I shared these thoughts as a comment this evening on Amy Burvall’s post, “Simple and Sexy: How Four Wired Mag Categories Could Shape Learning.”

I am also drawn to articles and conversations about cultural literacy. My anchor text for these is probably “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” by E.D. Hirsch. Hirsch made the case and outlined in great detail a curriculum for a traditional, largely Eurocentric approach to curriculum and school learning.

I think we need more opportunities to have conversations about this topic. Our world continues to become more filled with information, and our collective attention landscapes are increasingly fractured with so many possible information and data streams.

More than a laundry list of topics, I think cultural literacy today needs to be a set of skills to access, filter, archive, and share information. Many adults outside schools (sadly) seem to still tend to view educational standards and outcomes as a laundry list of dates, events, facts and people. I think it’s hugely important that we find tangible ways to help ourselves, our peers, and others in our communities make this “shift” into a world of information overabundance. Cultural literacy in this era should mean so much more than a list of “Who’s Who” and what are the scientific issues of the day. Cultural literacy should mean the ability to effectively access, manage, use and share information to solve problems, deepen understanding and accomplish tasks.

That comment does not completely summarize my thoughts on the subject of cultural literacy, however. We DO need shared understandings of many events and issues, both historical as well as contemporary, to have informed conversations and make informed decisions as citizens and members of our respective communities.

How can we encourage conversations about “the canon of cultural literacy” today? Like the author of the Wired Magazine article Amy cited in her post, I agree these topics have changed and shifted.

dictionary of cultural literacy by cdrummbks, on Flickr
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