1-09-09 One in seven can’t read the words. How many know what the words say?

I’m told that USA Today has a story today that 1 in 7 people in this supposedly advanced country can’t read a newspaper story-including the one that tells them thay can’t read (a point made in other ways by Stephen Colbert).

What does this mean, aside from presenting a problem for President Obama’s education initiative?
It means that one in seven people can’t read the actual words on the page. But there is a further problem. How many paeple who can read the words know what the newspaper story is saying?
This is serious. The last class I ever tought had 25 people, most of them in their 20’s. I admit it was in Florida. But these were mostly middle class, mostly white students. And I investigated one on one, and only three people in that class could tell me what a story in Time magazine was about and what it had to say about what it was talking about. These were the people who passed USA Today’s reading test. They knew the words., But they didn’t have a clue as to what the words were saying.
I don’t know what kind of a sample of the country’s population this was.
But it suggests to me that more than 50% (you see I make a large allowance for a margin of error) of the people in the country don’t know what a newspaper story is saying. Add to this that only 2 people in that class would admit to watching television news, and you see the problem.

Good luck.

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