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An Argument for Cultural Literacy

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Not having cultural literacy, such as knowledge about key historical events, may cost young people some loss of respect in professional circles after they leave the world of school and enter the world of work, suggests Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, in a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education. He paints a scenario where a bright young man lands an interview with a leading law firm in Atlanta and isn't able to say anything intelligent about the Cold War during a lunch conversation with senior partners in the firm.

Cultural literacy "counts a lot more in professional spheres than academics and educators realize," Bauerlein writes.

He adds: "This is an outcome that educators should remember whenever they think about eliminating a U.S. history component to the general education requirements, or when they object to recommended reading lists in state content standards, or when they emphasize skills and critical thinking while saying nothing about content knowledge."

So, perhaps Bauerlein would say that Virginia did the right thing by keeping in place its 3rd grade history test, after it had proposed doing away with it.

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I am proud to say that West Virginia tests social studies-- history, civics, citizenship, economics, and geography-- in grades 3 through 11. Each of these content areas contains critical ideas and information for students to be successful in the 21st Century.

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