Book Review

The Making of Americans

Democracy and Our Schools

by E.D. Hirsch Jr., Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 2009, 288 pp. with index, $25 hardcover

Most books recently written by E.D. Hirsch on school reform have caused mixed reaction from liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and educators of all different persuasions. The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools will result in similar reactions.

The Making of Americans



Hirsch has pushed his controversial views of schooling for more than 25 years. He compellingly dedicates this volume to the memory of “my late friend” Albert Shanker, who was president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Hirsch continues to advocate for a core curriculum to educate “competent American citizens,” and he opposes those whose child-centered theories of the past half-century have concentrated on individual child formation rather than on citizen making.

The core curriculum for Hirsch means a return to a subject-centered approach to help join the people of our “trans ethnic” nation. With many languages and many religions, he sees this subject-centered curriculum as the best way to teach our children about citizenship and democracy. The medium for the public sphere is the English language, which Hirsch believes cannot be “disentangled” from specific, commonly shared knowledge.

Reviewed by William J. Leary, professor, Ross College of Education, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.