The Annual Education Lecture with E. D. Hirsch

17 September 2015 18:30

The Annual Education Lecture with E. D. Hirsch

Synopsis

Event description

We are delighted to announce that the second Policy Exchange Annual Lecture on Education will be given by the American academic and author E. D. Hirsch. This event is held in association with Cambridge Assessment and the Inspiration Trust.
 
E. D. Hirsch is the author of numerous books and articles on the topic of education with a particular focus on curriculum and assessment. He is the author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know, published in 1987, which set out 5,000 subjects and concepts that every American ought to know and which ought to be covered in education. The book became the basis for the Core Knowledge Foundation which works across America to publish materials and set out the content and skills and knowledge which ought to be taught in every school year.
 
His work has been influential across the world, not least in the UK, where he is cited as one of the major influencers on the Conservative party’s recent approach to education in particular. He has been named as one of the inspirations behind the curriculum changes made in the last Parliament and is frequently referenced in speeches by politicians from all parties. Sol Stern, a senior fellow at the New York City-based Manhattan Institute, one of the world’s leading think tanks, has described Hirsch as “the most important education reformer of the past half-century.
 
We are also delighted that Nick Gibb MP, the Minister of State for Schools, will give a welcome and introduction to the lecture, and set out the context and thinking behind the Government’s recent reforms to curriculum and assessment.
 
Alongside the lecture, Policy Exchange  will also be publishing a short collection of essays alongside the lecture from a range of experts and thinkers in this space, focussing on the development of curriculum and assessment reform for schools and government.

In association with

Transcript

Key
time e.g. [5:22] = inaudible word at this time
[IA 5:22] = inaudible section at this time
[word] = best guess at word

Introduction: Jonathan Simons (Head of Education, Policy Exchange)

Thank you all very much indeed for coming here to Pimlico Academy. My name’s Jonathan Simons, I’m Head of Education at Policy Exchange and it’s a great pleasure to welcome you to the second Annual Policy Exchange Education Lecture, which this year is being given by Dr E D Hirsch on the title: Elementary Education, Hitting the Reset Button. Huge thanks to various people that have made this lecture possible tonight, to Inspiration Trust and to Cambridge Assessment who are partners to this lecture, to Lord & Lady Nash for graciously allowing us to host it here at Pimlico and Jo Saxton as well, the Chief Exec of the Academy Trust. And it’s very appropriate, of course, that we’re here at Pimlico, because it was Pimlico Academy Trust, the Futures Academy Trust and Pimlico Academy that first brought the ideas of the Knowledge Curriculum here in England as far back as 2007, so we’re hugely grateful and hugely indebted to them for that and obviously for their hosting tonight, so thank you.

It’s an absolute pleasure and an honour to welcome E D Hirsch here tonight, Professor Emeritus of Education & Humanities at University of Virginia, author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and someone who was described as the most important education reformer of the past half century. You’ll all be very, very familiar with Dr Hirsch’s work and Dr Hirsch’s thesis and it’s a real pleasure and privilege to have him tonight. The format is that we are going to have a short introduction from Nick Gibb, the Minister for Schools, then we’ll move onto the lecture and then there’ll be time for questions and after questions and answers after and we’ll hope to finish by about 8 pm. If you want to tweet, please do, the hashtag is Hirsch and we’re very grateful to you all for coming.
So without any further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb.

<Applause>

Nick Gibb, MP, Minister of State for Schools

Thank you very much Jonathan. First of all I’d like to say well done to Policy Exchange; I can think of few better education experts that a UK think tank could invite to speak than E D Hirsch. Over the last five years his ideas have transformed the education debate in this country and had a significant impact on government reform.

Professor Hirsch’s influence can be seen here at Pimlico Academy, which has kindly agreed to host tonight’s event. In 2010, under the outstanding stewardship of its sponsor, Caroline Nash, Pimlico Academy committed to something rather farsighted, teaching a core knowledge curriculum to all its pupils. Five years later the Future Academies Trust is creating an all-through core knowledge curriculum with its three primary schools and 70% of Pimlico Academy pupils were entered for the academically challenging EBac at GCSE, one of the highest proportions for schools in similar circumstances in the United Kingdom. Professor Hirsch’s influence can also be seen one mile up the road at the Department for Education. No single writer has influenced my thinking on education more.

Like any book which becomes seminal in one’s intellectual journey, I distinctly remember the first time I encountered Hirsch’s work. I was appointed Shadow Minister for Schools in 2005 and my researcher at the time, Edward Hardman, who’s sitting on the second row over there, recommended that I read Hirsch’s 1996 book The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them. So I took it with me on my summer holiday to Savannah, Georgia, I began reading it on the beach and simply couldn’t put it down. And back in my hotel room I immediately emailed Professor Hirsch to explain my enthusiasm for his ideas, and very politely you responded, which was rather wonderful to have an email back from the person whose book you’ve just read. Reading Hirsch’s work I had the strange sensation that he had taken my own incoherent and disparate thoughts on education and turned them into an articulate and intellectually robust case for action. To quote Alexander Pope, Hirsch’s books showed me ‘what oft was thought but n’er so well exprest’, and ever since Hirsch’s books, filled with post-it notes providing access to my favourite passages, have accompanied me from opposition and into government and I recommend Hirsch’s books to anyone I meet with an interest in education policy and I’d like to think that your book sales this side of the Atlantic have seen a significant spike as a result, and I’m not asking for a share of the Royalties!

In the first meeting of civil servants after the 2010 Election to discuss the curriculum review, all the officials came into the office with bound copies of the core knowledge curriculum and in this way Hirsch’s work in America provided us with a tangible precedent for our thinking on the English National Curriculum which could reassure civil servants that we were not entirely alone in our ideas. And what’s more, Hirsch’s arguments provided us with a compelling social justice case with which to argue for a knowledge-rich curriculum. Our reforms were based on a desire to equalise the unfair distribution of intellectual capital in British society and, unlike so many other inequalities, this is one that schools, if performing their function properly, have the power to address.

We inherited a National Curriculum from 2007 which was actively hostile to teaching prescribed knowledge and sought to minimise the importance of subject content wherever it could. In the conception of the 2007 National Curriculum knowledge was simply a means of acquiring the far more valuable skills, as they would put it; whether you studied James I or Jack the Ripper, to do so was neither here nor there, provided you were learning the key historical process of using evidence. This simply had to change. A body of academic knowledge is the rightful inheritance of everyone, regardless of background, circumstance or job, and the new National Curriculum published in 2013 is a programme of study in the spirit of Hirsch. At primary school the National Curriculum in English is properly sequenced so that pupils learn how to read and write in a structured and comprehensive fashion. In year 2 pupils will be introduced to the apostrophe and the coma, in year 4 they’ll encounter the possessive pronoun and in year 7 they’ll be taught about the colon, ellipsis and the passive voice. In our new, more ambitious, mathematics curriculum pupils will be expected to multiple and divide proper fractions, calculate the area of parallelograms and triangles and read any number up to 10 million by the end of primary school, as well as having memorised their multiplication tables by the end of year 4. And at secondary level the curriculum is properly sequenced to allow the incremental accumulation of knowledge. For example in Key Stage 3, physics pupils will learn about forces as pushes or pulls arising from the interaction between two objects, allowing them at Key State 4 to learn about acceleration caused by forces and Newton’s First Law.

In preparation for this event I found myself wondering why, in this internet age where countless views on education can be accessed for free online through blogs and Twitter, is the voice of one English Literature Professor from Virginia so important? Why does an intellectual movement such as that which is taking place in English education still need a figurehead such as Hirsch? And whilst pondering this question I reached an amusingly Hirschian explanation. What Hirsch has provided English reformers with is a shared language, and re-reading Hirsch’s work I realise how many terms which I use now on a daily basis I first came across when reading his books. I’m thinking not just of cultural literacy, but also national communication, common reference points, the education and thought world, intellectual capital and the supposed split between facts and skills. And I’ll wager that for many of us it was Hirsch who first exposed us to such ideas and concepts. And as with so many other professions, education has developed a language of its own, erecting barriers to entry for the interested layman. And to implement an effective programme of reform it was imperative that I and my colleagues learnt this language, and Hirsch was our tutor. And back when I was in opposition it would not have been immediately obvious, for example, that the 2007 curriculum overlay of personal learning and thinking skills was arrant nonsense; to the uninformed outsider, independent learning or learning to learn and individualised instruction all sound misleadingly like reasonable ideas, but reading Hirsch provided me with a mental armour to see these ideas for what they were and fight them accordingly. And in this way Hirsch’s work provides an unrivalled preparation, equipping reformers with the necessary knowledge to engage with the Education Establishment.

In cultural literacy Hirsch reproduces an extract from the introduction to Thorndike and Baker’s 1917 book, Everyday Classics, an elementary schoolbook which aimed to introduce American school children to the canon. As the extract shows, 100 years ago it was seen as self-evident that such literature was the rightful inheritance of every citizen. The authors wrote:

We have chosen what is common, established, almost proverbial; what has become indisputably classic; what, in brief, every child in the land ought to know, because it is good and because other people know it. The educational worth of such materials calls for no defence. In an age when the need of socialising and unifying our people is keenly felt, the value of a common stock of knowledge, a common set of ideals, is obvious.

100 years on such an outlook is far from obvious. It calls for a spirited defence which will be opposed by no shortage of grandees in the education establishment. It is to our enduring benefit that E D Hirsch decided to take up this fight when he published Cultural Literacy in 1987 and has pursued it so doggedly and effectively ever since, inspiring a whole new generation of reformers in the United Kingdom and United States.

It’s my immense pleasure to introduce him to speak today: E D Hirsch, thank you.

<Applause>

ED Hirsch

This has got to be an anti-climax!

<Laughter>

Thanks Nick. This was a humbling introduction. Before I begin talking I want to thank the Inspiration Trust for inviting me and particularly Nick Gibb and Michael Gove; they were kind enough to be inviting me back in years when it was very heartening to get some support for my ideas, and to that I want to add John and Caroline Nash who were also early adopters, as they say. And another thing that I particularly appreciated about that is it’s so rare in the United States for people with high political office to read books –

<Laughter>

Or even to follow a logical argument –

<Laughter>

And then to be able to actually take chances and do brave things on the basis of that logic is quite rate. You may remember that Matthew Arnold was praising Edmund Burke for that very turn because this is what he called living by ideas, and it’s very rare, so I want to thank you especially, Nick, for saying that. And another two people I want to thank particularly are Rachel D’Souza and Sarah Minty because they’re the ones who actually brought me here, they had the nifty idea of deciding I would maybe like to travel and I was very happy you made it happen. And this is an agreeable occasion in another way because it’s the first time I’ve been back to England for many decades. In 1960 I spent a year here researching a book, it turned out to be a book on William Blake, and I worked at the London Library and at their Annual Meeting it was presided over by T S Elliott, that will give you some notion of how old I am –

<Laughter>

And <laughs> then we spent another year, a very wonderful year in Oxford. So I’m not a stranger to this country, though I’m as old as the hills!

Now this is the first talk of three that I’m going to be giving while in England, and its focus is going to be on the skills-centrism of elementary education in the US and very possibly though obviously less so, in the UK; the other two talks will be on individualism and developmentalism. This one on skills-centrism – lots of isms, but I hope to make them concrete – is the most immediate problem, because it enables our elementary schools to avoid defining the knowledge that all children should learn and become competent students and effective adults. Historically skills-centrism, by that I mean a focus on general skills rather than a specific knowledge, that was the result of developmentalism which says you have to let the child develop on its own, according to its own nature, which of course led to individualism. Of course if you let a child develop its own nature it will be a unique development. So the idea that was adopted to bring unity out of that confusion in individualism if you give each child its own special curriculum would be an incoherent education unless it were unified by all-purpose skills and in 1910 Dewey wrote a book about that, How We Think, and he said this is the reason why we have to have critical thinking as our aim and all the things that Nick Gibb … I didn’t know that history when I wrote those things but it was very interesting how clearly Dewey saw that if we don’t posit critical thinking as an aim everything will be too diffuse, fragmented and incoherent.

I’ll start off by talking about reading, it’s a central activity in elementary school, elementary education, and then I’ll talk a bit about skills, then make some policy inferences from that. The skill set that sociologists have shown to be most highly correlated with a child’s chances in life is vocabulary level and reading ability, and when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which I assume you all know about, it went into effect in 2002, it caused American schools to focus on math and on reading, which was a sound instinct in some ways because of this correlation of reading with life chances, but because of the way the American model is formed, it induced only modest improvements years, decades, later in 17-year-olds who were graduating from that system. No improvement whatever in reading scores, in fact the reading scores, despite all the emphasis on reading, went slightly downward. The average reading score of 17-year-olds, probably the best single index of how good a school system is, because so much else depends on knowledge, vocabulary size and the ability to, as we say in the States, to be college and career ready. The No Child Left Behind law had a fatal flaw; it misunderstood the nature of reading. It assumed that once a child learned how to convert printed symbols into language then progress in understanding language would move forward, especially if children practiced all-purpose comprehension skills like questioning the author and finding the main idea. But that was an incorrect theory, but nonetheless it was passed into law. And by the way something… you all know Dan Willingham, my colleague at Virginia, and he and Gail Lovette had done a study, which shows that teaching those conscious strategies of reading for about a week or so gives you all the boost that it’s going to give you, and every minute spent on studying those strategies thenceforth is useless and wasted time.

Now I want to give a brief rundown on how we came to know this fact about reading, that all the laws we’ve recently passed in education have been based on an incorrect idea. It has enormous ramifications and I’m sure that many of you in this room, and clearly many of you in government, know this now, so I’m perhaps preaching to the already converted, but the point really is that high reading ability can only be achieved by a broad, well-rounded education; it’s the only way. That’s a pretty distinct statement, but it’s a major defence if you think about it, of the liberal arts and of a general and wide ranging education in the elementary school. We all know people who are good readers, good general readers, so we can sympathise with the framers of that No Child Left Behind law, when they assumed that reading was a general skill, a sort of all-purpose skill, and there was even a report from the National Reading Panel which suggested that these strategies would be helpful. But if they were to convene now, that was in 2000, and if we convened a panel now, you can be sure they would come out with a different view of it. We know more about reading than we did in 2000. In that year there were two different conceptions that seemed equally compelling; one conceived of comprehension as a strategic skill, it enabled you to navigate any text you encountered; the other picture proved to be more correct. An expert reader is a person who has become knowledgeable on many different topics and therefore can navigate texts on many different subjects and that’s the reason why the claim of a well-rounded education is the only means of becoming a good reader. It was an insight that was slow to develop and let me invoke your patience while I go through some of the steps that led to it. I find it quite interesting and I think it’s important that people generally know about those steps.
In ’83 Walter Kintsch and Teun van Dijk published a book with a terrible title, but it essentially was a path-breaking book which extended insights from the whole series of about 20 years of psycho linguistics and this was the key insight as they stated it in that book:

One of the major contributions of psychology is the recognition that much of the information needed to understand a text is not provided by the information expressed in the text, but must be drawn from the language user’s knowledge of the person, object, state of affairs or events the discourse is about.

And that book developed the concept of the situation model, which is a construct made out of the information you got from the text and the information of the reader brought to the text in order to make it meaningful. If students lack the domain knowledge required by the topic, they can’t make that situation model and they can’t comprehend what’s written down. Of course, what I’m saying about reading is true of language generally, true of oral speech as much as written speech. This background knowledge is needed to communicate and understand speech generally in a speech community.

After the publication of the Kintsch and van Dijk book, there was further work on background knowledge and I’m going to describe just three experiments from 1988 to 2011 showing some of the progress of insight into this area. In ’88 Recht and Leslie did an experiment that you may know about, I’ve certainly written about it more than once: poor readers outperform good readers when the poor readers happen to know about the subject and the good readers didn’t know much about the subject. In ’88 that was a pretty interesting discovery. The situation was that there were 12-year-olds and the poor readers who scored badly on reading tests knew a lot about baseball and some other comparable 12-year-olds scored very well on reading tests but didn’t know much about baseball and so the poor readers outperformed the good readers on that reading task. So that’s sort of illustrating the implication of what van Dijk and Kintsch were saying.

That very next year, in ’89, Wolfgang Schneider and his associates confirmed that result with an interesting twist: the knowledge variables there were soccer, which was what you do when you’re dealing, I guess, with 12-year-olds or students, you take something where you can get this variation in knowledge by poor readers, but the variables were not scores on a reading test, the variables were scores on an IQ test. And there, what they discovered was that the low IQ kids who knew a lot about soccer performed just as well as, or better, in fact, than the high IQ kids who knew less about soccer. But equally interesting, the low IQ children who knew a lot about soccer scored as well as the high IQ kids who knew a lot about soccer; that was a surprising result. And what it indicates is the egalitarian effects of knowledge are very clearly …it overcomes... brute knowledge overcomes handicaps, up to a point anyway. That to me was a very interesting experiment, but the most interesting one for me of all in this series was in 2011 a group of researchers, quite eminent ones, reported, against their own expectations, which was very interesting, that comprehension depended less on textual complexity, very complex text. I think this is quite interesting for education policy. Working with third graders, when the third graders were confronted with topics like tree frogs and soil then they weren’t too familiar with tree frogs and soil and when they were presented with more complex versions of the text their comprehension took a nosedive. When they were confronted with a similar combination of text, easy and complex, when the topics were jellybeans and toothpaste, they performed very well independently of the complexity, the syntactic complexity of the text. So that was the final nail in the coffin for all-purpose reading skills. That is, not even the ability to manage complex texts as such is an all-purpose skill. It’s also dependent on domain knowledge. So the concept of reading as an all-purpose skill led though to a very short-term view of elementary education, which has always suffered, at least in my hearing, the problem of being thought of, elementary education as being a time when you learn basic skills and it was in the later grades where you learned really about the content. On the contrary, it’s very important in the early grades for this knowledge build-up to occur as early as possible. Vocabulary is a plant of very slow growth and it’s based on knowledge and on broad knowledge.

When No Child Left Behind in the United States narrowed the curriculum and led to results we’re just finding out about now, because it’s been in action for over a decade, it turned out that the helter-skelter curriculum emphasising skills had actually diminished mature reading skills on a big scale, so that was a bit of a tragedy that a wrong theory introduced. So I guess I only have… the hedgehog has one idea, Isaiah Berlin wrote about the hedgehog and the fox: the fox knows many little things, the hedgehog knows one big thing, and what can I do? I repeat my one big thing that <laughs> the best route to competence is a knowledge-based elementary curriculum.

That brings me, though, to the second subject, which is what cognitive science is saying this day currently about all-purpose skills. That has been a tremendous feature of US education. I don’t know how prevalent it is with the new reforms in the current regime, but public schools in the United States issue mission statements that go like this, here’s a random sample, I’ll just mention three cities. Milwaukee announces in their schools: ‘Children will develop organisational, critical thinking and problem-solving skills’. Tucson claims that it fosters ‘creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving’. Sante Fe says it promotes ‘critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity’. And though certainly I think the people who say those things believe them, but it’s also very convenient because then you don’t have to say what the children are learning in history and civics and literature and music and art and so on. It is a very convenient point of view, all-purpose skills, from a bureaucratic standpoint.

But not only that, in my country teachers find it convenient to take the all-purpose skills approach and they make pronouncements that are very similar. I just gathered these from the net randomly:

We need to move away from strictly teaching content and move towards teaching strategies on how to find information.

In a world where most information is instantly available online, the mass memorisation of facts is no longer required in order for students to be competitive in a global economy.

We need to teach them thinking and logic skills to help them use the information available to them.

And so on. There are many statements like that, that you can instantly garner from the internet, and they’ve been pronouncing statements like that not just in the days of the internet, they were pronounced in the days of the dictionary and the encyclopaedia also, the same principle that when you can look things up it’s really important to learn how to think. Well, one thing that cognitive science has shown is that these skills are not independent, all-purpose skills; they tend to be domain-specific and they don’t transfer from one domain to another. We already saw that in reading, where we had the skill was OK with jelly beans but it wasn’t OK with tree frogs. The domain specificity of skills is probably for education, maybe that’s the most important finding of recent cognitive science, I would say. That is, the skills that were being announced in Tucson and Milwaukee and Santa Fe don’t exist.

Some years ago I wrote a piece for American Educator about looking things up, and because I was focussed on a wonderful essay by George Miller, who’s a great figure in cognitive science and popularised and almost invented short-term memory, he’s a very important psychologist. Miller is very interesting. He also became the best authority on vocabulary, what does it mean to know a word? And that was his last essay before he died. And I wanted to make sure, when I was preparing this talk, that I was up-to-date on this question, so I looked up the subject in current times, because Miller wrote this back in, I think it was in the early eighties, and yes, it’s still valid that novices have a hell of a hard time looking anything up. An expert has a much easier time looking things up, but of course he’s already an expert. And Miller focussed on young children looking things up in a dictionary: children do not like to look things up, he discovered that a normal child’s aversion to doing so was, Miller found, amply justified.

In the time it took them to find a dictionary word and construe its meanings, they forgot the original context and never found their way back. They mainly experienced frustration. The difficulty was exacerbated by the inherent uncertainties and ambiguities of word definitions. They constantly produced sentences like, “Mrs Morrow stimulated the soup,” that is she stirred it up. “Our family erodes a lot,” that is they eat out. “I was meticulous about falling off the cliff.”

<Laughter>

He had a whole series of these examples; I’ll only bore you with three of them.

Experts already know a great deal and you would suppose that they would learn less looking things up, but they learn more looking things up because it’s very hard for a novice to gain things looking things up. Think of a situation. The novice can only in working memory keep about three to five items in mind at one time, but needs to keep eight or ten objects in mind in order to make sense of the new information that’s being looked up. And so novices have a much tougher intellectual task than experts do, and what they found is these aids, these sudden look ups lead to errors of all kinds, not just the children using words wrong, but the people doing physics getting physics problems wrong, because you can’t become an instant expert because of various mental limitations.  And that has certain implications for the new world of the internet. That is it rewards people who already have wide knowledge. From what is being said about looking things up, it also has implication for using Google. Google is not an equal opportunity fact finder; it rewards those in the know. So instead of being an agent of equality, as we think of the internet, it exacerbates and consolidates educational inequalities.

Problem-solving is another general skill that people talk about and it has the same structure that I’ve just defined, but there’s one twist there. There was a famous study, Professor Dunker was a person who studied problem-solving and one of this experiments, a famous one,  sort of a radiation experiment, and what he found, when you train college-level students in how to solve a military problem and you give them the same problem in a different domain, in this case a medical problem, they don’t make the transfer. Immediately after they’ve been shown, already the structure of the proper solution… it’s very hard for the human mind. There are many troubling and interesting examples of how we don’t do very well in transferring the structure of problem-solving from one to another; we do very well if we know the subject matter.
I don’t want you to think this is coming… as Nick had pointed out I’m an English Professor, here I am talking about cognitive psychology, I want to quote what the experts have said about this. This is from the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance:

Research clearly rejects the classical views on human cognition in which general abilities, such as learning, reasoning, problem-solving and concept formation, correspond to capacities and abilities that can be studied independently, independently of the content domains.

There’s a more pungent phrasing of this by Nathan Kuncel, I was very happy to find Nathan Kuncel, he’s a very distinguished Professor at the University of Minnesota in this subject. He wrote a very forthright email to me and I said, ‘Can I quote you?’ and he said, ‘Yes!’

Critical thinking, as it is typically discussed is a discussed, is a misguided educational fad. It is often portrayed as a universal skill that is independent of domain-specific knowledge. I argue that research does not support this view. What people call critical thinking is either a class of very specific reasoning skills or the formation of expertise in the field. In all cases domain-specific knowledge is necessary to make anything more than trivial progress with many problems.

So much for … well, what do you have left if you’ve thrown the all-purpose skills out?  You have knowledge left.

I have, in a recent book I’m doing… I’m going to change the subject just a bit, because I want to put all this in a historic perspective. I mentioned the fact that Dewey acknowledged back in 1910 that we have to turn to critical thinking to solve the problem of an individualised education or a developmentalised education. We inherited this problem, at least we did in the States, you are working yourselves out of it here in the United Kingdom, but it’s hard to get rid of these deep-lying ideas and I suspect that in the very early ages you’re going to find some difficulty in saying that the term ‘developmentally appropriate practice’ is really not appropriate to withholding content from young children at an early age. This background idealism, nature is providential, it’s a sure guide for each individual student and proper education is a natural unfolding of the child. Well, on to my hero, Gramsci, he was writing in 1929, Antonio Gramsci, the Communist intellectual who was put in prison by Mussolini, 1929, from his prison notebooks, he explains what’s wrong with natural unfolding as a principle of education, particularly since Gramsci has social justice and educational equality foremost in his mind. ‘One almost imagines that a child’s brain is like a ball of string which the teacher helps to unwind.’ And in his day it was called spontaneity. In our own time education theorists have called it constructivism. ‘The teacher should not be a sage on the stage, the teacher should be a guide on the side and induce it from the child.’  In that same note Gramsci pointed out that the child from the very start of life is already imbibing stuff that’s not coming from within but is hearing language, observing how people are acting, waiting for people to show the way, how the child should act and think and say.

And his final point was that it’s the duty of us adults to introduce the child into the culture of our own day. But there was a subtle implication, the unwinding idea implicitly makes self-realisation the aim of education, of early education. And it is an important aim and especially in older children; I don’t mean to imply that self-realisation is not an important and valid educational aim, but the chief aim of education in the early years in every group, every child, every entity, is acculturation into the group. And I think it’s also important to realise and to say, with G H Mead, who was a very interesting social thinker at the time of Dewey, that mastery of the social milieu is the only road to individuality for human beings.

I discovered, in discussing these issues of education with colleagues, that some are focussed on college level and high school level, the upper level, and others are thinking in terms of grade school and I want to make very clear that it’s the early grades where my focus lies, so when I say that the duty of education is acculturation, I’m talking about those early years and I think there’s a difference in the two periods as to which of those two aims, acculturation or self-realisation, are dominant or should be dominant. Our mistake in those grades has been to remain too influenced by the romantics, with their ideals of self-realisation and unfolding; too little on the universal need for acculturation. And Gramsci captured this so brilliantly in his remarks that just like you are all making me a guru, I’m feeling that way about Gramsci, he was such a brilliant person. I mean thinking these things out in prison and very aptly. And to take too little care of that acculturated duty is really a failure on the part of the older generation. If we don’t take care of that acculturated duty, it’s the primary duty of early education, we can’t rely on romantics did on the invisible hand, that somehow they will get introduced through television or other obscure forces into the nature of the current culture. It’s also the duty of the school curriculum to do the job of acculturation. I don’t know whether you know this remark of Joseph Stiglitz, but it says, ‘Sometimes the invisible hand is invisible because it isn’t there.’ So specific, cumulative content over several years needs to be planned out to give children the most enabling knowledge in the culture. Gramsci had this vision, he called it the unitary school or The school of humanistic formation or, he put in a series of ors, or the school of general culture. And each of those descriptors is important. He stressed the humanities, not just technology; stress on the general breadth of knowledge; a clear sense of equality, of inequality that he had; the stress on commonality. I think that nobody’s had a firmer vision of what the elementary school needs to be and I think his is basically the right one for a democracy, in our respective democracies I should say, after we hit the reset button.

Thank you very much.

<Applause>

Jonathan Simons

So thank you very much indeed, Don, for the stimulating lecture and also to Nick for your introductory remarks. We’ve got some time for questions and answer now, if you’d like to indicate via the traditional raising of your hand if you’d like to ask a question and there’s a couple of roving mics around. Can you please make it a short question rather than a statement, and then we’ll probably take them in bunches of two and then Don and Nick as well, if you’d like, can answer them. I can’t quite see because it’s quite bright, can you stick your hand up and then I can see. There’s one at the back there and then there’s one just by the aisle there.

Unknown Speaker

There’s a debate going on at the moment in Britain with respect to the BBC’s franchise renewal, if you like, charter renewal, and I was just wondering, borrowing from a couple of points in the last half hour, whether you feel that the best path to accultured competence is knowledge-based TV, outside education? So you mentioned we can’t control television, well in Britain we can, so is there more that could be done by the BBC here, do you think, and if you could would you be influencing Cartoon Network and YouTube to up the knowledge and help in acculturing people in the US with respect to US culture?

Antonia Cox, One of the Founders of Marylebone Boys’ School

I’m one of the founders of Marylebone Boys’ School is a free school where we offer philosophy for at the moment years 7 and 8. The idea was to give the children a chance to talk about, to think about what knowledge is, what truth is. It’s been adapted to include critical thinking. I’d like to ask the speaker whether he thinks that’s something that we should stop and we should go back to a knowledge-based approach to philosophy, bearing in mind that this is 11 and 12-year-olds?

Toby Young

I interviewed you a couple of years ago for the Sunday Times Education Festival, I don’t know if you … you’ve probably forgotten. I wanted to know what you thought about the challenge posed by behavioural genetics to the idea of teaching children a common core of essential knowledge? I think the power of cognitive science as a way of debunking the more progressive problem-solving approach has gained a lot of rhetorical force from the word science. There seems to be a rear guard action on the part of behavioural geneticists to say that actually there’s quite a lot of science which says that a more individualised, discovery based approach is more suitable to the way in which the human mind works, and Robert Plomin, one of the leading practitioners of behavioural genetics in this country, recently published a paper in which he was one of the authors, in which he said that his findings and the findings of his research team showed that a more individualised approach was more suitable because of the genetic differences between children, and I wondered what’s the defence you’d recommend, the best strategic defence against that scientific assault on your doctrine?

E D Hirsch

Let me try to deal with the BBC question first. I’m not really clear whether you’re asking whether the BBC should take over from the schools or whether you thought the schools should include more television? I didn’t quite get the practical side of that question, so I hope you [50:46 IA]. So as I say, I’m puzzled by the BBC question, I didn’t quite get what the question was, but it gives me the opportunity to make that point that I made towards the end about people’s orientation, whether it’s the upper level grades or the lower level grades. It seems to me there’s a lot of evidence, going to what Toby Young was talking about, that in the very early ages children are responding to people, the teacher’s role in the very early ages is pretty critical. But I think another thing is unless you have everybody… school is a kind of required attendance situation, and I didn’t know how you were planning to enforce BBC on everybody, so –

<Laughter>

I do think in the early ages the required attendance at school is understood in a number of ways because in general people have taken the acculturative point of view of schooling and require children to be initiated into the group through schooling and to be made competent people.

There was a question about whether I thought critical thinking should not be taught but just knowledge. Let’s put it this way. What I infer from these discoveries is that critical thinking should be taught within a domain. That is you want to encourage people to think very critically about the subject matter they’re learning about, but not to believe that somehow when they’re thinking very critically about chemistry, or about a philosophical theory, that that will automatically transfer to the other areas of life and make them a critically thinking person.

I’ll give you a brief anecdote about that. I went to grad school with Nuel Belnap and Anderson, I forget Anderson’s first name, anyway they were world-class logicians, they wrote a book on inference that became a classical book on inference and they made no logical sense when they were talking about politics and Richard Nixon, and they weren’t particularly well informed and they weren’t particularly logical. And I thought, ‘Aha! That’s a pretty good illustration.’  And by the way that has been tested, that premise, if you teach kids formal logic, does it make them better thinkers in the ordinary, common world? And the answer is no, but for that data you’ll have to ask my colleague, Dan Willingham, who is obviously an expert on that. So I think, yes, you do want to encourage critical thinking but when you’re dealing with subject matter, and as for the subject matter you’re dealing with, that’s decided on other principles, it seems to me.

And the last point, Toby Young’s question, I do not think that whatever advantage is discovered as being more suitable to a constructivist and self-discovery approach, whatever advantages of learning, that cannot, should not overcome the main duty, the social duty of the schools to acculturate children into the knowledge and domains that are going to make them competent grown-ups. My big gripe against individualising culture is it has not been successful in the social justice mission, the schools of a democracy, so that even should that point be true that there was some technical advantage in this bit of learning, in using that method, the overall picture does not change and we may have to forego that bit of advantage in order to achieve that other goal. So I don’t think that’s a decisive consideration when you’re considering the primary duty of the schools to be acculturated.

Toby Young

Can I come back very quickly. I think the argument of behavioural genetics is that we now know that individuals have such different propensities and such different capacities that they are encoded in our DNA, that it doesn’t make sense to try and teach children a common core, it doesn’t make sense to teach them the same thing in a similar way, they’re just too different. That seems to be the argument being made by behavioural geneticists.

E D Hirsch

Yeah, but there are many nations that are doing a good job of teaching [55:57]. Japanese elementary schools are highly happy places and they’re scoring very high and they’re very, very good at narrowing demographic gaps in achievement, so I don’t see any large-scale evidence which would favour an individualised curriculum if your interests are acculturation and social justice. There isn’t any large scale evidence that I know of which can support that. I don’t know what sort of lab experiments are being done.

And also I will say this, I’m sorry that I haven’t got Dan Willingham next to me to take [56:45 a more professional line], but what I get from him and from other scientists in the field is that the whole business of different learning styles and multiple intelligence is greatly overrated. It’s been, as you probably know, well debunked in the learned journals, so I’m not so sure about the premise that you’re offering to begin with, but I would come back to say even if that premise is true, there is very little evidence that children will benefit from what amounts to a helter-skeltered curriculum if you try to individualise in the early grades. I was trying to make that distinction between the early and late because it seems so important to give everybody a chance in life and to get initiated into the group, but on the other hand to allow the place, in the later education, for individualisation.

Nick Gibb, MP

Just quickly, I was with the Education Minister from China this morning and in Shanghai they do teach the Mastery model of mathematics in that the whole class to a wide range of abilities, and it’s very successful and English teachers went out there, the primary school teachers have been wowed by what they’ve seen and how effective it is, and when it’s been brought back to England it has been highly effective, and of course we all know that Shanghai, their 15-year-olds are three years ahead of our 15-year-olds in mathematics and they do use a whole-class approach to teaching. I think it is very effective.

Just on the BBC, it’s wonderful that there are BBC people here. I hope they’re from BBC Education and can learn from Professor Hirsch, rather than the BBC Charter Renewal Department.

<Laughter>

But … welcome.

Matthew Labern

I’m a very, very strong advocate of core knowledge and I’ve introduced it at the primary and secondary schools that I’ve headed up. It relates to what Nick just said, because obviously core knowledge is very much learning a little bit of a lot, so you’ve got a wide-ranging background knowledge, but we’re now being told as well that you’ve got to have mastery and deeper learning, so how do you think you can square the circle of learning a little bit of a lot and also having deeper learning?

Tim Oates, Cambridge University and Cambridge Assessment

I wasn’t going to say anything tonight, as you probably expected, Jonathan, but I have to respond to what Toby said, just to clarify a couple of things, two things really. One is that the literature on behavioural genetics emphasises that there is a genetic explanation for a proportion of the difference between people, a proportion of the difference between people, so it’s not that people with particular genetic propensities are say 50% more intelligent than other people. It’s that the difference between them, people, is explained, in part, by genetic background. So it’s a much tinier difference we’re talking about than was implied in the question.
That’s the first important point.

The second point is that if you play to the particular dispositions of individuals and actually say they should have a curriculum which is oriented to those particular things, you freeze the very social differences and inequalities which we’re trying to erode in our society because of all the ills that they actually bring. So the notion that people are different, to a tiny degree, in the way in which they approach learning, means of course that you have to present the same core material to them in different ways, in different contexts, so all of them acquire that same important body of knowledge. So I’m afraid, Toby, it’s not much of a challenge really.

Jo Saxton

Your work has influenced the resources that obviously are used in the core knowledge elementary schools in the States, and I know based on your own research and Walter Kintsch and others, you’ve emphasised the use of reading aloud, the power of listening comprehension to acquire knowledge in the very young. In this country we have great difficulty with people perceiving that as passive. Our school inspectorate doesn’t like looking at lessons where children are being read allowed to, and I wondered what evidence you could give us to help change that attitude.

Jonathan Simons

OK, so a question on how we know a little about a lot and also a lot about a lot; a couple of points from Tim about genetics and then this question about passivity.

ED Hirsch

I didn’t hear … one of the problems with old age is your hearing goes and so I haven’t heard the details of these questions. Besides the fact that my hearing is bad, I haven’t mastered … I haven’t been acculturated yet to the British mode of speaking.

<Laughter>

But that’s an interesting point, which brings me back to this commonality just for a moment, if I can digress on that point, because everybody recognises the need for commonality in spelling, even up to a degree in pronunciation, a little bit of regional differences and so on, but actually the standardisation of language and then only to the extent that then the unity of a nation as a nation became a consideration when public schools were really starting on a big scale in the 18th century, and national language were being normalised and regularised, where the need for a sort of sameness in the way people spoke and talked, the need for a universal currency, an intellectual currency if you will, and a certain unity of values, to make this huge national entity into some kind of community that worked. I mean that’s the larger picture in which this falls. So that’s a digression, because … an apology for not fully understanding all the … first of all I didn’t hear …

<Pause>

Jo Sexton

I’m wondering if you can help those of us in this country that work with the very young who’ve recognised the power of listening comprehension that was demonstrated in your schools, because here the schools inspectorate and others in the teaching community think when children are listening they’re being passive, and that must be bad. So how do we overcome that misconception?

ED Hirsch

Well we have a language arts programme that Core Knowledge created, in which the whole early years are focussing on listening, reading aloud, listening as well as speaking, because of Tom Sticht’s work back forty years ago. He showed that the ability of children to comprehend through reading versus through listening, those two abilities don’t catch up with each other until about seventh grade and so in the very early years listening is the chief way of gaining knowledge and vocabulary, and to try to … and of course you know as well as I do, you hardly need it from me that listening is conceptually and mentally a very active process, and in fact the van Dijk and Kintsch work emphasises how constructive comprehension is, how much construction is going on when you’re listening passively to a talk like this or to conversations like this. So yes, I mean what can one do except say that there is no faster, better route to knowledge for young children than listening and speaking.

Jonathan Simons

And the other question we had was about depth of knowledge versus breadth of knowledge and whether a curriculum should have a little about a lot or a lot about a lot.

ED Hirsch

Well there again don’t you think that the age difference is very important in that question? That is, I think elementary schools are learning a little about a lot, and they’d better be learning a little about a lot, and I certainly don’t see any harm in learning a lot about a little as well for things that interest them, of course that’s fine, but I think that you curriculum makers, you specialists should be at the grade level. What you think you need to accomplish in order for somebody to really go deeply into a subject, there has to be a lot of groundwork, it does seem to me. So again I feel I’m a layman on that subject, but I certainly think it varies with the age, how deeply you want to encourage kids to go, so that …because there are opportunity costs, obviously, to going deep. I have a grandchild who is what I call a serial monomaniac. He goes very, very deeply, at the expensive of everything else, and he’s doing alright, he’s fine, but … I do think that you want a well-rounded, broadly knowledgeable child by sixth grade or fifth grade.

Nick Gibb, MP

I think a little bit of Matthew’s question is about maths versus the other subjects, and I think what we are trying to do with mathematics is to adopt the Shanghai approach of learning less maths than we have been having in the curriculum in the past, but to learn it properly through very clever explanation of every minute part of the algorithm followed by a lot of intelligent practice. And on the other hand we want children to gain great general knowledge about a lot of things, but actually they’re similar in a way because it’s almost like literacy versus maths, they’re both the core skills for an educated person and so we want a lot of in-depth study of the mathematics to provide the foundation for maths and science in the future, and then with literacy we want children to read of course, but also to gain that general knowledge across a vaster range of subjects, a little about a lot, in order, if you like, to help develop their literacy skills and their comprehension skills, which you need vocabulary to enable you to develop those skills. So that’s probably the way you would square the circle I think, Matthew.

Robert Peal

I thought I would ask about the concept of cultural literacy. When I read Cultural Literacy it completely transformed my ideas about education. One of the justifications that I remember reading in the book was a survey of I think it was the New York Times, which counted the amount of …

<Microphone malfunction>

I’ll start again. About the concept of cultural literacy, I remember reading Cultural Literacy, and one of the justifications that really stuck in my mind was a survey of the New York Times, I think it was, which counted the amount of unexplained references in the newspaper, where knowledge was assumed, and therefore it was required that the person have further knowledge to understand the article, and it was something like 3,000 unexplained references in one daily edition of the paper. And bearing in mind that justification, I wonder how responsive you think cultural literacy and school curricula should be to current affairs. To give one example, should schools in history and RE curricula be more focussed on Islam and the Middle East, bearing in mind the current content of English newspapers, or should they aim towards something which is more durable and less passing in what they teach?

Mike Grenier, Eton College

I’ve just got a question that might also be for the Schools Minister. If there’s an age at which it might be better to seek out mastery and expertise, and that the core foundations of knowledge can begin to move into things which are slightly deeper, could we review the amount of material that our 15- and 16-year-olds have to get through in Key Stage 4, which seems to deny the opportunity for that deeper knowledge? For Dr Hirsch, we have a large range of national examinations for our students in the equivalent of 9th and 10th grades, and what would you see as being the ideal way of educating children of those ages? Thank you.

Daniel Cremin, King’s College London

My question is actually more focussed on the later stage of learning but I’m quite interested, do you have any concerns when you’re thinking about post-16 and you’re thinking about university, about the rise really of learner-centred new models of education? So we increasingly talk about the flipped classroom as an example, and using online education tools whereby a lot of the core knowledge at the university programme is being delivered outside of the contact hours, and what would traditionally have been the lecture or the seminar, where some of the ideas are imparted, increasingly becomes about project-based work and discussion of the ideas, but the real emphasis comes onto the learner to really gain a lot of the core knowledge that they might have got through the lecture traditionally, off line in their own time. Do you have concerns about some of that for the quality of degree programmes in the long term?

Jonathan Simons

So you’ve got how responsive should the curriculum be to current affairs; there was a question on ought we to narrow the curriculum slightly for 15-year-olds to provide more mastery; and then a question about whether there should be more traditional learning at university, rather than self-directed study?

ED Hirsch

Why don’t I refer to you for this mastery question, and I will try to deal with …the cultural literacy question is one that I’ve thought about quite a lot, about how topical it should be, and I was not particularly interested, when I first got into cultural literacy … and by the way I certainly don’t want to defend that 1987 list as being applicable to 2015, I don’t want to be tagged with that, it was probably pretty passé even in 1987, because I was in my later years, I was even old then, and I don’t think that old people should be making these lists. It really belongs to the next generation. Though you have to remember, and on this point about how topical it should be, it is an idea of a communitarian issue; that is the taken for granted knowledge that you want everybody to share, is intergenerational. So it can’t be the latest, up to date things. It’s always going to be, with a very large group of people at the level of a nation it’s going to be rather slow and particularly when you have all of this knowledge you want still to be accessible in books and old materials. You don’t want to make everything completely presentised. I think yes, accessible balance, but not to try to make particularly the early grades …  you want to have the more central, slower change, solid knowledge I would say. And then of course get a little more up to date later on. That’s just a seat of the pants thing.

You have to understand, how could I be an expert on this question? I’m not. I’m just an expert on certain aspects of reading comprehension, that’s what I became an expert in. And certain things then followed from that, and particularly with respect to social justice, that is including the excluded in the ability to communicate and to read. That’s been my chief motivation. That’s the only thing I can speak, I think, with any real authority on, but I mean I’m happy to chat about these other things, but I’m just saying that I have no particular authority!

<Laughs>

The other question about forms of instruction, I’m not an expert on at all and I defer –

Nick Gibb, MP

Well we’re here to listen to you, not to me, but just on that issue I had a discussion with David Green about this issue, about should the history you’re taught be told in a way to make it relevant today? So you’d learn about the Magna Carta because it’s relevant today. But then I said to him, ‘What about the Crimean War? Is that relevant today?’ Well if you’d asked this question three years ago, you’d say, ‘Absolutely not. Crimean War? Who cares about that?’ Now of course it is relevant, so I think what you need to teach in history is everything that is important that society regards, or has regarded in the past, as important to how we’ve got to where we are today, and it’ll become relevant maybe in 20 years, some obscure part of that history will be relevant in 20 years. I think that would be my view.

But on this issue of mastery, there’s a report out from Ofsted this week complaining about the poor quality of the Key Stage 3 curriculum in our schools, and I do worry that the Key Stage 3, there’s not enough knowledge being taught in Key Stage 3 and that might be why so much is being crammed into Key Stage 4 as schools seek to fill that vacuum in two years or now three years, people are extending Key Stage 4, which is I think a shame. So I think there is a case for looking at what is taught at Key Stage 3. That’s not a policy announcement, I have to say. It has to go through a whole clearance process before we do that, it’s just my personal view, but in terms of the age at which one starts to specialise, you get the argument on the other side saying it’s terrible that ‘A’ level students are specialising in three subjects. Why don’t we move to the International Baccalaureate where it’s more broad-based education? Well, my view is that we’ve got it right in this country. That we teach a relatively wide range of subjects up to the age of 16, so we should be getting children to have a very good general knowledge by the time they’re 16, and then to specialise to then become a deeper thinker and to begin that specialising process. So I think we’ve got it right at the moment in our country.

Jonathan Simons

Time is against us. We’re going to have to take the last round of questions now and then we’ll have the conclusion.

Mark Beyer-Kay

Professor Hirsch, we’re from Pimlico Academy on our row here at the back. I’m very, very interested in the way you talk about sequencing knowledge in your core curriculum. I’m particularly taken with the idea of domain knowledge and how, I’m an English teacher as well, how perhaps we look at the transitions between domains. So we’re currently teaching English through the classics, we’re looking at Homer but moving on looking at Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare and further on, so I’m interested in how we look at the transitions between those individual domain in English knowledge specifically.

Daisy Christodoulou, Ark Schools

You said there obviously that you’re an expert in, the thing you’ve been researching is reading comprehension, but I know also you’ve written some stuff about assessment, particularly about assessing writing, which perhaps isn’t so well known, and I wondered if you’d say something about what the best way to assess a knowledge-rich curriculum is.

Rebecca White, English Teacher

I was just wondering, for those of us who teach the later years, how would you help, for those who do have a cultural deficit when they get to us, how can we narrow the gap of social injustice and close that gap when we are trying to get through such a broad curriculum; how can we best meet the needs of those students?

Jonathan Simons

So the first question was how do you transition between domain knowledge, so if your knowledge is domain-specific, how do you transition between; the second question, from Daisy, was your thoughts on the stuff you’ve written about assessment and the best way to assess; and then the third question was about if you are concerned about social gaps, but you teach the later grades, what might you do within a knowledge curriculum to catch up pupils who haven’t had that in the early years?

ED Hirsch

Well let me take the last one first, which I now have in mind. I can only tell you what teachers have told me about what they do, because it’s a very practical and contextual question. I mean it will depend on the class and the child and so on to solve that catch-up problem, but what I hear about teachers doing, and it sounds very attractive, is they’re teaching something and there will be a question arising about knowledge that would be taken for granted and if the kids don’t know it these teachers will stop and fill it in, and do it as … because everybody’s interested right then and there in that point. Then there are people, I don’t think I quite approve it but I do know people who are just saying, ‘Our kids are going to learn this stuff’ and they do little ten-minute quizzes on these things, aspects of learning that they think they don’t know, but basically you’re asking an amateur who doesn’t teach these kids, for a question that I think practitioners will know the answer to better than I do.

Assessment – how do you assess a curriculum, is that it? A curriculum is exactly what you can assess, it seems to me. The problem that we have, I look at this from the standpoint of what we lack in the United States. What we’ve done now, both in No Child Left Behind and now with the Common Core Standards system, impose a series of tests, reading tests, without any definite curriculum on which those tests are based, so that nobody can tell what contribution has been made by the school to answering the passages on the reading test and what contribution has come from outside the school. It’s basically an unfair measurement of the student and of the school because it is not curriculum-based, because there’s a kind of assumption that reading is a general skill and we are testing this general skill, but of course they’re not. They’re testing knowledge on these separate passages and it’s a pretty good index with large groups of kids as to where you are. I don’t want to question the validity of those tests, but they’re not good tests to encourage teaching of a curriculum and they’re not good tests to really determine how much the school has contributed to the child or how much the teacher has. I don’t understand why there’s a problem in assessing a set curriculum; if it’s a knowledge-based curriculum, presumably you’re assessing the knowledge.

Oh, I see! The question was how do you assess writing. Well, that’s an interesting one because that’s what started off my whole enterprise here, because the data on assessing writing was so bad that Educational Testing Service did a survey of writing assessment and actual assessments of writing quality varied every way from A to F on the same piece of writing. And it’s very difficult to do and there are various means that are taken to make them fair, because there’s a chief reader in charge of the ETS establishments, which says, ‘OK, these are the criteria we’ll use for this particular reading of this particular test’. It’s horribly difficult. What I found out though, and that’s what got me into this field, was that the assessment of writing in its communicative efficiency, how well you’re doing in communicating what it is you want to say, which I think to be a sensible criterion, at least for some kinds of writing, that’s pretty hopeless if in fact the kids are not literate who don’t know what they can predict the audience will know and what they have to explain and so on. So when I found out that these disadvantaged kids not only couldn’t write but they couldn’t read either, that’s what made me leave the writing assessment question aside. And as you see, I don’t have a particularly good answer to it because unless you have a criterion, I use the concept of communicative effectiveness, which means least effort for the same semantic uptake, it’s pretty technical, I think pretty practical, but for ordinary writing I don’t think it’s a bad criterion, and I thought you could test that and I thought you could correlate people’s sense of that communicative effectiveness in ways that would determine whether they were good graders of papers, but I found out that there was a first step that had to be taken, and you had to be able to be good readers in the first place and that was an even more fundamental task, so I’m sorry, I can’t go very far in my answer.

Jonathan Simons

OK, fantastic. We’re going to have to leave it there. If I just wrap up quickly. We’ve been privileged to hear tonight, from Doctor Hirsch, a stimulating lecture. Hugely, hugely grateful. My thanks again to everyone who came tonight. I forgot to mention the book of essays. We’ve published these essays today. There’s essays from eight or nine leading contributors on the various topics that Doctor Hirsch is talking about ,which you’re very welcome to pick up a copy of on your way out, if you have not done already, you’re very welcome to take those. And thank you very much to everyone who contributed an essay and contributed their thoughts to this.
So it only therefore remains for me to thank Nick Gibb for the introduction, but also now to present Dr Hirsch with a small token to say thank you for giving the Second Policy Exchange Education Lecture. Dr Hirsch, thank you.

<End of recording>

 

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the annual education lecture with e. d. hirsch