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Friday, January 26, 2007

The Knowledge Deficit

E. D. Hirsch's new book The Knowledge Deficit seems worth a read.

This article reviews the book. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

An educational experiment in 1989 pitted a group of students with high reading scores, selected especially for their lack of interest in baseball, against a group of low-scoring students who happened to be avid baseball fans. The two groups were asked to demonstrate their reading comprehension of a passage on baseball. Can you guess which team won?

In The Knowledge Deficit, E. D. Hirsch Jr. recounts this experiment and draws on the work of reading researchers and theorists to argue that “background knowledge,” knowledge not explicitly presented in a text, is essential to reading comprehension.

Sounds like common sense; however, the way we teach reading concentrates on decoding. Hirsch argues that: “We need to see the reading comprehension problem for what it primarily is—a knowledge problem.”

I can't help myself, I'm always intrigued by educational strategies both successful and unsuccessful.


  1. Makes me continually glad that I didn't feel a calling to become a teacher!

  2. How interesting!! I hadn't looked at comprehension that way before... Thanks for this post.