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Arts and Letters

Me Read Pretty One Day.

America. Land of the free, home of the obese illiterates? “We are doing a better job of teaching kids to read in elementary school. But once they enter adolescence, they fall victim to a general culture which does not encourage or reinforce reading. Because these people then read less, they read less well. Because they read less well, they do more poorly in school, in the job market and in civic life.” An extremely frightening new study by the National Endowment for the Arts finds that, despite the best efforts of the First Lady (which I applaud) over the past seven years, Americans increasingly can’t read so good. “The NEA reports that in 2006, 15-to-24-year-olds spent just 7 to 10 minutes a day voluntarily reading anything at all. It also notes that between 1992 and 2003, the percentage of college graduates who tested as ‘proficient in reading prose’ declined from 40 percent to 31 percent.

Uh, what?! How can over two-thirds of college graduates not be able to read “proficiently”? This is the type of dire news that demands a Sputnik-level response from our political leaders. “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both, as James Madison put it in 1822. “[A] people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives” Or, see Thomas Paine: “[I]t is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support,” and that’s what we’ll be getting (more of) if this troubling trend continues. Not to get all progressive up in here, but education and citizenship are the lifeblood of the republic. Without them, the whole experiment falls apart.

Omsbudsdog Emeritus

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