“What every 21st century American should ‘know'”

Over at Policy of Truth, Dr Khawaja has an interesting post up on cultural literacy:

The journal Democracy is running an article revisiting E.D. Hirsch’s idea of cultural literacy, and looking for readers to help generate an updated list like the one at the end of Hirsch’s 1987 book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

Here’s the list I came up with, completely off the top of my head (i.e., involving less than a minute of thought, since that’s all the time for thought I currently have).

  1. Wounded Knee 1890
  2. Wounded Knee 1973
  3. The Fort Laramie Treaty (1868)
  4. Russell Means and/or Dennis Banks
  5. AIM (American Indian Movement)
  6. Ayn Rand
  7. Atlas Shrugged
  8. The Fountainhead
  9. libertarianism
  10. BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions)

I added my own list in the ‘comments’ thread, but still haven’t had time to address critiques. My list:

My quick list:
1) black conservatism
2) the whole Pahlavi-Mossadegh affair
3) libertarianism (people still have trouble conceptualizing it’s right-left crossover appeal)
4) Latin America’s Western culture
5) Dutch history
6) South Asian-East African literature (lots of historical links between the two regions that could help conceptualize current US role in the world)

Lists are fun. They are an easy way to start a conversation and they are time friendly. Add your own and don’t forget to justify your positions! Here is how I justify #1: it’s a storied, intellectually-robust tradition that has suffered greatly in the public sphere due to vulgar demagogic practices associated with the black Left. #2: C’mon, why shouldn’t every American know that their government overthrew an elected government in Iran and paved the way for the current anti-American regime?#3: see what’s between the parenthesis. #4: knowing that Latin Americans are by and large Western (save for the Natives still living in the Andean highlands) would do wonders for better relations between North and South. #5: Dutch (and Swiss) history can teach us far more about our own institutions than anything the UK has to offer. #6: see parenthesis.

Lots of foreign policy implications on my list, as well as stuff that can help to better understand why the US works the way it works. (This is a charitable assumption on my part, of course.)

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