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From ancient civilizations to far-away galaxies, from tyrants to heroines, from terrible wars to magnificent works of art, the world of knowledge contains wonders that young people eagerly explore when given the opportunity.

Such knowledge is the essence of what it means to be educated; fifty years of solid research demonstrates that broad knowledge is vital to language comprehension and deep knowledge is vital to critical analysis. Through broad and deep knowledge, students become the informed, thoughtful citizens our nation—and world—needs.

And yet, just as we shift to a knowledge economy, we have allowed America’s knowledge infrastructure to crumble. By devoting little time to science, history, and the arts, we have robbed children of the awe and excitement that should await them in school, and made it more difficult for them to understand their world.

If the United States is to succeed in its ambitious quest to raise standards and boost achievement, it must ensure that a strong foundation of knowledge is carefully and cumulatively built from children’s first days in school. That means introducing even young children to the wonders of the physical and natural world, as well as the collective experience and wisdom of our ancestors, expressed through literature, history, philosophy, and art.

Nothing less will fulfill the promise of educational excellence and equity in the United States.

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