Monday, September 7, 2009

America's New Plague: Illiteracy

"Lester Benton stares down the new school year with steadfast determination. Every textbook, every essay marks a major accomplishment for the 50-year-old, who only recently began learning to read. The 1978 Yates High School graduate says that breaking the shackles of illiteracy is just the beginning for him. ... Until recently, Benton was among the 52 percent of Harris County adults deemed functionally illiterate in English. Many, such as Benton, are native Houstonians", Jennifer Radcliffe at the Houston Chronicle, 23 August 2009, link:

About five years ago, the Los Angeles Times had an article claiming 53 percent of Los Angeles County adults were functionally illiterate. What are our schools doing? Why ask? Can't we fix this by spending more money on education?


Robyn said...

we can throw money at it but it won't stick unless the surface it alights on WANTS it to stick and has a way to make it stick; ie motivation and guidance. mommy used to teach reading to adults, english as 2nd language, too. she'd have them reading at a 3rd grade level in a few months.
gee whiz, what was her trick?
motivated students, enthusiasm and phonics.
'the fat cat sat on the pat mat'
i used phonics books [homemade] with the 3E's when they were small, worked wonders.

and then again...

historically, the WORLD was illiterate. only the highers, the priests, learned to 'read' most people could use numbers, but not read for pleasure. history and culture was transmitted orally. do we put too much emphasis on reading per se? is the fascination with the internet, with youtube, IM, symptom of the perhaps natural human inclination to learn via auditory means, visual instruction minimal? david was auditory photographic, but incredibly dyslexic. maybe he was the rule and NOT the exception.

as for replacing textbooks with kindles to improve literacy... maybe the governor of california has it going on. this might be more than a monetorally and ecologically sound move.

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Anonymous said...

Uhmmm... pretty astounding illiteracy figures.

I'm a big fan of vocational teaching. Make schooling useful to people.

Haha... more money? No.

Independent Accountant said...

I was being facetious. I do not believe doubling the money spent on public education will improve kids reading ability if schools continue to use the "sight-say" method.
The internet seems to be returning the West to a pre-literate oral tradition. Thomas Bertonneau has written about this. I see many blog posts which contain pictures which must mean something to someone. I think they are today's Neanderthal cave picures.

Robyn said...

i knew you were being facetious. i think the high literacy rates of the 20th century were an aberation, [escept for certain ethnic groups, who have ALWAYS had high literacy rates. even those groups, as they melt, the overall reading competency falls] until i look at the rest of the world. then i'm appalled. america has become the low middle ages and europe has become moslem spain.

"europe has become moslem spain."
did i say that?
damn, i might be onto something!