Dr. E. D. Hirsch Jr. sets outhis thoughts on domain specific skills.
The ideas of Hirsch are controversial because they propose that there are set ideas that all people should know and set lists of knowledge that all children should be taught. By knowing these things people will then be culturally literate enough to move (successfully) through the world. Essentially it means teaching people facts. It doesn’t take much theorising on this Gradgrindian approach to education to reach some fairly obvious and clear problems.
However, the subjective, value-based nature of Hirsch’s ideas do not need much further elucidation – it replicates the same kind of sentiment as can be found in the UK government’s decision to introduce the EBacc.
For example, he states no need for study of language arts which he sees as “cognitive wastelands” (Hirsch, 2009: 42). To arrive at his claims Hirsch analysed the data from SATs across America that showed a decline in reading, writing and mathematical ability since the 1960s up until the 1990s.
For Hirsch the blame is clear: “An influx of educators trained in child-centered, anti-curriculum ideas, along with an influx of skills-oriented textbooks reflecting the anti-curriculum point of view” (2009: 26).
Allowing students to be individuals and to allow a breadth and depth of education is something that Hirsch sees as damaging rather than emancipatory. His outline for a culturally literate society is one in which there is a core knowledge understood by everybody and for this to happen there needs to be more standardisation, not less.