42 million American adults can’t read at all

Every year, at least two million adults considered to be functionally illiterate swell the ranks of Americans unable to read. If this critical problem isn’t addressed soon, society will most certainly pay the price.

Illiteracy Statistics
42 million American adults can’t read at all; 50 million are unable to read at a higher level that is expected of a fourth or fifth grader.
The number of adults that are classified as functionally illiterate increases by about 2.25 million each year.
20 percent of high school seniors can be classified as being functionally illiterate at the time they graduate.

Source: National Right to Read Foundation

Where Illiteracy Leads
70 percent of prisoners in state and federal systems can be classified as illiterate.
85 percent of all juvenile offenders rate as functionally or marginally illiterate.
43 percent of those whose literacy skills are lowest live in poverty.
Source: National Institute for Literacy

America’s Reading Problem
America is supposed to be one of the world’s most affluent and technologically-advanced societies. Free public education is available everywhere in this country, and the federal government spends about $10 billion every year on literacy education.

So why do Americans have this problem with reading?

According to some, the root of this problem lies with our public education system. National Assessment of Educational Progress testing indicates that the percentage of American children who are able to read well hasn’t improved at all in the last 25 years.

Many people argue that the reason behind this failure to improve is a lack of public education funding. But this doesn’t seem right, as public education spending has doubled in the last 15 years.

This only leaves one other argument: there is something fundamentally wrong with the instruction that American children receive.

Author Rudolf Flesch addresses this issue in a book on phonics called Why Johnny Can’t Read. According to Flesch, ‘the teaching of reading all over the United States–in all of the schools and in all of the textbooks–is totally wrong, and flies in the face of all logic and common sense’.

Fleach, however, does not blame the schools or even the teachers, but instead blames the method of teaching that has been in use since 1927. This ‘look and say’ method relies on memorizing and recognizing words on sight.

In 1930, a ‘basal reading’ series, which incorporates the above method, was released. The books used by American children today for learning to read are basically the same books that were used in the 1930s.

This is extremely unusual given the fact that hundreds of studies have shown the phonics method consistently provides better results. Phonics first teaches the relationship between letters and sounds, only later focusing on reading-the exact opposite of the look and say approach.

The U.S. Department of Education actually recommends the phonics approach, yet many American schools, teachers, and colleges that teach teachers are unwilling to accept this recommendation.

If your child or a child you know is about to enter an American school, talk to the teacher to find out the method being used and ask how you may be able to supplement the reading education your child receives in class at home.

You can also learn more about how you can join the fight against illiteracy on this site and through various organizations including the National Right to Read Foundation and the National Institute for Literacy.

Empire of Illusion


One reviewer wrote:

When I finished this book, I wasn’t sure whether I should cry or start stockpiling assault rifles and canned food. Hedges argues that while Americans were busy being entertained and pleasured, corporations and the industrial-military complex have brought American democracy to its death bed. Yes, in the past tense, as in we’re almost done and we don’t even know it. If Hedges is correct, it is already too late to change the system. I don’t agree with all of Hedges’ politics, but I think he has definitely reported what will likely be the demise of the U.S.

Hedges divides his argument into five sections. The first deals with Americans’ obsession with entertainment. Hedges argues that we have become a polytheistic society worshiping celebrities, athletes, and charismatic politicians and preachers, because they represent what we wish to be. We no longer want to deal with the complexities of reality. We don’t want to have to think too hard about complex issues. We want to live in the fantasy world of celebrities, reality TV, and sports. We want to be lied to, because the lie makes us feel so much better about our lives. We have created a culture of illusion.

Hedges’ next section deals with the porn industry in America and what he calls “the illusion of love.” I felt this section was unnecessary and didn’t flow with the rest of the book. Basically, it is a more extreme example of what is discussed in the first chapter. The illusion men get from porn is that they can control and use women as commodities. Porn has increasingly become more extreme and fetish-like since the industry’s boom in the 1970s. Hedges connects the moral decay and desensitizing nature of porn to Abu Ghraib and war in general. It destroys compassion and empathy and creates a feeling in the user that he/she is a god.

In the third section, Hedges attacks what he calls the “elite” schools of higher education. Hedges argues that Harvard, Princeton, Yale and the like create the next leaders of corporations and government; however, these schools have failed society by become corporatist themselves. They no longer teach true critical thinking; they teach business problem solving. Professors who question the system or challenge the status quo are ostracized. Morality and the common good come second to profits. Finding solutions to maintain the current corporate systems and defense projects are the top priorities.

The next section attacks “positive psychology,” which many corporations and institutions, including the United Nations, are adopting. Essentially, there are psychologists who make a living from teaching/brainwashing people to lie to themselves. It is terrifyingly similar to Huxley’s Brave New World where citizens walk around quoting happy slogans they’ve been taught from birth, totally unaware that they live in a totalitarian state. It is another instance of self delusion. Scary stuff.

The last section encapsulates everything and deals the death blow. While we have been fascinated with the coverage of Michael Jackson’s death and Jon and Kate, fantasizing about “gonzo” porn, and repeating the new happy slogan we learned at work, corporations and the industrial-military complex have bankrupted the country and are preparing for a police state. Hedges states that the corporate controlled media, which is almost all media according to Hedges, is already under-reporting how bad the economic crisis is and will be. The Obama administration has no power against these forces. In fact, no one is allowed to run for president in this country without millions of dollars from the corporations.

It sounds like doomsday prophesies, but Hedges’ evidence is very convincing. He quotes reports from the Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.S. Army War College, among many other credible sources. What I found most convincing is the reminder that history shows us that after the economic collapse in the 1930s, America experienced the most extremism it has ever seen. When the Wiemar Republic in Germany collapsed economically, Adolf Hitler came to power. When Czarist Russia failed, Lenin and the Bolsheviks came to power. Hedges fears what kind of demagogue America will produce. We are not prepared to face the reality of economic failure and the sacrifice that will require. Hedges’ thesis and supporting evidence is chilling, and he doesn’t offer much hope. Empire of Illusion is a dark read, but it is eye-opening.

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-empire-of-illusion-the/#ixzz1GkMqgpBv