Cultural literacy

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Cultural literacy is the ability to understand the shared background knowledge, idioms, and references used by literate people in a given nation or culture. It is the common familiarity with names, places, and events that provides the context in which we comprehend a news story or a political debate. Whereas decoding, vocabulary, and grammar are sufficient to understand "He completed the journey with grim determination", cultural literacy is necessary to understand "He completed the journey like Sherman marching to the sea".


Educational Reform Controversy


  • Hirsch, Jr., E.D., Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), ISBN 039543095X [e].
  • Hirsch, Jr,, E.D., et al. (eds), The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (3rd ed.), Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 2002), ISBN 0618226478 [e].