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Sunday, October 02, 2005

The sad reality of adult illiteracy

There are over 40 million functional illiterates in the U. S. and American Idol winner Fantasia recently revealed she is among that number. The 21-year-old singer admits that she has signed record contracts she didn’t understand and had to fake her way through scripted portions of American Idol. This is a hard admission as most adult illiterates are embarrassed to acknowledge their problem and spend most of their lives hiding instead of seeking help. This only compounds the dilemma. And unfortunately, the illiteracy rate is growing.

The reasons for adult illiteracy are varied. For Fantasia, a sexual assault in ninth grade and the leniency by the school against the attacker prompted the singer to drop out of school. For others, poverty, substandard schools, or coming to English as a second language may be the obstacle to learning to read.

According to the National Education Association, the age breakdown among adult non-readers is:

40% are 29-39
28% are 40-59
32% are 60 or older

Illiteracy also has a significant impact on the economy. Nation’s Business estimates that 15 million adults holding jobs are functional illiterates. Costs come through remedial training for these employees as well as losses through low productivity, errors and accidents. Among the unemployed, the Department of Education estimates that 60% of this sector lack the basic skills to be trained for high tech positions.

These stats seem cold and impersonal when compared to the true costs of illiteracy. The imagination is fed through the spoken and written word. Creativity is instilled through the exchange of ideas, and this exchange is usually through books. So, imagine never being able to read a novel, an autobiography of your favorite hero or express your thoughts in a journal. Imagine not fully understanding the words in a song or being able to read to your children at night. These are losses that cannot be quantified by statistics because they are the costs to one’s spirit.

With the school system already in a quandary, and our educational standards compromised by illusory testing systems and underfunded schools, the problem will get worse before it gets better.

One need only read the signs. If one can.

Facts on Illiteracy

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 10/02/2005 09:17:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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