Thirty years ago (*) a Mr E. D. Hirsch Jr. listed, in a book titled “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know” the “5,000 essential concepts and names - 1066, Babbitt, Pickwickian — that educated people should be familiar with”. Mr Hirsch wrote that book because “children in the United States are being deprived of the basic knowledge that would enable them to function in contemporary society. They lack cultural literacy - a grasp of background information that writers and speakers assume their audience already has”.
5000 concepts for Europe
I believe that, in these times of fake news and partisanship, a European version of a book like that may do a lot of good to all the citizens of Europe. That’s why I have decided to build and publish a draft of such a book myself, in order to:
- let everybody see what it would look like, and read it
- stimulate the creation of many, better books with the same structure and goal
How I will build “5000 concepts for Europe”, and why
I am sure that a book like this is sorely needed. I am equally sure that, even if I had the time, I do not have the knowledge and skills to even start deciding myself what the 5000 concepts should be, let alone explain them! However, I do know how to dowload and process Web pages automatically. So, let’s play. Personally, I will:
- let YOU tell me, through this poll, what those 5000 concepts should be
- publish periodically the raw results of the poll (which in and by themselves should be quite interesting reading…)
- select the most popular terms from those results
- write a little program that downloads the Wikipedia descriptions of all those terms, and reformats them as one text, complete with indexes
- publish that file online, at no charge, in PDF and possibly other formats too, with the same license as the Wikipedia source content
- report progresses on this blog
- repeat the process periodically, to fix errors, and keep the book up to date
To know why I’m doing it this way. please read the FAQ. To know how to support this experiment, keep reading.
How can YOU help?
You can help in several ways. To begin with, please participate to the poll yourself. Second, please make as many people as you can read this page, so they too can participate. It is essential to get contribution from all Europe, and all social groups. The more answers, the better (and more balanced…) the result will be.
Last but not least… if you like this idea, please make a donation. Any amount is OK. Why? Because, even if it is “just” a semi-automatic collection of existing texts, this project will consume a non-negligible amount of time. In other words, you will have the book and raw poll results anyway, eventually. But if you also want something good AND as soon as possible… The more concrete support I get, the better the result (i.e. excerpts instead of integral copies of very long articles, better polling system, more frequent and better formatted updates, support to similar initiatives and so on).
You can donate by sending money via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org for “Donation for: 5000 concepts for Europe”, or email me if you prefer to use other channels, or if you have any other question. Thanks!
(*) I discovered the existence of that book by pure chance in 2015, through this article, and immediately had the idea that an european version would be really useful, but had not time to present it before.