One in 20 U.S. adults lack basic English skills
Federal literacy survey reveals ‘stark snapshot'
(click title above for link to article)
After reading the above article, my friend permitted me to post her response:
Since I've just finished reading the essays of another 2500 college-bound teens, this survey does not surprise me. There are certainly 5% of them that can't fully understand the language of the prompt they are responding to; for example, they will think "practical" means "requiring practice". They say things like, "History is everything that happens, in the past, present or future. So why would you not want history? If history wasn't relevant, nothing would happen." (That was the opening of an essay rated "competent.")
I read essays by college-bound 17-year-olds who believe there are still 10 million slaves in the American south today; who argue that we should not study history because that will make us repeat it; who use two punctuation marks in a page of writing (that one was just short of "competent").
I think you just can't teach kids basic literacy in large groups on a large group schedule. They either learn to read, write and cipher on their own (regardless of the quality of their school), or they are taught in one-on-one or small groups -- like you are doing at home with your family. And when families aren't responsible for teaching their own children, the adults have less reason to progress, too.
Now, many of the 5% at the bottom in that study are recent immigrants, many of whom will develop those skills in time. But the bottom 13% includes a whole lot of people who can't read a prescription bottle or bank deposit slip now and are not making any progress toward it, despite years in American public education. Schools failed them then, they are failing them now, and they are failing their children.
So. If the education system didn't get them when it had a 12-year claim on their time, it's not going to get them now; very few of the nonliterate will become literate with passing years, as the study shows.
--on a rant after reading in a serious essay that A.G. Bell invented the first telephone using two cans and a string