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In response to the argument that illiteracy matters little because America achieved prosperity regardless of the percentage of non-reading people in the culture, the facts make our current social situation appear to be more like a free-fall than a static condition.

Whereas between 80 and 90 percent of our population could read between 1600 and 1900 when industrialization bloomed and immigration laws became less enforced, we have in the post-2006 era an illiteracy rate between 50 and 66%. That is, one in three people have severe reading challenges - or no reading ability at all. In the absence of uniform immigration policies, and lax enforcement, many illegal aliens cannot read their native Spanish language which would ordinarily be a foundation for learning their second language.

Since mastery of spoken and written English has not been enforced for many years, and since English is a difficult language to lear given its non-uniform use of the alphabet letters, the process of learning to write and read at literacy centers, or at Church centers, or community outreach programs, and volunteer agencies, - the learning process is especially difficult for the non-reading person, and the strain on the volunteers and teachers is a significant factor. The analogy of a free-fall is fitting. When falling from the sky, flapping of arms and attempts at sky-diving may slow the fall a bit, but not enough to stop the falling.

Similarly, when we succeed in rescuing perhaps 100,000 to 200,000 non-reading people through government programs and literacy centers staffed with volunteers, we can cheer the donated efforts and publicize their successes, but ... About thirty-six million Americans cannot read today. And next year another 2,410,000 persons will be added to the total.

Annually:
- One million high school students will dropout who failed to learn to read. - 1.4 million documented and undocumented aliens (possibly more) join the list each year (for many years). - 100,000 refugees will be accepted as legal citizens - without the requirement of passing English reading and writing tests. All this is happening at a time when employers seek people in the job force who can program computers, fill health-care occupations, perform reliable data entry, and submit written status reports. All this at a time when television displays much of its content as written bullet lines on the screen (should help the non-reading person), and we have email that enables people to communicate without cost regardless of how poor their spelling may be. Free-fall is an apt analogy. Our flapping motions that rescue an individual here or there are visible, but the illiteracy rate continues to grow year after year far in excess of our efforts to catch up.

For the non-reading person, the dilemna is expressed in low income, lower quality of life, and very few ways out to a better life.



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