# Illiteracy - it's the end of the world as we know it

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### #1 paigetheoracle

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 04:27 AM

We are told that illiteracy is growing, world-wide. We also see large numbers of feral children, roaming the streets in gangs, playing truant, while their only interests seem to be in violence, stealing and vandalism and their only recreation binge drinking and drugs. Could this all be related and a sign that civilization is breaking down irrevocably?

All past civilizations have been marked out as having written records - all primitive tribes as having an oral tradition. This would seem to indicate that allowing for the current trend, this society is on the downward slope.

According to left wing propaganda black violence is down to years of oppression by the West (Slave ownership) but what if it, like white violence, is down to the appropriate expression of feelings by those less verbally adroit, who speak through their bodies rather than their mouths? Educated people, who face life's challenges, stay cool, calm and collected - that is present, to face what life throws at them. They alter life through legal and peaceful discussion, coming to common ground agreements - rather than react violently to what they fear and run away from life's challenges. Those who run away. taking the easy way out, are full of self-loathing for their cowardice (external blame as avoidance of internal perserverance i.e. effort). They seek shallow physical pleasures because they are afraid of using their intellect to solve their problems by facing their demons and staying present (What Eastern Religion keeps pressing and the basis of my prejudice thread also in this forum).

Until and unless we address the true cause of our problems as a society and as individuals, this slide will continue and violence will roam our streets, not peaceful co-workers out to earn a living wage (When lions and bears walk the streets, ordinary people stay inside their homes). If you don't believe this is the end of the world as we know it - open your curtains, open your eyes and stop burrying you're head in the sand. The Emperors New Clothes Syndrome beckons or the conscience and courage to do something about it, which is much, much harder, initially.

### #2 CraigD

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 07:48 AM

We are told that illiteracy is growing, world-wide.

We are told this (the quoted post can be considered a “telling”), but is it true? If so, over what time period, by what amount, and is the increase of decrease significant (that is, large enough that we can safely conclude our surveying method is accurate)?

Attempt, please, paige, to support this claim with sound evidence – a well controlled study of literacy rates over time, worldwide or at least in a sampling of locales. Until you can support this, or some of the other premises (such as increased truancy, crime, alcohol/drug use), the rest of your post is mere speculation based on unsubstantiated claims.

The Emperors New Clothes Syndrome beckons or the conscience and courage to do something about it, which is much, much harder, initially.

Another relevant statement of this form is: The Chicken Little Syndrome beckons, or the common sense and discipline to accurately determine the actual conditions of our societies, which is, indeed, much harder, not only initially, but ongoingly.

### #3 paigetheoracle

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 08:22 AM

We are told this (the quoted post can be considered a “telling”), but is it true? If so, over what time period, by what amount, and is the increase of decrease significant (that is, large enough that we can safely conclude our surveying method is accurate)?

Attempt, please, paige, to support this claim with sound evidence – a well controlled study of literacy rates over time, worldwide or at least in a sampling of locales. Until you can support this, or some of the other premises (such as increased truancy, crime, alcohol/drug use), the rest of your post is mere speculation based on unsubstantiated claims.Another relevant statement of this form is: The Chicken Little Syndrome beckons, or the common sense and discipline to accurately determine the actual conditions of our societies, which is, indeed, much harder, not only initially, but ongoingly.

This is based on a Canadian survey and it is I believe based on English speaking countries (league table evidence). I cannot give you more details because I came upon it when researching something else (Dyslexia?) and didn't bookmark it as I didn't see its relevance at the time (You always find a use for something, after you've thrown it out, don't you?).

I also base this post on what I see around me in comparison with what I saw years ago - local observation, rather than national statistics (statistics lie and can be bent to create a certain impression, simply by missing out data you don't in it). I can't tell for sure what is happening in the rest of the world but if I'm drowning, I'm sure the boat beneath me has sunk. Same if the river has burst its banks - it is reasonable to assume it is raining elsewhere or a dam has burst.

This is evolutionary. The speed of human life has increased and this is evident in shoddy goods and workmanship. Nobody takes their time and mistakes are made because people are not as patient and meticulous as they used to be (I don't believe the Twin Towers was dynamited, just collapsed because it was ill-concieved and poorly made - rushed work as in the house I live in at the minute, design fault after design fault because people didn't take the time to check their work but rushed on like their lives depended upon it).

I use logic and my own eyes, backed by being drawn to other peoples work in areas I wouldn't have normally noticed or thought about. Everything is born, lives and dies - that includes societies as well as individuals (Where is Rome now? Ancient Greece and Egypt as well as South American cultures and the Chinese Empire?).

I will try to trace the Canadian study - meanwhile look at the desperate spam that abounds. Would you call that literate? Clever hacking ideas sometimes but nothing that will last throughout the years and sustain this society (community).

### #4 paigetheoracle

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 10:09 AM

Adult literacy and Life Skills Survey, 2003 (Canada plus six other countries)

### #5 CraigD

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 12:21 PM

Adult literacy and Life Skills Survey, 2003 (Canada plus six other countries)

The IES’s ALL survey is a good-quality survey. However, there are at least the following problems with using it to support the claim “that illiteracy is growing”:
• It samples only a single point in time, data gathered from 1/2003 to 6/2003. Although its website provides links to other studies that provide samples from different times (eg: the IEA’s TIMSS, which compares data from 1995, 1999, 2003, and soon, 2007) it makes no attempt to show trends in scores
• It is a broad test of academic and life skills, not simply a measure of literacy
A primary goal of the ALL survey appears to be to rank the US against several other industrialized nations, and compare general skills between different US ethnicities, not find change in literacy in the US or other countries.

You might find sources such as the IES’s National Assessment of Litteracy more useful. It presents literacy rates as reported by US census data since 1870.

The US literacy rate (literacy in this context is defined as the ability to read and write, not necessarily having acquired mathematical, scientific, technical, or other skills from having done so – what one might term “basic literacy”) was 80% in 1870, 89.3% in 1900, 95.7% in 1930, 97.8% in 1959, and 99.4% in 1979, the last data included in this study. Current US literacy is generally considered to be about 99%, little changed from the 1979 census-derived figure.

So, a claim that illiteracy correlates strongly with the collapse of society must account for the dramatic increase of literacy of the past century, and data indicating that basic literacy in the US and similar nations are at or near all-time highs.

I also base this post on what I see around me in comparison with what I saw years ago - local observation, rather than national statistics (statistics lie and can be bent to create a certain impression, simply by missing out data you don't in it). I can't tell for sure what is happening in the rest of the world but if I'm drowning, I'm sure the boat beneath me has sunk.

This sort of data, no matter how heartfelt, must be considered anecdotal.

While statistics can be manipulated, short of outright fabrication of data, they can’t be made to truly lie if published adequately, as many people with skill in analyzing statistical data can detect such manipulation.

Anecdotes, on the other hand, can’t be objectively measured and verified in this way, so cannot be used to support scientific claims, only as a guide in obtaining data that can be.

… meanwhile look at the desperate spam that abounds. Would you call that literate?

Yes, I consider the typical email and print and electronic spam as evidence of a fairly high literacy rate in their target audience, as most of it is not understandable to someone who is illiterate. Spam target toward an illiterate audience would use pictures, not text.

A good example of “illiterate spam” can be seen in the labeling of food products, which typically bear a picture of the food contained in the package.

One of my personal literacy anecdotes comes from stories of a college friend’s grandmother, a woman born ca. 1900 in Western West Virginia, who was illiterate. Occasionally, package labels that showed additional “serving suggestion” ingredients caused her to purchase foods she didn’t intend to. Knowing this, her grocer would often review her purchases with her at the check-out, to be sure she wasn’t fooled by such confusing graphics. This woman was not stupid or senile. In conversations I had with her, she showed an encyclopedic knowledge of wild plants and local farming and small livestock husbandry techniques (she was a rabbit rancher). She was, however, almost entirely illiterate, unable to identify all 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, and able to recognize only a small collection of printed words.

### #6 Michaelangelica

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 12:55 PM

You can extract some interesting comparisons from this site
NationMaster - Literacy > Adults at low literacy level (most recent) by country
although I am not sure how up to date their figures are
Regardless the following paints a grim picture

Education Statistics > Literacy > Adults at low literacy level (most recent) by country
VIEW DATA: Totals
Definition Source Printable version
Bar Graph Map Correlations

Showing latest available data.
Rank Countries Amount (top to bottom)
#1 Portugal: 80.1%
#2 Poland: 76.1%
#3 Hungary: 67.1%
#4 Ireland: 57%
#5 New Zealand: 50.6%
#6 United Kingdom: 50.4%
#7 United States: 49.6%
#8 Switzerland: 47.2%
#9 Australia: 44.8%
#11 Czech Republic: 42.3%
#12 Germany: 41.7%
#13 Finland: 36.8%
#14 Netherlands: 35.9%
#15 Denmark: 32%
#16 Norway: 29.7%
#17 Sweden: 25.1%
Weighted average: 47.6%

Education Statistics > Literacy > Adults at high literacy level (most recent) by country
VIEW DATA: Totals
Definition Source Printable version
Bar Graph Map Correlations

Showing latest available data.
Rank Countries Amount (top to bottom)
#1 Sweden: 35.5%
#2 Norway: 29.4%
#3 Denmark: 25.4%
#4 Finland: 25.1%
#6 Netherlands: 20%
#7 Czech Republic: 19.6%
#8 United Kingdom: 19.1%
#9 United States: 19%
#10 Germany: 18.9%
#11 New Zealand: 17.6%
#12 Australia: 17.4%
#13 Switzerland: 16.1%
#14 Ireland: 11.5%
#15 Hungary: 8%
#16 Poland: 5.8%
#17 Portugal: 3.2%
Weighted average: 18.6%

### #7 Racoon

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 01:44 PM

We are told that illiteracy is growing, world-wide. We also see large numbers of feral children, roaming the streets in gangs, playing truant, while their only interests seem to be in violence, stealing and vandalism and their only recreation binge drinking and drugs. Could this all be related and a sign that civilization is breaking down irrevocably?

.

Paige's opening paragraph reminds me of the book Clockwork Orange I finished reading shortly ago.

Packs of teenagers, uninterested in school, and looking to fight and rob.

I would contend a couple main points:
Illiteracy is growing. Perhaps, but so is the world population. If you add a 100 million more people, then there will be more illiteracy by the numbers.
More people = more illiteracy.
The largest rate of pop. growth is in the 3rd world, which have higher illiteracy rates to begin with...

Is this a sign that civilization is breaking down?
I don't think so. I'm sure the illiteracy rate in the 1300's was at a higher percentage rate than it is now, and somehow humans have managed.

Interesting discussion, and great points by Craig, and some nice statistics by micheal.

### #8 CraigD

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Posted 25 January 2008 - 04:37 PM

I would contend a couple main points:
Illiteracy is growing. Perhaps, but so is the world population. If you add a 100 million more people, then there will be more illiteracy by the numbers.
More people = more illiteracy.
The largest rate of pop. growth is in the 3rd world, which have higher illiteracy rates to begin with...

I was curious about the per capita vs. gross illiteracy rates, so did a quick combination of the population data from Demographics of the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and literacy data from National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) - 120 Years of Literacy, getting the following:
POPULATION
YEAR   TOTAL  ILLITERATE
1870  38558371   7711674  .2
1880  49371340   8393128  .17
1890  62979766   8376309  .133
1900  76212168   8154702  .107
1910  92228496   7101594  .077
1920 106021537   6361292  .06
1930 123202624   5297713  .043
1940 132164569   3832773  .029
1950 151325798   3783145  .025
1960 179323175   3945110  .022
1970 203211926   2032119  .01
1980 226545805   1359275  .006
This data is limited to the US, but shows that increased literacy has tended to outpaced population growth, so that there were many more (about 5 times) people, there many fewer (about 1/6th) illiterate people age 14 and over in the US in 1980 than in 1880.

Barring a breakthrough in education that lowers illiteracy to nearly 0%, however, I don’t think this trend can continue, and suspect it has reversed since 1980. It’s more difficult to decrease illiteracy from 0.6% to 0.45% than it was to decrease it from 20% to 10%, or even 10% to 0.6%, but easy for the population to have increased from 226545805 in 1980 to 303260872 now. Eventually, as the population continues to increase, the number of illiterate adults must also increase.

### #9 ErlyRisa

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 08:52 AM

What would be interesting is wether or not this data would correlate with Autistic rates?

Seems to me that (in the west at least) Younger minds are rearing children .... of course I am just giving ammo to our left wing proponents to license parenting, but hey, an observation is an observation.

For example SIDS - was on the rise in the 70s and 80's and has pretty much been halted, just by making it known to new parents that they actually have to look after their new pet.

The problem is too many Aerobics intructors. If the Aerobics craze had never occurred in the 80's we wouldn't have mothers today more concerned about thier diets and Fat belly headphones to play mozart to thier unborn.

I would also look into other obvious "diseases"

Asthma
Peanut and Milk alergies
Hayfever (which has suprisingly started to drop - I presume it's not as trendy anymore)

A tip for mothers -- actually have an epiphany! - feel life, don't get hyped up by what Gloria Estefan is doing with her unborn. Be a real person - actually it's a good tip for just about anyone.

-You could probably neatly graph the number of Caesarian sections
to the number of children attending Scouts,
the number of 4wd's at schools,
the number of female only gyms,
the proportion of female teachers,
world vision funding,
letters to the editor that start with the phrase "I am very concerned",
female speeding tickets,
marriage rates,
(and I am going to cop it for this one) homosexuality,
myspace/facebook uptake, sms, parental control software,
trampoline fences,
kids riding bikes,
kids climbing trees, kids writing letter's to the editor that start with "I am deeply concerned" - you see the kids have been taught by the teachers which use a different vocabulary,

-With each generation, it becomes easier for big brother to control them, funny how it's the Baby Boomers that started it all - the ones that were "against the establishment" reared young that rear young that etc etc until finally we are just one in mind and soul.
-We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come. We sing with one voice

There are two types of people on this planet - the guy that re-invented the surfboard strap as a Kiddy leash - and the people that buy it.
As for illiteracy - I wouldn't worry about the US - you guys have the highest Vocabularity abilities on the planet.
This is just a guestimate, but as a baseline if you were to compare other English speaking nation's populous' average vocabulary set to a Yank's.

Affluent Average Below
England 60% 50% 10% (thier are british kids that you would have a hard time understanding a single word because it's all TV giberish)
New Zeal 50% 50% 80% (Pretty much the same as the US, thier are demographics in New Zealand which speak in rap to approx levels as thier US counter parts)
Australia 50% 50% 60% (the only reason I place this lower than NZ is that the Rap scene isn't as big here, hence no avenue to develop a vocab)

Every Yank I have ever met has a much more dynamic and elobarote Vocabulary than any other english speaking nation.

Actually I'll take a guess at, that the average US english speaking person has twice the word bank (if not more) than those even in non English speaking nations.
I say this from experience. I can speak another language (being of ethnic background). I often meet fresh citizens from the country of my heritage, and they are quite bemused by the Language that I use (in of course thier native tongue - not english)
I postualte that what is actually happeneing is that I am using my English vocabulary set, and sentence structure, as subconsciencly tuaght to me by the media, and converting it into the equivalent in my ethnic tongue. In effect, the natural ethnic listening to my gramatics and vocab, subconsciencly are hearing the same media style tongue that they hear in english when they watch hollywood movies for example - but know they are hearing it in thier actual language in a fluent manner -= and it agrees with them.

--It's like, not only has english been formatted - but those that grew up speaking english, but know of another language, format that language in english... and the person that has never spoken a word of english, but of course lives in the western world(watch's Hollywood) - actually prefers the US formated version of thier very own language.
-Everytime I speak to a new ethnic in my heritage tongue, thier first comment is...
your language is "very clean" --in other words, they have "never actually" heard this formated language - but subconsciencly they have - hence it's agree-able.

This is how big bro - controls the populous. -Sub first, hence conscience will agree.

### #10 paigetheoracle

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 09:31 AM

What would be interesting is wether or not this data would correlate with Autistic rates?

Seems to me that (in the west at least) Younger minds are rearing children .... of course I am just giving ammo to our left wing proponents to license parenting, but hey, an observation is an observation.

For example SIDS - was on the rise in the 70s and 80's and has pretty much been halted, just by making it known to new parents that they actually have to look after their new pet.

The problem is too many Aerobics intructors. If the Aerobics craze had never occurred in the 80's we wouldn't have mothers today more concerned about thier diets and Fat belly headphones to play mozart to thier unborn.

I would also look into other obvious "diseases"

Asthma
Peanut and Milk alergies
Hayfever (which has suprisingly started to drop - I presume it's not as trendy anymore)

A tip for mothers -- actually have an epiphany! - feel life, don't get hyped up by what Gloria Estefan is doing with her unborn. Be a real person - actually it's a good tip for just about anyone.

-You could probably neatly graph the number of Caesarian sections
to the number of children attending Scouts,
the number of 4wd's at schools,
the number of female only gyms,
the proportion of female teachers,
world vision funding,
letters to the editor that start with the phrase "I am very concerned",
female speeding tickets,
marriage rates,
(and I am going to cop it for this one) homosexuality,
myspace/facebook uptake, sms, parental control software,
trampoline fences,
kids riding bikes,
kids climbing trees, kids writing letter's to the editor that start with "I am deeply concerned" - you see the kids have been taught by the teachers which use a different vocabulary,

-With each generation, it becomes easier for big brother to control them, funny how it's the Baby Boomers that started it all - the ones that were "against the establishment" reared young that rear young that etc etc until finally we are just one in mind and soul.
-We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands on earth we come. We sing with one voice

There are two types of people on this planet - the guy that re-invented the surfboard strap as a Kiddy leash - and the people that buy it.
As for illiteracy - I wouldn't worry about the US - you guys have the highest Vocabularity abilities on the planet.
This is just a guestimate, but as a baseline if you were to compare other English speaking nation's populous' average vocabulary set to a Yank's.

Affluent Average Below
England 60% 50% 10% (thier are british kids that you would have a hard time understanding a single word because it's all TV giberish)
New Zeal 50% 50% 80% (Pretty much the same as the US, thier are demographics in New Zealand which speak in rap to approx levels as thier US counter parts)
Australia 50% 50% 60% (the only reason I place this lower than NZ is that the Rap scene isn't as big here, hence no avenue to develop a vocab)

Every Yank I have ever met has a much more dynamic and elobarote Vocabulary than any other english speaking nation.

Actually I'll take a guess at, that the average US english speaking person has twice the word bank (if not more) than those even in non English speaking nations.
I say this from experience. I can speak another language (being of ethnic background). I often meet fresh citizens from the country of my heritage, and they are quite bemused by the Language that I use (in of course thier native tongue - not english)
I postualte that what is actually happeneing is that I am using my English vocabulary set, and sentence structure, as subconsciencly tuaght to me by the media, and converting it into the equivalent in my ethnic tongue. In effect, the natural ethnic listening to my gramatics and vocab, subconsciencly are hearing the same media style tongue that they hear in english when they watch hollywood movies for example - but know they are hearing it in thier actual language in a fluent manner -= and it agrees with them.

--It's like, not only has english been formatted - but those that grew up speaking english, but know of another language, format that language in english... and the person that has never spoken a word of english, but of course lives in the western world(watch's Hollywood) - actually prefers the US formated version of thier very own language.
-Everytime I speak to a new ethnic in my heritage tongue, thier first comment is...
your language is "very clean" --in other words, they have "never actually" heard this formated language - but subconsciencly they have - hence it's agree-able.

This is how big bro - controls the populous. -Sub first, hence conscience will agree.

Firstly, American English is simpler than Standard English, used in most commonwealth countries still I presume. They also create no-end of jargon (made-up words)

Secondly, while your spelling is all over the place (typing error?), you make the point by example, that reading doesn't require correct spelling to be comprehended correctly.

### #11 ErlyRisa

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 11:31 AM

Just for that SMS kybrd tlk

Yeah us ozzies (or is it Aussies) we got some doozies aswell...

eg.

ain't --and that's how you'll (there is another one "yule" - technically your supposed to adhere to only taking out one letter, hence "you will" cannot be apostrophised - is that a word?)

aint

Sentence
aint it there?
aint ya working?
aint ya bought it yet?

etc

us Aussies (commonwealth spelling) replace isn't aren't haven't with just one word aint - it's easier!!

but Yanks are fairly kind with your spell checker software - a couple of Z's need replacing, some words like colour and mother are different - otherwise what's the diff? We wll all be tlkn sms in schlls soon anay, at the rate things are going...

For example the US spell checker dictionary is actually quite a bane on the education system. Recently the previous government tried to highlight just how bad it has gotten. Schools are being supplied by PC's that have been set up by Lazy Halfwit geeks that can't even be bothered changing the timezone on an Operating System setup. Then of course their is the teacher that can't spell properly themselves, and actually use the default setup in Ms Word as their guide to spell checking. Then there are people like me, that even after making it in Higher education still get they're their there, know now etc etc wrong (Although at least I know it - many a priamry educator doesn't in Australia - somehow they made it through the educators education system with a spell checker !!!).

It is strange that with technology things have gotten worse rather than better, but of course it can easily be blamed on apathy, in both the education system and society itself.

There is software out there that can teach you another language... step by step, and correct you. In under a couple of weeks you won't exactly be fluent, but you should be able to get by if you visited the country of the tongue that you have learnt(and my US firefox spell checker is telling me that LEARNT is wrong, I guess it's supposed to be LEARNED). I guess... teachers need a reason to exist.

On a side topic how about Math and Primary Science?

In Australia the kids here don't learn anything above the times tables untill they are 13 years old. Unlike most other countries we have adopted the mentality that it's better to be learning the hard stuff later, and just keeping the kid's emotional capabilities well trained. Which I personally think is the better way to go (Foreigners usually comment about Aussie kids as to "Why are they so happy, and just complacently laid back?).
Which brings me to another point - maybe to curb Columbine and Finish style school shootings - maybe kids just need to be kids for a little longer - and competitiveness shouldn't adopted so harshly. eg. in Australia we have no real competitive years until the absolute final year.
, uhh back to the point...
Math and science knowledge in Australia is very low. Most of us only know that H20 is water - ask anyone NaCl and they will be dumbfounded. Most kids will not learn Trigonometry (and you can tell just by looking at our typical Architecture - almost 3rd world rate design wise)
In Australia atleast we do have the advantage that the kids are learning in quite a healthy environment emotionally. The bullying, segregation, classification, competitiveness just doesn't exist (or at the least, not the levels at which it can exist in other countries). This in effect does provide for a society which is more concerned about people rather than goals. In effect most goals in Australia are quite socially based. The down side to this is that we are not very technologically apt, and anything outside a simple curriculum is tantamount to heresy.

### #12 paigetheoracle

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 12:03 PM

The IES’s ALL survey is a good-quality survey. However, there are at least the following problems with using it to support the claim “that illiteracy is growing”:

• It samples only a single point in time, data gathered from 1/2003 to 6/2003. Although its website provides links to other studies that provide samples from different times (eg: the IEA’s TIMSS, which compares data from 1995, 1999, 2003, and soon, 2007) it makes no attempt to show trends in scores
• It is a broad test of academic and life skills, not simply a measure of literacy
A primary goal of the ALL survey appears to be to rank the US against several other industrialized nations, and compare general skills between different US ethnicities, not find change in literacy in the US or other countries.

You might find sources such as the IES’s National Assessment of Litteracy more useful. It presents literacy rates as reported by US census data since 1870.

The US literacy rate (literacy in this context is defined as the ability to read and write, not necessarily having acquired mathematical, scientific, technical, or other skills from having done so – what one might term “basic literacy”) was 80% in 1870, 89.3% in 1900, 95.7% in 1930, 97.8% in 1959, and 99.4% in 1979, the last data included in this study. Current US literacy is generally considered to be about 99%, little changed from the 1979 census-derived figure.

So, a claim that illiteracy correlates strongly with the collapse of society must account for the dramatic increase of literacy of the past century, and data indicating that basic literacy in the US and similar nations are at or near all-time highs.

This sort of data, no matter how heartfelt, must be considered anecdotal.

While statistics can be manipulated, short of outright fabrication of data, they can’t be made to truly lie if published adequately, as many people with skill in analyzing statistical data can detect such manipulation.

Anecdotes, on the other hand, can’t be objectively measured and verified in this way, so cannot be used to support scientific claims, only as a guide in obtaining data that can be. Yes, I consider the typical email and print and electronic spam as evidence of a fairly high literacy rate in their target audience, as most of it is not understandable to someone who is illiterate. Spam target toward an illiterate audience would use pictures, not text.

A good example of “illiterate spam” can be seen in the labeling of food products, which typically bear a picture of the food contained in the package.

One of my personal literacy anecdotes comes from stories of a college friend’s grandmother, a woman born ca. 1900 in Western West Virginia, who was illiterate. Occasionally, package labels that showed additional “serving suggestion” ingredients caused her to purchase foods she didn’t intend to. Knowing this, her grocer would often review her purchases with her at the check-out, to be sure she wasn’t fooled by such confusing graphics. This woman was not stupid or senile. In conversations I had with her, she showed an encyclopedic knowledge of wild plants and local farming and small livestock husbandry techniques (she was a rabbit rancher). She was, however, almost entirely illiterate, unable to identify all 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, and able to recognize only a small collection of printed words.

I'm sorry that you won't take 'I know' for an answer. America may have an increase in its literacy rate over the last 100 years but that is because it was a growing, industrialised nation. As for the figures, sorry but I don't buy the 'nearly 100%' quoted (I personally would rather trust my own experiences than someones else word because I have no way of knowing their motive for trying to convince me of something - the evidence could be third hand and biased: If people can lie, they can lie through statistics (Scientology's held down 7)).

You may believe I'm unscientific but you come across as naive in your belief in this particular form of the written word. I've never been to America but I have a cousin living in Las Vegas and my wife's eldest brother visited there regularly as part of his work with computers on oil rigs. His experience (anecdotal) of the people he met down South was that their Geography was totally inaccurate i.e. they thought England was a town down the road somewhere, not another country far off across the sea (A common phenomena if you'd like to research the internet, of American troops abroad or as tourists). If this is the same as your American literacy then its standard isn't very high compared to the rest of the world is it?

As for the rest of the world Michaelangelica and others have shown in my country (UK) and others illiteracy is growing and I thank them for this data. You seem focused on America - this is 'not' the world, only part of it. As for America's spelling vocabulary, it is simpler than Standard English used elsewhere.

As for your rabbit farmer this a non-sequiter. In other words I'm on about communication, not native intelligence (entrepeneurs do better without formal education to hamper them as apparently students are trained to see pitfalls, not opportunities: see Douglas Bannatyne etc). This is maybe why Americans do better than the British in business as well - closer to their gangster roots than us (We were robber barons once, a few hundred years ago but now have the veneer of respectability and the embarrassment of reformed drunks at our historically bad behaviour). Literacy is needed by society to ensure run of the mill office workers are there to handle its basic needs, while they creative can get by not needing it (unless they are writers of course).

Again referring to your rabbit farmer - how far would civilization got if it had, had to wait for verbal means of communication (telephones/ radio)and records (tape machines etc). Technological necessity meant visual commuincation had to come first - hence cave art, tally sticks and alphabets.

### #13 paigetheoracle

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 12:10 PM

Just for that SMS kybrd tlk

Yeah us ozzies (or is it Aussies) we got some doozies aswell...

eg.

ain't --and that's how you'll (there is another one "yule" - technically your supposed to adhere to only taking out one letter, hence "you will" cannot be apostrophised - is that a word?)

aint

Sentence
aint it there?
aint ya working?
aint ya bought it yet?

etc

us Aussies (commonwealth spelling) replace isn't aren't haven't with just one word aint - it's easier!!

but Yanks are fairly kind with your spell checker software - a couple of Z's need replacing, some words like colour and mother are different - otherwise what's the diff? We wll all be tlkn sms in schlls soon anay, at the rate things are going...

For example the US spell checker dictionary is actually quite a bane on the education system. Recently the previous government tried to highlight just how bad it has gotten. Schools are being supplied by PC's that have been set up by Lazy Halfwit geeks that can't even be bothered changing the timezone on an Operating System setup. Then of course their is the teacher that can't spell properly themselves, and actually use the default setup in Ms Word as their guide to spell checking. Then there are people like me, that even after making it in Higher education still get they're their there, know now etc etc wrong (Although at least I know it - many a priamry educator doesn't in Australia - somehow they made it through the educators education system with a spell checker !!!).

It is strange that with technology things have gotten worse rather than better, but of course it can easily be blamed on apathy, in both the education system and society itself.

There is software out there that can teach you another language... step by step, and correct you. In under a couple of weeks you won't exactly be fluent, but you should be able to get by if you visited the country of the tongue that you have learnt(and my US firefox spell checker is telling me that LEARNT is wrong, I guess it's supposed to be LEARNED). I guess... teachers need a reason to exist.

On a side topic how about Math and Primary Science?

In Australia the kids here don't learn anything above the times tables untill they are 13 years old. Unlike most other countries we have adopted the mentality that it's better to be learning the hard stuff later, and just keeping the kid's emotional capabilities well trained. Which I personally think is the better way to go (Foreigners usually comment about Aussie kids as to "Why are they so happy, and just complacently laid back?).
Which brings me to another point - maybe to curb Columbine and Finish style school shootings - maybe kids just need to be kids for a little longer - and competitiveness shouldn't adopted so harshly. eg. in Australia we have no real competitive years until the absolute final year.
, uhh back to the point...
Math and science knowledge in Australia is very low. Most of us only know that H20 is water - ask anyone NaCl and they will be dumbfounded. Most kids will not learn Trigonometry (and you can tell just by looking at our typical Architecture - almost 3rd world rate design wise)
In Australia atleast we do have the advantage that the kids are learning in quite a healthy environment emotionally. The bullying, segregation, classification, competitiveness just doesn't exist (or at the least, not the levels at which it can exist in other countries). This in effect does provide for a society which is more concerned about people rather than goals. In effect most goals in Australia are quite socially based. The down side to this is that we are not very technologically apt, and anything outside a simple curriculum is tantamount to heresy.

Sorry about my comments earlier. Yes it is nice to know Oz is more concerned about people than technological progress and as for your earlier post about Autism - well I is Aspie they tell me.

### #14 CraigD

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 01:59 PM

I'm sorry that you won't take 'I know' for an answer.

It’s not really a matter of my not being willing to take “I know” as an answer – our forum rules include:

Statements like "I just know that this is the way it is" (especially when religion is being discussed) are considered ignorant and might be deleted.

There are many forums on the internet where unsupported statements of opinion are welcome – hypography is just not one of them. Claims made here are required to be backed up with scientific evidence.

Without such rules, and moderators to enforce it, this would not be a science forum, but an opinion forum.

You may believe I'm unscientific but you come across as naive in your belief in this particular form of the written word.

I didn’t intend to give that impression. I’ve a fair amount of professional experience in specifically the branch of education concerned with the problem of illiteracy and Innumeracy: three years of writing remedial English and math educational software for a consortium of state educational agencies; and 2 years of teaching essentially remedial high school in the Virginia state prison system. While I consider myself “left leaning”, I don’t think it accurate to describe me as naïve.

I believe we’re experiencing some miscommunication in that I’m using a fairly old, conventional use of the word “literacy”, which I attempted to qualify as “basic literacy”. This is simply the ability to read and write sufficiently to understand and convey simple instructions using a language. More modern uses of the word apply it to a “continuum of learning”.

The ALL survey to which paigetheoracle refers, and related studies, such as the IALS are test of a broad range of skills. They’re complicated studies, intended to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the educational systems of the participating countries. They are, I believe, not intended and poorly suited for predicting the collapse of society.

On a more fundamental level, I’m skeptical that:
• The average academic and practical life skills abilities of people in the US and/or other countries are decreasing (or increasing) significantly
• Civilization is in danger of collapsing. This belief, which I called “the Chicken Little syndrome”, appears to be common at all times in history. Many people at many times in recorded history have felt that civilization was on the verge of collapse, yet even in the face of severe economic and political failure, it has not collapsed.

### #15 Boerseun

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 10:52 PM

Civilization is in danger of collapsing. This belief, which I called “the Chicken Little syndrome”, appears to be common at all times in history. Many people at many times in recorded history have felt that civilization was on the verge of collapse, yet even in the face of severe economic and political failure, it has not collapsed.

...and that's a good thing! I think if the world were to relax, and not fear imminent disaster, and not worry about "Civilization collapsing" and the "End of Days", then maybe Civilization will collapse, and nobody would notice until it's too late...

I think this "Chicken Little syndrome" is good; it keeps us on our collective civilized toes, and helps protect the greatest product of evolution so far: Civilization.

### #16 ErlyRisa

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 11:48 PM

You could argue that an Ant colony is civilisation too...

This "Doomsday" stuff is a freak of the western culture...
The proportion of Opinion Gestapo is actually very low in the X Communist block, and in practically every other country in the world.

Japan has always been an interesting case.
They have astounding leducational rates (and so they should for the amount of time they spend learning would drive a westerner crazy --but I think the worker ethic has finally changed there too)
The Japanese population are not overly zealous with mass opinion... they opinions are somewhat on par with say the Italians... but unlike the italians the Japs continue to work and adhere to government policy. (ie, you can't give an Italian a parking ticket - it just won't be paid... it's like the example of smoking being banned in French Cafe's --it just didn't work, the Fench would just look at the Ticket Gestapo and smirk)

Literacy rates could actually correlate to how much "agreeability" the population has. For example those that don't read much and may not be able to work (but I find that not to be the case in Australia, one of the richest men in Australia can't read) may feel that they are not a part of society, hence may be rebelious. These people are needed... if your population is more like let's say Sweden, where all are quite well "educated" (I like to call them half-educated), then you have the risk of having a population that only thinks as ONE... their is no riff raff to provide for another perspective.

So illiteracy is actually good!?

### #17 Michaelangelica

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 11:51 PM

I would contend a couple main points:
Illiteracy is growing. Perhaps, but so is the world population. If you add a 100 million more people, then there will be more illiteracy by the numbers.
More people = more illiteracy.
The largest rate of pop. growth is in the 3rd world, which have higher illiteracy rates to begin with...

i don't know if you can make that assumption. There has been a big effort by the UN to give kids in the third world a primary education. That has been going on for at least 35 years.
Communist countries too. China now has a huge graduate population
A friend was opening a factory in Viet-nam. "WHY?" I asked. "They are the 5th? 6th?most literate society in SE Asia" he said. During the war everyone was taught to read. I think, even India, has compulsory primary education.
A report from the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) recently said that 50% of Australians cannot properly understand an average everyday magazine article. Which, I remember being told, were written for those with a reading age of 9 ?? The news reporter on the radio was shocked and surprised. I couldn't find the original research sorry
I think a lactk of literacy (reading and writing) disenfranchises and alienates people from their society.
Some time ago (20ys) I remember reading some reseach on gaol inmates- 90% had reading difficulties. That may be different now as we are cluttering up the jail system with drug addicts.

I don't understand this earlyrisa? Would you please explain?

Affluent Average Below
England 60% 50% 10% (thier are british kids that you would have a hard time understanding a single word because it's all TV giberish)