According to E.D. Hirsch, to be culturally literate is to possess the basic information to thrive in the modern world. It is the "grasp on the background information that writers and speakers assume their audience already has." In his book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, Hirsch sets forth 5,000 essential words and phrases of which each person should be knowledgeable. The list ranges from idioms to mythology, from science to fairy tales. Why has this list prompted a notable debate on our country's educational standards? E.D. Hirsch believes that the literacy of American people has been rapidly declining. The long range remedy for restoring and improving American literacy must be to "institute a policy of imparting common information in our schools." In short, according to Hirsch - the answer to our problem lies within the list.
Hirsch's book explains the importance of the need of a higher level of national literacy.
His main argument is that cultural literacy is required for effective communication and the "cooperation of many people..." Communication is what Hirsch sees is essential for success in today's society. Communication is the key to equality in America. With increased cultural literacy, an egalitarian society is eventually possible. One common body of knowledge for everyone will be the glue that holds society together.
Hirsch also points out the senselessness of concepts such as multi-culturalism and multi-lingualism. He acknowledges the importance of the numerous cultures and ethnicities of which United States is comprised. Hirsch mentions the "hyphenated American: the Italo-American, the Polish-American, the Afro-American, the Asian-American and so forth." He points out that he is in favor of each minority's protection, nurture, and respect; however, he strongly feels that people need to decide what "OeAmerican' means on the other side of the hyphen...what national values...