Wednesday, January 02, 2008

More Thoughts on Powys' Defintion of Culture

"Culture is what is left over after you have forgotten all you have definitely set out to learn."

I was thinking of yesterday's quote and a book I know of: the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. It was written by a man named E.D. Hirsch in the early nineties. Hirsch thinks there are certain things every American needs to know in order to be considered "educated" or "cultured."

Some thought Hirsch was too dictatorial. Deciding what counts as cultural knowledge and what doesn't struck them as arrogant. But Hirsch had a good intention. He realized that in order to participate fully in an educated society, people need to know more than their A,B,C's. They need to have at least a vagues sense of the Boston Tea Party or what the Odyssey was. Hirsch's point is valid: pretending like there isn't a general body of knowledge called "culture" doesn't make it go away.

There's something admirable in Hirsch's attempt to help people toward attaining culture. But if Powys is right, then real culture is miles away from Hirsch's dictionary. Culture is not something you can set out to learn in a reference book. Culture is not something you can set out to learn, evidently, in any book. Culture is something that follows in the wake of learning.

5 comments:

Alishia said...

Babe, no comments? Your readership is down due to lack of posting? I'm still reading. I love you.

mccaleb said...

I'm still reading I'm still reading! Just not...commenting.

Glad to see Hansoniana is back on the web. We've missed it ^_^.

la petite bĂȘte said...

Geek confession: I thought Hirsch's "What Your Second Grader Needs To Know" was the coolest thing ever when I was six. It talked all about mummies and I was amazed. Geek from the start.

Whiskey said...

Hey. I don't know a thing about what you're talking about. Thanks for being in my wedding.

faithsalutes said...

I used to read that on my parent's bedroom floor for hours. It has assisted me in many occasions out and about in the world...