By Lisa Hansel
June 11, 2015
I’m for knowledge equality. Most days, it seems about as popular as marriage equality was in the 1950s.
|Aren’t both of these children equally deserving of a rich, well-rounded education?|
Don’t both need to be immersed in the sciences and arts, US and
world history, music, civics, and more? (Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)
What I mean by knowledge equality is all children having equal opportunities to learn the academic knowledge that opens doors. The knowledge that really is power. The knowledge that represents the history of human accomplishment. The knowledge that stands the test of time because it is beautiful.
The knowledge that privileged children acquire at home, in libraries and museums, and in school.
Under the banners of local control, diversity, and individuality, we’ve spent decades pursuing universal skills while de-emphasizing shared knowledge. But it isn’t working and it can’t work. Skills depend on knowledge, so knowledge equality is the only path to skill equality.
Fortunately, there is room for both knowledge equality and individuality: The well-educated mind is always open to learning more. There’s no reason why our schools could not all offer the same powerful foundation of knowledge and then also engage students in their passions (which would be quite broad thanks to the well-rounded foundation).
No reason except being afraid of having the discussion, of debating what constitutes the powerful foundation of knowledge. Thirty years ago E. D. Hirsch and colleagues took on that challenge as a research project. While that effort has been updated and is thriving through Core Knowledge, perhaps it is time for another effort. One that involves millions of teachers, parents, and concerned citizens—a crowdsourced outline of a well-rounded education.
It would be hard—but not as hard as allowing the achievement gap to persist. The achievement gap is a knowledge gap. Knowledge equality is the only way to close it.