What Does a Stomach Do?

The cultural literacy guru focuses on elementary school

Author E.D. Hirsch Jr. set educators squabbling with his 1987 best seller Cultural Literacy, which tried to establish the minimum shared knowledge that American schools ought to provide. The University of Virginia English professor listed 4,600 items, ranging from the electron to the Emancipation Proclamation, that every educated adult should be able to identify. Now Hirsch is taking his program of core knowledge to the elementary-school level. In the first two of a six-textbook series for Grades 1 through 6, he boldly proposes the things tots ought to learn.

What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know (Doubleday; $15) asks youngsters, among...

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