Engaging the term rhetoricity, which refers both to Cultural Literacy as text and cultural literacy as concept, Cook claims that the most productive pedagogical component of Hirsch's proposal—the sophisticated rhetorical sensibility on which the entire conceptual edifice of cultural literacy depends—was obfuscated by the book's lightening-rod ethos, its deceptively simple veneer, and its smugly casual presumption to name “what every American needs to know.”

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