Illiteracy: Forecaster Of Life’s Misfortunes Essay, Research Paper
Illiteracy: Forecaster of Life’s Misfortunes
The International Reading Association reports that a recent government study of adult literacy shows that 47 percent of American adults have such limited literacy skills they can neither use a bus schedule nor write a brief letter about a billing error (qtd. in Goldstein 2). Another point of view is expressed in Paul Gray’s article in which he reports that the Educational Testing Service released a 150-page survey called Adult Literacy in America. The results of the survey points out that nearly ninety million U.S. citizens over the age of sixteen are, in the eyes of most employers, quite clearly not good employee material (qtd. in Educational Testing Service 75). These recent discoveries have emphasized that illiteracy’s three shocking outcomes are related to: social ranks, effects on education, and economic results.
The social portion of an illiterate persons life has a staggering consequence. According to test results ethnic origin plays a role in how literate someone is. Persons in the racial minority are more likely to be found in the lower levels of literacy. Officials convey that these groups of people have usually completed fewer years of schooling, and those fewer years cause diminished literacy levels. Diminished literacy causes poverty and discrimination (Goldstein 3). An effect on Hispanics’ poor scores is by having to learn English as a second language. The lack of capital effects African-Americans’ low scores because the schools they attend do not have the resources necessary to provide for the students. The worst test takers were senior citizens, prisoners, and immigrants (Kaplan 45). Older adults’ problems were generally linked to the facts that twilighting
Americans have completed fewer average years of schooling than younger Americans and that the mean literacy of the population rises as more educated, younger generations of residents replace the lesser educated ones (Goldstein 3). Persons speaking other languages than English might have measured out as better readers had the surveys been administered in their native tongues. Variance in the levels of male and female scores are not that outlandish. Men performed as well as females in basic reading skills but were more productive in more critical areas, such as reading maps and following instructions (Kaplan 45). The largest gain in women’s literacy happened in the 19th century. In the early part of the 20th century the majority of females in numerous countries, including the United States, became increasingly illiterate. Before that women had been left behind as far as education was concerned (Doyle 20).
Education seems to be dropping the ball and lagging behind on the front-lines of illiteracy. Generations of Americans seem to be poorly equipped to compete in the global economy, and social hurdles persist as educators keep giving degrees to students who cannot even write their name or recite it when it appears in front of them on a piece of paper (Kaplan 44). The literacy deficit was best exemplified by Sam Houston High School’s history and geography teacher, Nelson Brown, who began noticing that a great number of his students could not read. Therefore, he decided to investigate his theory that his student’s grades were being hurt by their lack of reading ability, by administering tests to his students to find out exactly what was going on. One-hundred-sixty students took the test; One-hundred-forty (88%) missed more than half the questions; not one student answered them all correctly; none of the scholars missed just one, just two, or even just three. Only four students missed eight or fewer. The exam was Brown’s evidence that the only reason his history students could not learn was because they could not read. This inability to read
or write was hurting the students in every class, they simply were not learning the core curriculum (qtd. in Curtis 9). In the field of education there is immense pressure to keep absences and tardies at a minimum. A school district’s average daily attendance correlates directly to how much money they get from the state. This fact forces schools to keep numerous children in school at all costs without really being concerned with how they perform. Thus, if teachers graded as they should, failure rates would be much higher due to the high illiteracy among students. This relates to literacy based on the fact that even if students cannot read, they are being pacified in school just to appease the state and are not being taught but rather tolerated ( Curtis 12). Some teachers earnestly thought that the system had failed to educate as its mission states. The conviction of most veteran teachers was that pupils could not read because they had not been forced to read. According to the previous law children could only be held back twice. There were pros and cons for the law, however, the results were that students who could not read were being placed onward regardless if they could read or not. This formula festered and supplied many illiterate people to society (Curtis 14). As Bill Honig Ph.D. states as his theory “?If you don’t have an organized program to teach skills directly, you’re going to have a gap in you’re [sic] reading program. It’s like trying to play baseball without being taught the skill of hitting’” (qtd. in Levine 65).
Aspirations that by the millennium all United States citizens would own the intelligence and abilities to be competitive in a world economy are quickly being squashed. 26,000 people were surveyed into five levels with five being the most literate and one representing the most illiterate. Some 44 million Americans fall into the lowest two levels. The study shows that the vast majority of American adults do not have the literacy skills necessary to integrate complex information, take into account special conditions, or handle math tasks that require background knowledge. Illiterates
face economic hardships such as: affording insurance, giving proper medical care to their family,
or even furnishing necessities for their homes, all these stem from low-paying jobs force by illiteracy. The results also showed that people with limited literacy skills more likely earn less, are out of work, and vote less than those with greater capacities. The study clearly links literacy skills with economic well-being and full participation in civic life (Goldstein 2). The numbers show that one’s level of literacy decides how much pay a person receives: those at level one earned an average of $230 a week, those at level five earned $681 (Goldstein 3).
If the numbers are true and correct, the U.S. is not only greatly populated by technologically impaired persons, but most of them have no clue that they have no clue (Gray 75). In the 1790 Census people were considered literate if they could sign their name. By 1840, the ability to read and write was felt to constitute literacy. Today the definition of literacy has changed to one of being able to function in society and the work place (Goldstein 3). Getting to a point where everyone is functionally literate will be difficult. It will not require more spending, more educators, more expensive un-tested programs, it will only take a little courage (Curtis 14). Until this is done many will find it difficult to graduate from high school, locate good jobs, find affordable insurance and even simply function in society. It is not unreasonable to say that a person is as alive as he or she can communicate, therefore, until illiteracy is not a major domestic problem, 47% of the American population will be “dead..”
Curtis, Gregory. “What Does ?Jolt’ Mean?” Texas Monthly Dec. 1995: 9.
Doyle, Rodger. “Female Illiteracy Worldwide.” Scientific American May 1997: 20.
Goldstein, Brigitte. “Social Science and the Citizen.” Society Jan./Feb. 1994: 2-3.
Gray, Paul. “Adding Up the Under-Skilled.” Time 20 Sept. 1993: 75.
Kaplan, D.A. “Dumber than We Thought.” Newsweek 20 Sept. 1993: 44-45.
Levine, Art. “America’s Reading Crisis.” Parents Oct. 1996: 63-64+.