www.whyville.net Mar 23, 2008 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

The English Crisis

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It has been well-known, for some time now, that the illiteracy rate around the world is high. And this isn't an issue that has suddenly come out of no where. In 1998, 20% of the world population was illiterate. This number has been based off of the United Nations definition of illiteracy which is; "The inability to read and write a simple sentence in any language."

But this number is slightly outdated, and on the home front. In this article I am going to be focusing on Whyville's home front. I will be focusing on the United States of America, and also be comparing it to their neighboring country, Canada.

Why do we learn how to read, write and form simple sentences? To work, to write, to be able to function under the English language, to read, and other important things we do in our day-to-day lives. But the fact is, many Americans - in fact, millions of Americans won't read another book after the day they step out of high school. Although if you look up all the states, it will state that the USA has a 99% literacy rate, but I find some issues with this number. The USA is using a definition that is slightly tainted. To them, literacy is when you are 15 years of age or more and being able to read or write. Under this definition, it does not set any standards of how much you need to be able to read and write.

I do not live in the USA but in Canada. But I do know enough to report on this subject. If a student finds something boring, chances are, they couldn't care less about what they are learning. The percent of people dislike school in the USA is 35%, 61% finding it boring, and 28% report class disorder. What does all these facts mean? It means that people aren't learning. I am sure these people do have enough knowledge of how to read and write to be considering literate, but is our standards of literate really high enough?

Okay. I know that maybe just spitting out facts, isn't enough to get my point across. But it isn't the facts that bother me. It's the results of it, and even more so, the way that these numbers can't do what is happening justice. When I am sitting in Academic English, I hear words, that I wish made sense hearing in an academic class. The teacher will be reading something out loud and asks someone to read but only to be answered, "Miss, I can't. I can't read." Shakespeare or not, this is still rather sad. If someone could pass grade nine English with a 75 or more, and get into Academic English in grade 10, and can't read from a novel, then there is some sort of an issue here.

So if you feel bad because of all the numbers I spit out at you America, don't be saddened. The crisis is happening here as well. The stories my teacher has told us, trying to get us to see the light, and change our ways, is ridiculous. People have written an two page essay, and then at the very end, after the last word, put a period. I really do not think this counts as writing.

I may be ranting slightly, but if I have gotten you thinking, good. It's what I was aiming for. I never mentioned text talk because that is a whole other issue, and possibly the root to this illiterate future. But; if I may leave any food for thought, think about this. I am sure the government is not trying to make their numbers seem better then they are, but don't you think that if they were going to base numbers on language they would base it on the ability to write and read well in the main language of the country?

Author's Note: Those numbers aren't based the amount of people who can speak English, although it's the main language that the country speaks. Have a good day.


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