Education in America vs. Education in Third World Countries
Education in America vs.Education in Third World Countries A few weeks ago, I was walking downtown, when this random came up to me and said “You in school? That’s good, that’s good.Education is important.
” From the state of her hair and clothes, and the smell of her breath, I assumed she was homeless. I didn’t really pay much attention to her, because homeless people are so common in downtown Atlanta. I was just hoping that she wasn’t going to ask me for any money! After a while, I started thinking about what the homeless woman had said; “Education is important. Growing up, I had always been taught that people who lived in the streets had been afforded the same opportunities as I had, but they had simply chosen to ignore them. So, if this woman had basically thrown away her life, why was she here preaching to me that education was important? How far had she gotten with her education? Was she like my great-grandmother, and lacked the skills to read and write? Literacy isn’t something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, mainly because all of the people that I surround myself and the people they surround themselves with are all capable of reading at proficient levels.
Of course, I was always aware that some people had disabilities that made it harder to read, like dyslexia, but it never occurred to me that some of them allowed for the hindrance to completely turn them off to reading. Is it possible that I have been taking my literacy skills for granted? In this paper, I plan to explore literacy in America, and how it compares to the value other nations put on literacy and even our own country before public schools were instituted. Being literate is defined as any person over the age of 15 that can read and write.
The United States had a literacy rate of 99% in the year 2003, according to the CIA census. 99%; almost our entire population is capable of reading and writing at a proficient level. Who does the least 1% represent? The homeless? Or the dyslexic people who are too embarrassed to admit they need help reading? Every person in America is offered the opportunity to receive an education, admittedly some educations are not the same quality as others, but everyone is definitely offered an education.
While 99% of the country is literate, a test conducted by National Assessment of Adult Literacy 14% of US residents have increased difficulty reading at their level. According to the afore stated definition, these people can be classified as illiterate, because they don’t met the standards of what is considered literate, since they have difficulty reading at their proficiency level. Is the lack of literacy due to lack of focus in class while the foundation for reading and writing were being laid, or does 1% of the United States Population that are classified as illiterate completely comprised of people who live with dyslexia?
I can’t imagine that the government would knowingly incorporate people with documented learning disabilities when it comes time to calculate our nation’s literacy rate. That would be almost intentionally miscuing the results, because you’re including people who have hindrances that keep them from reading and writing at a level equal with their age. It’s also just downright insulting. Can you imagine not only having the s disability that makes you work twice as hard, but to be called illiterate for something you have no control over?
Centuries ago, the idea of being able to read and write was a mere parlor dream among the majority of our population. The skill was reserved only for the kings and queens and the other extremely wealthy people of that time period. The commoners who truly wanted a better life for their children would probably have sold everything they owned if it meant their child would have the opportunity to learn to read and write. In today’s society, however, such sacrifices are not necessary to make. Our government ensures that an education is made ready to every child in the country.
Education is such an available resource in our country that we don’t even think twice about it. We are inevitable taking it for granted. When did such knowledge become common place to us? There are times when I visit my great-grandparents house, and they start telling me all sorts of stories about how they didn’t even get to complete more than a third grade education, because they had to stop going to school in order to support their families. That was their reality; not having that education as available to them as other kids did.
The richer, white families of that time period where the only ones who could afford to send their children to school on a daily basis, some even going as far as to ensure that their child received a quality college education. It often came down to that; money. In the end, it will always be the richer families, or even the richest countries that can afford to educate their youth. In lower-income developing nations, going to school is nowhere near a reality. The idea of buying money enough to buy school clothes, shoes, books, paper, encils, and any other supplies necessary for the learning environment is non-existent, because there just isn’t enough money for them to afford it. These are the absolute poorest places in the world; particularly Africa . Every time I turn on a television, regardless of what channel I may be watching, I am almost guaranteed to see a commercial about a charity trying to raise money to support the children in Africa . It’s heartbreaking, to say the least, to see the sad expressions on their sallow faces. I think to myself, that’s not what I was doing when I was 5 or 6. I was outside, playing in the yard, or stuffing my face with ice cream.
I wasn’t worried about where my next meal would come from, or whether or not my only water source was toxic enough to kill me. The saddest thing I can remember about my younger days is when my parents forced me off the jungle gym to do my homework, because I like any other kid my age, hated reading and writing. Not because it was hard, or even that I was being required to do it; I hated reading and writing because that’s what we always did. Every day, for most of my day, the teacher had us reading directions aloud and writing spelling words and sentences over and over and over again.
However, had I switched places with one of those sad-faced kids in Africa , they would have never complained about the amount of reading and writing required of them. They would have relished every single second of the knowledge that they gained in hopes of one day using it to help their families get to a better place. In those types of countries, literacy is to them as it was to us back when the only people who could afford to learn where the ones who didn’t have to work from sunrise to sunset in order to keep their families from starving.
There, education is one of the most valuable resources, because so few have access to it. I remember learning in an economics class that the less you had of a product, the more valuable it became, like diamonds or oil, and vice versa; the more you have of a product, the less valuable it becomes. That’s what happened to our value on literacy in America . Before, when only a few people were awarded the privilege of learning how to read and write, everyone wanted it. I guess you could almost compare it to fads in today’s society.
Whenever we see our favorite A-list celebrities wearing this bag or that hat, we rush out to the nearest boutique, and pay whatever ridiculous price they ask for it. Maybe that’s it. Since literacy and education have become so common place in our society that we have moved on another aspect to occupy our attention. Think about it for a moment. How many people in the United States have a Bachelor’s degree? A Master’s degree? According to U. S. Census Bureau more than 40% of people 25 years and older in the United States has either a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree.
There’s a saying, “When everyone is one thing, then no one will be. ” Well, in this case when everyone is smart, then no one will be. Since a large enough portion of our population has these degrees, they are slowly starting to lose their value. Even some fast food restaurants are beginning to require that people over a certain age have to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in order to work at their establishment. What does this say for our future? Will we eventually reach a point where even a Doctorate degree holds no value in our economy?
What will that mean for the homeless people, or those individuals with learning disabilities, or even people who just have a genuinely hard time keeping up with their course load? Will they be weeded out as Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution suggests “Only the strong survive”? But in this case, the strongest are defined by their intelligence. Will they all eventually starve due to the fact that they can’t find a job, because standards are set so high? If the current trend continues, I think it’s definitely possible that eventually even the Doctorate degree will hold no real value.
Especially with the way our counselor’s motivate us. They tell us that it’s not just enough to get an “old-fashioned” 4-year degree anymore, because that’s what everyone has already. No, if we want to compete in the job market, we have to set ourselves above that bar. Logically, that supports my hypothesis. Just think about it for a second. You’re telling an entire generation of kids that the generation that came before them did the now-average-thing by attending four-year institutions.
Now we have to go up and beyond that, by obtaining our graduate degrees, and if we really want to raise the bar, going as far as to earn our Doctorate. Where does that leave the generation that comes after us? In the same position we find ourselves in now. The problem with our country is not that we take literacy for granted. On the contrary, we are steadily improving and bettering ourselves by pushing each generation to do better than the last. Our problem lies with the fact that eventually; there will be no more up to go.