Culture, Literacy, and What Every American Might Need to Know

Hirsch (1988)Americans profess a profound belief in political equality, and yet we are uncomfortable, if political scientist Robert Putnam (2007) is right, with cultural diversity. This tension, which can be seen in the motto of the United States (e pluribus unam), acknowledges the extent to which our national identity emerges from widespread cultural contact that, though potentially a resource, can also, if it results in cultural fragmentation, provide to be a liability.

This possibility is one reason why E. D. Hirsch Jr. (1983) advocates for a cultural literacy, or a shared cultural context that, among other functions, serves as the basis for what Hirsch describes as linguistic literacy (165). This shared context, which Hirsch maintains is primarily created by English and history, is a prerequisite for interpersonal communication and social participation.  Continue reading “Culture, Literacy, and What Every American Might Need to Know”

Privacy Today

Both Hillary Clinton and former University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise have been criticized for using personal email accounts for public business, which raises some intriguing issues about twenty-first century privacy.

Although Clinton’s intentions are perhaps less explicit, Wise’s seem to have included a desire to maintain confidentiality even though the official university position had been that personal accounts, when used for university business, are still subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regulations. These regulations in Illinois have nothing explicit about personal email accounts, but a 2012 state appellate ruling upheld an attorney general opinion that FOIA does apply to personal devices and machines in instances of official business.  Continue reading “Privacy Today”

Illiberal Ideas

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, by proposing a reduction in public university support and level community college funding, joins other politicians, including President Obama, who endorse a function for post-secondary education as technical training.

Community colleges certainly can provide useful technical training, and these opportunities should be available to, and accessed by, more people. At the same time, these institutions do not provide the same educational experiences that universities provide. Continue reading “Illiberal Ideas”