Teaching Evolution

A blog devoted to teaching evolution, both in our schools and in our communities.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Literacy Falls for Graduates From College, Testing Finds

This is discouraging news, but not for the reason that the Department of Education seems to think.

Three percent of college graduates who took the test in 2003, representing some 800,000 Americans, demonstrated "below basic" literacy, meaning that they could not perform more than the simplest skills, like locating easily identifiable information in short prose.

Grover J. Whitehurst, director of an institute within the Department of Education that helped to oversee the test, said he believed that the literacy of college graduates had dropped because a rising number of young Americans in recent years had spent their free time watching television and surfing the Internet.

"We're seeing substantial declines in reading for pleasure, and it's showing up in our literacy levels," he said.

If college graduates are failing tests at basic literacy, the probelm isn't television or the Internet, the problem is that colleges are handing out diplomas too easily. If the Department of Education really wants to do some good, it will publicly release the information about which colleges graduated these illiterates to publicly shame the schools.

I get angry when I read people blame television and the Internet for the illiteracy of our nation because I spend a lot of time watching television and surfing the Internet. Yet, somehow, I'm able to overcome my use of these mind-deadening devices, and I make my living as a writer. (Obviously, most time people spend on the Internet involves reading and writing, so it's just plain stupid to blame the Internet for low scores on reading tests.)

So how about this as a solution to the problem: Next time the Federal government conducts one of these tests, they announce that the colleges graduating people who can't perform on basic literacy tests will no longer receive federal funding.


At 10:54 AM, Blogger dhodge said...

In high school, I began reading voraciously after I scored lower than I had expected on the verbal section of the PSAT test. When I took the SAT the next year, my verbal score improved significantly, so I'm definitely a believer in the idea that recreational reading is to overall literacy what exercise is to physical health and well-being. Blaming the problem on TV and the Internet is not going to help anyone, but showing people the value of devoting more of their free time to reading in lieu of other activities is a good idea.


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