The Roots of Illiteracy

analytical Essay
1233 words
1233 words

The Roots of Illiteracy

A problem that pervades our society and threatens to undermine all of the "advances" of our culture is illiteracy. Why is illiteracy so prominent in the United States? In such a diverse culture the causes of illiteracy cannot be easily pointed out. The United States has one of the most expensive higher educational systems in the world, yet 43% of adults read at a level that scarcely makes it possible to function in society.

Almost 22% of adults are not be able to find their street on a road map. (McGuinness, p. 9) One in five adults cannot read a road sign, fill out an application, or read an ingredient label (Level 1). High schools give diplomas to graduating classes where 20% read at a second grade level or worse (Level 1). College graduates do not score much better with 12% able to read at a fourth grade level or worse (Level 2). Should society be concerned when only 3% of the population are capable of reading and comprehending a jury selection outline? Is the educational system to blame for churning out kids who can barely function in society? Are the elementary school teachers at fault because they pass students to the next grade level when they are incapable of putting their simplest ideas on paper? Or is it biological, stemming from learning disorders or brain damage? All of these forces affect our country's inability to read. (Level 1-minimal level of competence; Level 2-barely literate; up to Level 5-"advanced level"; 3% of all adults scored Level 5; McGuinness, p. 9-10)

The possibility that children do not learn to read because of physical causes has been the focus of many studies. Dyslexia is common problem and can be successfully overcome with the appropriate ins...

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.... (Elley, p.228) To solve the problem of illiteracy in the U.S. and the world will take time and a better understanding of the many causes that create our society of readers. "The value of literacy for achieving fulfilling, productive, expanding and participating lives of freedom in modern societies is undoubted, and unquestioned. At the same time, however, literacy does not seem to be well understood." &endash;H. Graff (Ed.). (1981). Literacy and social development in the west: A reader.

Works Cited

Elley, Warwick B. 1994. The I.E.A. Study of Reading Literacy: Achievement and Instruction in

Thirty-Two School Systems, Great Britain, Pergamon.

McEwan, Elaine K. 1989. The Principal's Guide to Raising Reading Achievement, Thousand

Oaks, CA. Corwin Press.

McGuinness, Diane. 1997. Why Our Children Can't Read, New York, The Free Press.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that reading abilities are directly influenced by a child's social context.
  • Explains that the most obvious factor that influences reading ability comes from teachers and teaching systems.
  • Argues that illiteracy's rampant problem is a combination of many different social, cultural, and educational factors lending to the already difficult task of teaching children to read.
  • Argues that illiteracy is a problem that pervades our society and threatens to undermine all the "advances" of our culture.
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