Reflecting on reading ED Hirsch in the 1980s, I was reminded of a favorite analogy of mine back then, that we need cuphooks on which to hang the cups of new information and new experience, or they simple fall and break, or at best, are hard to find among all the other crockery. I applied it first to education, as I was frustrated with the whole nonsense, then gaining steam, of not teaching names and dates, but trying to teach experiences or abstract understandings. This is first wrong because it doesn't work. There must be some structure for a child (or adult) to work from. A date is of course arbitrary, relating to how many times the earth has revolved around the sun since then rather than, and the King could have been named Edward or Choppers instead of Henry, but some structure is essential, or the information has nothing to attach to. Any of the concrete details provide a structure that is helpful to learning: wearing the costume, eating the foods, using the tools, or on paper viewing and drawing the trade routes, tracing the boundaries, putting little sheaves of wheat or fish on the page to show exports. Dates provide a versatile time structure, as they can identify broad ranges "Oh, like before 1000AD even," or more nuanced information "Wait, that was only two years after he became king." Of such things history, geography, culture, and much of the arts are understood. If you take that away then it becomes people with no names doing things in an indefinite time in a place not specified. None of that information will be efficiently stored for retrieval.
One can imagine other structures. Fine. But this one has been agreed upon, and thus allows us to communicate it more fully.
The second problem is that all this vagueness prepares the ground nicely for indoctrination. If the children - or again, adults - do not really know anything, then you can give them predigested summaries so that they think they do. You will notice that this is exactly the accusation from education traditionalists what is happening in schools today, up through graduate level. As far back as 1980, a coworker counseled a younger person going to college that sociology was a waste of effort. "Blacks are cool, gays are fine, women have been oppressed. That's all you'll learn. I know, I was a sociology major for two years."
It is an exaggeration, certainly. I learned not only expressly but via social signalling what to believe learning theater and medieval literature, but I did also read plays and books, attached to actual authors and centuries. Yet when every course must address issues of gender, race, class, oppression, where will the time for that come from? The student will read five poems fewer, one book less. Next year, there will be further subtractions.
Yet there was a second area where cuphooks were needed. I found I needed them at work. At least, I thought I did. I learned an unintended lesson there. We would attend conferences and planning sessions of what was to come! Where new group homes were going to be built, and what specialties they would have! New therapies! New programs! I mentioned at a department meeting shortly after one of these that I was finding it all rather vague and blue-sky. "I need some cuphooks to hang these cups on," and the department head laughed. She was a smart person but had half-bought into this nonsense, and my comment was refreshing to her. "It's worse than you know! He's been talking about these things for almost a year now, and i can't think of a single cuphook I can hang any of it on!" It became an in-joke in the department. These planners! These dreamers! It takes them so long to get stuff done, and this is why. They spend so much time talking about it, and checking in with each other that the actual work goes slowly.
In a few years I had learned that the work did not go slowly, it didn't happen at all. None of those group homes got built, as the budget people learned that they did not reduce hospitalisations, or arrests, or any other measurable. Different housing programs or treatment approaches would get imposed on everyone from above, ignoring all the discussion that had gone on before. I learned that this is what happens in a bureaucracy when the intent is to disguise the fact that no work is being done. There will be no cuphooks. I doubt this is much intentional, even in large bureaucracies like government. These are people who are vague in their thinking, and thus believe they are really accomplishing something. You don't have to fool them, they embrace being fooled, else they would have no meaning. It's all very Screwtape Letters and Great Divorce.