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Illiteracy Epidemic: The Importance of Vocabulary and Definitions

Joined: 12/10/2013
Posts: 3
How quickly the fingers point at teachers when the educational system has failed so many students; the same students that go out into our world as our leaders, job creators, and contributors of society. A reality check shows that teachers are only a part of the equation for the epidemic levels of illiteracy in the 21st Century. Understanding the subtleties of our educational system will lead to a resolution.

According to the Department of Education, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, over 51% of the population of adults are classified as functionally illiterate. The outcry for accountability became an open door for answers and a quick fix to justify the numbers. The powers that be threw more than eight million students into the category of learning disabilities, along with too often adding prescription drugs as a remedy to appease the masses as a substitute for going back to the fundamentals of the three “Rs.”

The United States Department of Education also reports the yearly dropout rate of high school students is at a record high of 1.2 million yearly, which computes to one in three high school students. Another study done by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement shows 30 million adults scored “below basic” in the basic language skills with another 60 million more performing a skill level of the simplest everyday responsibilities involving words and numbers.

Xavier University's Center for the Study of the American Dream reveal results of a new study that threatens the very freedoms our Country enjoys. One in three native-born citizens failed the civics portion of the naturalization test. The Center displayed the results of eight of the ten questions asked about our government and political leaders, the survey results found:

• 85% did not know the meaning of the "the rule of law."
• 82% could not name "two rights stated in the Declaration of Independence."
• 75% were not able to correctly answer "What does the judiciary branch do?"
• 71% were unable to identify the Constitution as the "supreme law of the land."
• 68% did not know how many justices are on the Supreme Court.
• 63% could not name one of their two US Senators.
• 62% could not identify "What happened at the Constitutional Convention?"
• 62% could not answer "the name of the Speaker of the US House."

These numbers breed two key factors in our society. Studies have shown illiteracy as a key element in the estimated 60 percent of adult prisoners that are functionally illiterate and 85 per cent of juvenile offenders lacking skills in reading, writing, and basic math. There is a natural consequence of these staggering numbers. Second, the monetary value of this epidemic to government, business, taxpayers, and society are in the trillions of dollars. More importantly, the cost to mankind is impossible to calculate.

Before everyone jumps on the bandwagon to blame teachers for this failure, lets take a deeper look into “what was” and “what is” the present day challenges for teachers. Over the last fifty years there has been a major shift in the makeup of the classroom. The diversity of students, family structures, demographics, technology, and media have affected the social skills of students. Poor social skills in the classroom breeds disruption like behavioral issues. Add that to the demands put on teachers today by government entities. These are hallmarks that literally steal time to teach from the teachers and opportunity for the students to learn.

It is important to make clear that teachers do not determine what will be taught in the classroom. That is done by the “powers that be” and shamefully so. The building blocks of learning start with the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. If these basics are absent, the student will feel crushed, out of sorts, and/or confused, thus disconnecting from the learning process and falling into boredom. Boredom breeds an assortment of nonproductive behaviors. Without mastering the basic skills and allowed to proceed to more complicated steps in the learning process we are setting the student up for life long failure.

Of the three basic skills, readying is the footing that writing and math build on. The written and spoken words are imperative for understanding and the basis for literacy. This is where the definitions are impervious to any success with the other basics. A word which is not understood or wrongfully understood can change the total context of what is being read or spoken. This is a vital piece of communication that leads us to make good or bad decisions. Those decisions in turn, will dictate if our lives are full and complete or void and empty. These same decisions will determine our success personally, professionally, socially, spiritually, ethically, and politically by the choices we make.

In short, teachers need to be given classroom management skills based on scientific data that delivers encouragement, empowerment, and excellence by the same token gives the students a learning environment. We as a people would be wise to take time to understand the definition of any given word in our communications. The prerequisite to communication is researching a word we don’t understand and make sure we do not misinterpret the significance of the word in its context. The choices we make based on the same will have life altering consequences.

Ford, M. (April 30, 2012) National civic literacy survey, ford/civic-literacy_b_1457635.html. National Civic Literacy Survey

U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012 (131st Edition) Washington, DC, 2011.

Kirsch, I., Jungeblut, A., Jenkins, L., Kolstad, A. (April 20012) Adult literacy in America, 3rd Addition, US Department of Education, NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS,

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Comment by rozette

Joined: 11/13/2015
Posts: 1
Forget about statistics and give some basic words of wisdom
Posted: Friday, November 13, 2015 10:51:54 AM
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