In 1987, E.D. Hirsch sparked a national debate with his book Cultural Literacy, claiming that there is a foundation of common knowledge every American should know — and codifying it in a list of 5,000 facts and cultural references. Hirsch’s list was attacked, celebrated, and much discussed. Today, amidst giant demographic and social shifts, the United States needs such common knowledge more than ever. But a 21st century sense of cultural literacy has to be radically more diverse and inclusive. And it needs to come not from one person but from all of us. So, we ask: What do you think Americans should know to be civically and culturally literate? Give us your top ten!
This report aims to share lessons learned on the road in two directions, based on two fundamental questions: What knowledge do all Americans need to understand immigrant experiences in this county? And what knowledge do new Americans need to navigate and acclimate to life in this country?
Today, amidst giant demographic and social shifts, the United States needs common knowledge more than ever. And we know that if we want to have a conversation about national identity, immigrant voices need to be front and center.
Their works taught us who to be.
"What Every American Should Know” (WE-ASK) is a project of the Aspen Institute Citizenship & American Identity Program, and grew out of an essay by executive director Eric Liu. The Program was created in 2014 to explore how, in an age of increasing diversity and widening inequality, this country can cultivate a sense of shared destiny and common civic purpose. Learn more here.