THE MAKING OF AMERICANS
Democracy and Our Schools
By E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
Yale Univ. 261 pp. $25
It’s not easy being E. D. Hirsch, Jr. If the inventive 81-year-old had been a business leader or politician or even a school superintendent, his fight to give U.S. children rich lessons in their shared history and culture would have made him a hero among his peers. Instead, he chose to be an English professor, at the unlucky moment when academic fashion declared the American common heritage to be bunk and made people like Hirsch into pariahs.
In this intriguing, irresistible book, Hirsch tells of life as the odd man out at the University of Virginia. Twelve years ago, for instance, he decided to give a course at the university’s education school. As a bestselling author and leader of a national movement to improve elementary school teaching, he thought students would flock to hear him. Instead, he rarely got more than 10 a year. Be grateful for that many, one student told him. They had all been warned by the education faculty not to have anything to do with someone demanding that all students take prescribed courses in world and American history.