In recent years The United States has witnessed a steady decline in a variety of areas, calling into question our status as the greatest nation on Earth. Indeed, if one looks at any statistics at all, it becomes pretty clear that we rank #1 in almost nothing of importance. According to people who collect reliable data, we come in a paltry 7th place in literacy rates among adults. The United States’ dismal performance in regards to literacy is one of the biggest reasons for our “declining standing in the world”(Rogers). It is well known that “completing higher levels of education also often provides access to jobs that involve further learning and more information-processing tasks”(OEDC 34). Yet how can people seek ‘higher’ education if they can’t even read?
I work in a sewing shop, which was started by my father, and to be completely honest, I have serious doubts if everyone I work with could be considered traditionally literate. Yet they can sew things for forty hours a week with zero problems. They have what I have decided to term ‘machine literacy.’ In ‘machine literacy,’ my coworkers all score very high marks indeed.
The problem with this, however, is that we cannot hope for our nation to be great if its people all excel at jobs that don’t even require the basic ability to read and write well. Plus, it won’t be long before my father’s shop gets put out of business due to the systematic disregard for humanity in overseas factories. The types of jobs that we need as a nation are those which incorporate a multitude of literacy types, with a heavy emphasis on traditional literacy. By traditional literacy, I simply mean the ability to read and write well. Even in jobs which emphasize non traditional types of literacy such as designing video games or making movies etc, the ability to understand others and to be understood by others is a crucial factor. Yet how do we go about achieving this?
“Beyond formal education, learning occurs in a range of other settings, including within the family, at the workplace and through self-directed individual activity. For skills to retain their value, they must be continuously developed throughout life”(OECD 36). Ultimately, the responsibility lies on individual parents, not the nation as a whole, even though we are all affected negatively by high rates of illiteracy. We should offer free literacy education throughout the country for all age ranges with the caveat that basic privileges such as voting, getting a driver’s license, and procreating should be suspended until one can pass a basic literacy test.
Rogers, Megan. (2013). Troubling stats on adult literacy. Inside Higher Ed.http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/10/08/us-adults-rank-below-average-global-survey-basic-education-skills#ixzz2pSf0jtfW
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2013). OECD Skills Outlook for 2013. First results from the survey of adult skills. OECD Publishing.http://skills.oecd.org/documents/OECD_Skills_Outlook_2013.pdf