E. D. Hirsch believes that increasing vocabularies is the key:
Because vocabulary is a plant of slow growth, no quick fix to American education is possible. That fact accounts for many of the disappointments of current education-reform movements. For example, the founders of the KIPP charter schools, which have greatly helped disadvantaged children, recently expressed concern that only 30 percent of their graduates had managed to stay in college and gain a degree. But note that KIPP schools typically start in fifth or sixth grade, and while KIPP’s annual reports show that their students achieve high scores in math, they score significantly lower in reading. I interpret those facts to signify that middle school is too late to rectify disadvantaged students’ deficits of vocabulary and knowledge. Word-learning is just too slow a process to close those initial gaps in time for college. The work of systematic knowledge- and word-building has to begin earlier.
He advocates for “better preschools, run along the French lines; classroom instruction based on domain immersion; and a specific, cumulative curriculum sequence across the grades, starting in preschool.” Jacobs thinks Hirsch is often miscategorized as a conservative.
Hirsch has always been a committed political liberal: he has consistently stated that he wants a stronger educational system in order to address inequality and give the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised a better chance to succeed in American society.