Chair of Core Knowledge Foundation to Speak at Pitt on April 20

Issue Date: 
April 19, 2010

The University of Pittsburgh Honors College American Experience Distinguished Lecture Series will feature E.D. Hirsch Jr., founder and chair of the Core Knowledge Foundation and professor emeritus of education and the humanities at the University of Virginia, at 7:30 p.m. April 20 in The Twentieth Century Club, 4201 Bigelow Blvd., Oakland.

Hirsch’s talk, “The Sacred Fire of Liberty and the Making of Americans” will be followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Mark Roosevelt, superintendent of The Pittsburgh Public Schools.

In addition to the Honors College, The Pittsburgh Public Schools and Pitt’s School of Education are presenting the lecture.

The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Those interested in attending must RSVP with name, phone number, and name/s of additional attendees to For more information on the American Experience Lecture Series, visit

Hirsch began his teaching career at Yale University, specializing in romantic poetry and literary theory. In 1966, he became professor of English at the University of Virginia, where he served twice as chair of the department. He retired from the latter university in 2000.

Hirsch’s research in the early stages of his career centered on written composition and led to his groundbreaking concept of cultural literacy—the idea that reading comprehension requires not just formal decoding skills, but also wide-ranging background knowledge.

Hirsch founded the Core Knowledge Foundation in 1986 and published Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987), which remained at the top of the New York Times best-seller list for more than six months. He also is the author of The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them (Doubleday, 1996), The Knowledge Deficit (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), and The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools (Yale University Press, 2009).

For nearly three decades, Hirsch has passionately argued in books, articles, and lectures, that schools should teach a highly specific curriculum that would allow students to understand things writers and speakers take for granted and to fully participate in democratic life. “We will achieve a just and prosperous society only when our schools ensure that everyone commands enough shared knowledge to communicate effectively with everyone else,” said Hirsch.

Hirsch’s honors include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977 and the International Academy of Education in 1997. A recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Hirsch has been a Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences Fellow, a Humanities Fellow at Princeton University, an Australian National University Fellow, and an honoree of the Royal Dutch Academy and of the National Academy in Rome. He also has received several honorary degrees.

Hirsch is a graduate of Cornell University and holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Yale University.

The Core Knowledge Foundation is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Charlottesville, Va. The foundation develops curricula, publishes educational books and materials, provides professional development for educators, and supports a growing network of Core Knowledge schools.

Late Pitt faculty member Robert G. Hazo created the American Experience program 39 years ago to offer Pittsburgh’s mid-to-high-level managers the opportunity to gain insight into political and economic thought, with the intent of enlightening the public’s political discourse. The program’s current director is Edward L. McCord, director of programming and special projects in Pitt’s Honors College.