Illiteracy in the US Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 20 April 2017

Illiteracy in the US

Literacy has become a topic of concern in the entire United States of America. The media has often called for attention on the literature crisis with a large proportion of adults being illiterate. There are a large proportion of the Americans who are however, literate in their native language as well as English. However, the much concern about literacy is due to the fact that the expectations for formal education tend to increase with the changes of generations. Another concern is that many of the American adults lack literacy and more so English literacy to help them carry on well in the contemporary US society.

Data from literacy surveys are considered by many policy makers as a barometer for the nation’s well being as well an indicator for the nation’s preparedness to compete in the global economy. It is also used as a measure to gauge how the schools have equipped the students with the skills that are necessary for the social, economic and political participation (Wiley, 1994, para 1). Many definitions have been given to the term illiteracy. The nature of the criterion that leads to the definition varies from one point to another.

For instance, in 1930 the Bureau of the Census defined illiterate as any person over the age of 10 years who was unable to read and write in any language (http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1E1-illitera. html). However in the census of 1940, the issue of functional illiteracy was adopted. In this case, any person with less than five years of schooling was considered to be functionally illiterate, (http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1E1-illitera. html). Since then, the concept of functional illiterate has grown, but there have been many changes in the definition with the complexity in most social activities.

By 1970, the office of the US Education considered the minimum years for literacy to be 6 years and sometimes 8 years for schooling to be a minimum criterion for functional literacy. According to the report of (http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1E1-illitera. html), in 1990, about 5% of the adult Americans did not meet the criterion. According to the United Nations, illiteracy is the inability to read and write a simple message in any language. Using the definition of the United Nations, the United States and Canada have an overall illiteracy rate of about 1%.

However, in some disadvantaged areas of the rural south in the United States, the rate of illiteracy is much higher (http://www. encyclopedia. com/doc/1E1-illitera. html). Literacy has been laden with related issues such as quality of life. Members of the minority group who do not have any of their literature written in their own language or any other language are usually marginalized and usually on the downside of the digital divide. It has been found that income of an individual correlates with the education level of that individual Literacy rate Per capita income Below 40% Less than $600

Above 98% More than $12,000 Source: (http://www. sil. org/literacy/issues. htm) According to these figures, as the literacy rate doubles so does the per capita income. In economic terms this may mean that literacy has some payoffs and it is thus a worthwhile investment. Illiteracy on the other hand may be a loss of income to the individual as well as the society at large. “According to the National Adult Literacy survey, in the US alone, adults estimated price tag of more than $17 billion per year as a result of lost revenue, welfare, unemployment, crime and incarceration, and industry”, (http://www.sil. org/literacy/issues. htm Para 4).

This implies that the price tag for illiteracy is much more than the cost of literacy. However, literacy cannot merely be equated to better jobs, on its own, but several factors have to be put in consideration. For instance, fluent literacy, well developed writing skills, mathematics and general knowledge that is far beyond what was acquired in a normal class of adult literacy. Furthermore, literacy cannot be necessarily equated to wealth. However, literacy would mean betterment of live of the people in general.

Literacy would therefore be able to provide an option for the member of the society to become more self esteem, understand issues well, and be able to represent themselves. Adult functional illiteracy is a major problem hidden in the United States society that affects all the adults regardless of the race, gender, or economic status. “An estimated 27 million Americans are functionally illiterate; they are unable to read, comprehend, write or compute at a level which enables them function in a complex world,” (Bell 1984, pp 1).

The pool of functional illiterates continues to increase each year especially with the increasing number of immigrants. The other cost of functional illiteracy is that no adult can be able to secure and keep a job while being illiterate. Functional illiteracy lowers productivity and contributes to unemployment in the society. For the functional illiterate adults who manage to get employment, they contribute to a lot of loss to the organization due to issues such as clerical errors, mistakes on production lines or even industrial accidents that can be caused by the functional illiterates.

According to Bell, many studies have shown that there is a correlation between illiteracy and crime, as many of the inmates are illiterate (pp1). There is an urgent need to be able to communicate efficiently in the United States. The ability to read and write is one of the chief means of communication. Adult illiterates must be taught properly how to read and write so that they can function successfully in the society. There many methods that are used to teach adult literacy in the United States however, most do not work effectively.

Most of the programs are affected by inconvenience scheduling of classes, physical distance that causes transportation problem, and change of address (Kim, 1997, para 2). Many people have devised means of tackling adult illiteracy, but there is no single agreed solution that has been reached at. The solutions in fact have ended up causing quarrels between the policy makers and the organizers of adult literacy programs.

There are many countless ideas on how to solve adult education because there are many researchers that have published there ideas about adult education, while others just publish papers for the sake of publishing (Kim 1997 para 4). Some authors in fact just publish for the sake of contradicting and contrasting what they see as wrong and invalid ideas. Therefore it can be argued that some authors just publish their work without minding what it contributes to the community. It is not unusual for one author to come across ideas published that are different from his/hers.

In such cases, some authors will take initiative to contradict the other authors purposely. Therefore, to avoid various confusions on the ideas of adult education, the government should take initiatives to take part greatly in adult education by providing more resources such as teachers and the locations of the education centers that are convenient to the students.

Works Cited

Bell T H. Toward a learning society; the Secretary of Education discusses the breadth of the Problem of adult functional illiteracy and his commitment to solve it, 1984. Retrieved on 18th Dec 2007 from http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m1011/is_v20/ai_3199375

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