Knowledge Equality

by Guest Blogger
June 11th, 2015

I’m for knowledge equality. Most days, it seems about as popular as marriage equality was in the 1950s.

What I mean by knowledge equality is all children having equal opportunities to learn the academic knowledge that opens doors. The knowledge that really is power. The knowledge that represents the history of human accomplishment. The knowledge that stands the test of time because it is beautiful.

The knowledge that privileged children acquire at home, in libraries and museums, and in school.

Under the banners of local control, diversity, and individuality, we’ve spent decades pursuing universal skills while deemphasizing shared knowledge. But it isn’t working and it can’t work. Skills depend on knowledge, so knowledge equality is the only path to skill equality.

Fortunately, there is room for both knowledge equality and individuality: The well-educated mind is always open to learning more. There’s no reason why our schools could not all offer the same powerful foundation of knowledge and then also engage students in their passions (which would be quite broad thanks to the well-rounded foundation).

No reason except being afraid of having the discussion, of debating what constitutes the powerful foundation of knowledge. Thirty years ago E. D. Hirsch and colleagues took on that challenge as a research project. While that effort has been updated and is thriving through Core Knowledge, perhaps it is time for another effort. One that involves millions of teachers, parents, and concerned citizens—a crowdsourced outline of a well-rounded education.

It would be hard—but not as hard as allowing the achievement gap to persist. The achievement gap is a knowledge gap. Knowledge equality is the only way to close it.



Aren’t both of these children equally deserving of a rich, well-rounded education? Don’t both need to be immersed in the sciences and arts, US and world history, music, civics, and more? (Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)


  1. SUCH a good post. Thank you for writing it!

    Comment by Joshua Fisher — June 11, 2015 @ 10:03 am

  2. The first four paragraphs are the best succinct explanation of the importance of “Hirschism” that I’ve read. (By the way, it would be handy to have a term like “Hirschism” to label the constellation of ideas that Hirsch propounds).

    Comment by Ponderosa — June 11, 2015 @ 12:09 pm

  3. Thank you for illuminating the most significant deficit I’ve experienced with my students for the past 20 years. Show me a young Black boy in his late teens or 20′s on the street ‘hustling’ and I’ll show you a young man who for K-12 years did not acquire a body of useful, shared knowledge that would allow him to participate and prosper as they deserve. These incredibly brilliant and resourceful young men are left to rely on only their talent to survive, often precariously.
    As a former soldier I consider this a dereliction of our duties as public servants, a dereliction that forces those of us who seek students to acquire that knowledge to multiply our effort. My parents (teachers) bemoaned this in the 60′s though the 80′s, and as them we must fight upstream against this debilitating tide until the current changes course.

    Comment by Peter — June 12, 2015 @ 10:13 am

  4. […] Moeten we niet streven naar knowledge-equality? […]

    Pingback by Lectuur op zaterdag: nerds, geeks, Zweeds onderwijs en andere hallucinaties | X, Y of Einstein? — June 13, 2015 @ 2:18 am

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