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Kaufman, Jay S. (2002). Whad'Ya Know? Another View on Cultural Literacy. Epidemiology, 13(5), 500-503.


The association between education and good health has been observed widely, and a large number of epidemiologic studies over the past decades have included attained educational level as an exposure or covariate. 1 The basis for this association is no doubt multifaceted, including connections (education provides access to elite social networks), credentialing (degrees confer entrée to positions of power and authority), confounding (those with the wherewithal to obtain greater quantity and quality of education also have the wherewithal to obtain a greater quantity and quality of other goods), and content (education actually confers some useful information that helps people gain advantages in life). 2 The essay by John Kelleher 3 in the current issue of this journal suggests an improved exposure assessment method for the latter of these components of education, the useful content of a quality education itself. This suggestion relies heavily on the notion of “cultural literacy” introduced in the 1980s by educator E. D. Hirsch. Cultural literacy is the theory that there are certain things that everyone in a modern society ought to know, and that it is the possession of these various pieces of knowledge that confers to individuals the means to understand, communicate, and succeed—both socially and materially.


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Kaufman, Jay S.