For some time now we have heard frequent criticism that American high schools are turning out young men and women who fall woefully short of literacy standards. They simply cannot read or write nearly as well as they must to cope with the demands of modern society.
One result has been that colleges and universities have had to offer remedial courses just to get new students to the point they can begin to learn well at the post-secondary level. Now there is evidence that colleges, too, are falling short. At least one recent study showed that college graduates of the past five years or so are deficient in the kind of literacy it takes to successfully land a job.
Veterans in the workplace are noting that too many of their new hires are falling short in the category of reading and understanding. They do not write very well, either, which should come as no surprise since the best readers generally are the best writers and visa versa.
Then there is a matter of gender.
Recently, the Department of Education's National Assessment of Adult Literacy reported that during the past 10 years, women gained in literary skills while men lost ground.
Evidence shows that the gap starts widening before college. A USA Today editorial notes that over the past two months, educators in Maryland, Vermont and Washington discovered large boy-girl literacy gaps among 10th-graders. Tenth-grade girls in Kentucky outnumber males in the two top reading categories by 18 percentage points. Many contend this is one reason fewer and fewer men are going to college while the ranks of women students are swelling.
Concludes USA Today: "This is not a zero sum game in which men must lose for women to gain. It is a matter of discovering what is driving boys away from education and correcting the problem, much as it was once corrected for girls. : taking a hard look at why boys increasingly lack the verbal skills to succeed would be a good place to start."
If America is to compete in a global economy, it must put more emphasis on literacy, not only for its non-college people but for those who walk off with diplomas that misrepresent how competent they are to handle major jobs.
Be afraid, America, because the situation is steadily worsening.