Monday, January 14, 2013

Detroit, Illiteracy And Cultural Rot

First, let's clarify something. That well-publicized 47% adult illiteracy rate for Detroit looks to be bunk. As a more trustworthy figure isn't instantly available, let's just leave it at that. More broadly, Statistic Brain* reports the following table:

U.S. Illiteracy StatisticsData
Percent of U.S. adults who can’t read14 %
Number of U.S. adults who can’t read32 Million
Percent of U.S. adults who read below a 5th grade level21 %
Percent of prison inmates who can’t read63 %
Percent of high school graduates who can’t read19 %

More broadly still, when all the statistics are thrown about and the inevitable demand for more teachers or more schools or more programs, but always more More MORE money is made, the questions I have are these:

  • When it's easier than ever to learn how to read, don't these numbers show that a large swath of America doesn't value literacy?
  • Since reading is crucial for self-reliance in the 21st Century, doesn't this imply they don't see the need to be self-reliant? What kind of life can you make for yourself if you can't read?
  • Why don't these people think they need to be self-reliant?

* - It's on the Internet, so it must be true! (I didn't verify the numbers.)


tom said...

Note the caveat "functionally" illiterate. Like "legally blind" it leaves some wiggle room for definitions.

So there may be a big chunk of people who can recognize words and phrases, but not pick up a book and appreciate it.

It's also possible to go to "Detroit" and never see any of them. On my last trip to that part of the world I flew into DTW (in Romulus, not Detroit) and drove through some nice suburbs (on the way to Flint, MI, but that's a different story).

K T Cat said...

Good catch! Still, I found it pretty hard to believe those numbers. I can't imagine what kind of squalid, 3rd World city would have a 47% illiteracy rate.

Foxfier said...

KT, think about the times you've worked to make a sentence say exactly what you mean, with no room for wiggling.

After you post it, someone comes on and yells at you for exactly the opposite of what the text says. After some rephrasing, they cuss you out for not saying what you meant in the first place.

THAT is functionally illiterate on the high-functioning end.....