The Inequality of Cultural Literacy in Society Today

Cultural literacy is essential to function throughout one’s life. It allows for workers to be fluent in a cultural atmosphere and connect with individuals throughout the world. Cultural literacy is taught throughout one’s education in the classes that students take and the experiences that the students have throughout life. Since all schools are not equal throughout this country not every student equally literate over these matters. E.D. Hirsch wrote about this in his essay “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” Hirsch extends his argument that not all schools are equal by examining the students within the schools and how as compare depending on their region and level of education.

He uses the rhetorical strategy of logos and premise to further his claim. Through this it becomes apparent that there is a correlation between the school and how culturally literate a student may be. Hirsch’s essay on how not all schools are equal is evident in the essay of Joseph Pentony in his essay “Cultural Literacy” Pentony directly quotes Hirsch and uses examples form his paper.

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To further the argument that not all schools are equal Jean Anyon’s research paper “Social class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work” develops a claim divulging into the apparent correlation between schools and the social class of the students within the schools. Within this Hirsch also presents the claim that there is a correlation between the socioeconomic standing of schools and the students that are within these schools. He believes that lower class students and minorities are at a disadvantage of learning about cultural literacy because they are not taught about their own culture.

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Hirsch believes that there is a decline in cultural literacy in America. He ca cultural literacy in America. He came to the conclusion that this is due to our education system. Hirsch’s main claim is that students in lower socioeconomic settings know less because they understand their culture less. He brings many different facts in ranging from a correlation test to testimonies from teachers. This claim is heavily rooted in facts and evidence and therefore he uses logos in an attempt to persuade the readers about his topic. According to Hirsch our education system needs to change as we are not growing as a country, in terms of literacy, as compared to other nations across the world, such as Japan. In his essay he quoted many different sources and thus brings logos into his essay bringing credibility to his essay. One of these came from the National Assessment of Educational Progress a program mandated by congress. He uses this to show the readers that there has been a decline in people that have the ability. “This nationwide measurement, mandated by Congress, shows that between 1970 and 1980 seventeen-year-olds declined in their ability to understand written materials…” (Hirsch, 239) By using this Hirsch’s reasons and evidence support his claim by supporting one of his previous main claims that there has been a decline in our education system from the 1970’s until today. Hirsch’s argument is strongest at this point because he uses factual evidence to support his main claim which allows him to build his credibility with the reader and therefore uses ethos which will allow him to make further claims throughout the paper.

In Joseph Pentony’s essay “Cultural literacy” he quotes Hirsch multiple times using his research to add credibility to his essay. He claims that the literacy problem in America is due to the lower social classes who tend to go to schools in lower socioeconomic areas. This connects to Hirsch’s main claim that there is a correlation between socioeconomic standings and how culturally literate a student may be. Pentony compares middle class children and children in lower class households, “The list works much to the disadvantage of the lower socioeconomic classes because middle class children learn this implicit list at home and lower class children do not.” (Pentony, 1) By stating this he puts a lurking variable into effect that it is not only schools but also the environment that the students grew up in that play a vital role in how literate they are. Pentony’s purpose in this is to persuade the readers that lower socioeconomic students tend to have a lower cultural literacy rate. Hirsch believes that there is a correlation not only with the schools that a student may attend but also their background as students in higher socioeconomic settings have extra resources. Pentony enforces this by using Hirsch’s correlation test to come to the conclusion that there is a correlation between the variables. This text extends that of Hirsch’s as he uses actual examples from his text. Pentony does not challenge Hirsch in any way and simply elaborates on Hirsch’s overall text. Pentony uses less emotional support to present his claim and focuses more on logos and using evidence to back facts that Hirsch presented in his original essay. The effect on Hirsch’s argument is that Pentony analyzes not only the arguments that Hirsch presented but also the facts and his claims throughout the essay.

Jean Anyon is a professor of educational policy. In her essay “Social class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work” Anyon analyzes the education system and the how schools are different depending on the socioeconomic status of the students and the surrounding area. After her experiments on five different schools she came to the conclusion that there is a correlation between social class and the schools those attend. Anyon wrote “However, by examining elementary school activity in its social class context in the light of our theoretical perspective on social class, we can see certain perspective relationships already developing” (Anyon, 269) This uses some of Anyon’s experiments to further her claim that social class plays a major role in how educated a student may become. One of Hirsch’s claims discusses the effect of socioeconomic status and students. This illustrates one of Hirsch’s main claims by going more in-depth into how the schools play a role into cultural literacy. While Anyon may use more of a pathos approach than Hirsch’s straight forward facts and personal examples her essay supports that of Hirsch’s. Anyon’s essay extends and illustrates that of Hirsch. The examples from the schools give a more in depth look into how it effects the students. Hirsch’s writing tends to be more factual using examples and this allows for pathos to be used to further develop the claim of literacy throughout the United States. The effect on Hirsch’s argument is that Anyon has a similar main topic as Hirsch but veers off and focuses less on the students and their backgrounds and the role of the school and the area around the school.

Hirsch’s main claim developed throughout the essay. He effectively uses logos and ethos to develop his main claims throughout his essay. His claim that socioeconomic status plays into effect has been well researched and has a lot of evidence. Another one of Hirsch’s claims that people understand cultural literacy less because they do not understand their own culture uses many testimonies from individuals such as his son who adds to the logos of the essay. Cultural literacy is an ever changing category of studies as culture around the world is constantly changing and therefore it cannot be a set class such as math or science. As an individual the essay has further opened my eyes into how a quality of a school goes deeper than just the curriculum that the school teaches.

Works Cited

  1. Hirsch, E.D. “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to know.” Grounds for Writers. 1st ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 237-49. Print.
  2. Anyon, Jean. “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work.” Grounds for Writers. 1st ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. 251-72. Print.
  3. Pentony, Joseph F. “Cultural Literacy.” ProQuest. N.p., 22 Mar. 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2016.

Cite this page

The Inequality of Cultural Literacy in Society Today. (2021, Oct 11). Retrieved from

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