The 99-Year-Old Problem You Won’t Believe America Still Hasn’t Solved

“The rapid increase in adult illiteracy not only is costing an economic loss of $500,000,000 a year in the United States, but has become a menace to representative governments.” 

In 1914 — yes, you read that year correctly — P.P. Claxton, the commissioner of education, said this. And it’s still true. If you have children, grandchildren, or a little sibling anywhere in the world that you even remotely care about, it is time to demand more. If you are a business owner who might ever hire someone who was educated in America, it is time to demand more. If you are a taxpayer who wants your fellow citizens to pay their fair share through productive work, it is time to demand more. If you defended or are defending America from danger and are worried about our future safety, it is time to demand more.

It’s plain, simple economics. A country can’t maintain its prosperity or peace with a functionally illiterate citizenry. Just look at the facts:

-More than 20% of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level, far below the level needed to earn a living wage.

-Forty-four million adults can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child.

-Over one million children drop out of school each year, costing the nation over $240 billion in lost earnings, forgone tax revenues, and expenditures for social services.

-One-fifth of high school graduates can’t read their diplomas.

Military leadersbusiness leaders, and scientific leaders have all united under one clear message: This problem is hurting us. Yet 99 years after the warning bell sounded, the 113th Congress has done little of substance and nothing permanent to avoid this coming tidal wave of economic destruction.


This article appeared on PolicyMic.

Heather Beaven

Heather Beaven is the CEO of The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida's Graduates, which operates Jobs for Florida's Graduates, VOiCE, Girls Get I.T. and SUPERB.

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