't know about elm trees is the sort of cultural knowledge, limited in extent but possessed by all literate people, that must be brought into the open and taught to our children."


"What distinguishes good readers from poor ones is simply the possession of a lot of diverse, task-specific information."

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