Illiteracy; the downfall of American Society

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Illiteracy; the downfall of American Society

Illiteracy is a serious global problem that is confronting the world. It has its roots in the every corner of the world. This problem affects a significantly large part of the world and exists at various degrees across all countries, ethnic group, socio-economic classes and religious groups. According to estimates, more than 800 million adults in the world today are illiterate and in such a situation, there is a serious threat to the dream of making this world a better place to live in; a place free of poverty, hunger and conflicts. Although the situation is even worse in third world countries, the developed countries are also not a stranger to this problem. Even in United States, the rate of illiteracy is growing at an alarming rate.

Illiteracy in United States

“The illiteracy level of our children is appalling” (Bush, 2004).

These few words, said by the former US President, are sufficient to get an idea of the alarming and disturbing situation of illiteracy in the American society. The situation is not only affecting US children but according to statistics, a shocking amount of 44 million adults cannot even read a school level story to their kids. This is indeed a situation which has to be catered to for the revival of American society as it is ranked 12th in the literacy test amongst 20 higher income countries.

Problems Faced by Illiterate People

Illiterate people find very hard time in coping up with every field of life. They find it difficult to fill a cheque, to adopt understanding of the political and economic scenario and to communicate confidently with other people. People unable to read medical prescriptions usually indulge in serious medical illnesses as they could not understand their prescriptions.

Illiteracy poses a threat to the person in every aspect of society. This is especially true when an illiterate person tries to find a decent job to meet his personal and family needs. In today’s recessionary environment, where graduates from even eminent universities are finding hard to get a good job, people who are functionally illiterate are facing a very tough time even to earn a living wage. The recent data issued by national institute of literacy indicates that about forty six to fifty one percent of American adults are surviving on an income which is below the individual poverty level threshold. The main culprit for this apathetic situation is illiteracy and their inability to read

Impact of Illiteracy on US Society

Illiteracy is having a profound effect on American society. The increased number of illiterate juvenile crime offenders is the repercussion of the negligence to this grave problem in the past. Education is a tool to educate people about how to live a purposeful life and become a productive citizen. People who are not educated opt for every possible means to survive, and thus when in a desperate situation they get involved in criminal activities. This argument that illiteracy pushes up crime rate is supported by the findings of US Department of Education, which reveal that sixty percent of the inmates are illiterate.

How to deal with it?

Some serious and continuous efforts are required by the people belonging to every walk of life to eradicate this plague. There should be result-oriented efforts to increase the literacy rates in young and adults. Strong need of volunteering work is required for this purpose at every level. This is an important fight that American nation is fighting against the enemies of the society and no one can even think of losing it, and letting the country fail.

There is a dire need to reform the American education system and reach out to all the illiterate people. There is a need to understand the reasons why these people choose to stay out of school and find ways to motivate them to bring them back in the classrooms. As stated in the words of another former President, Mr. Clinton “literacy is not a luxury; it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, we must harness the energy and creativity of all of our citizen” (Clinton, 1994).


    George W Bush (January 23, 2004) George W. Bush on Literacy. accessed on august 19, 2009.

President Clinton (1994). Literacy for All. accessed on august 19, 2009. <>

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