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”

Digital Tools and the Humanities

I am intrigued by the potential relevance of social media and other digital tools to the goals of the humanities.

Reading, writing, and the humanities have often been connected to social, cultural, and political developments. Some, for example, argue that societies have become increasingly complex by developing technologies and systems, including literacy, that encourage coordination and cooperation, which produces an increasingly complicated interdependence that constitutes cultural evolution, and that a humanistic, liberal arts education, as critical thinking and self-examination, human connection and concern, and narrative imagination, leads to the cultivation of humanity and is central to democratic societies (Nussbaum 1997 and 2010 and Wright 2000). Continue reading “Digital Tools and the Humanities”