Illiteracy and Our School Systems


from the CMLE Organization

Illiteracy infographic via Central Minnesota Library Exchange

Sophia Prichard, Jr. Editor

Reading is a fundamental skill with modern society, with internet literacy being so vital to working and learning. The ways of the future. However, there are some people, that no matter how hard they try, or how many resources are given, will never be able to read. It’s called illiteracy, we often view it as unintelligence or not applying oneself. But this is just factually untrue. We can see in ourselves even, that there are things that no matter how hard we try, we just can’t do. Walking is also a fundamental skill in modern society, but we don’t view people who can’t walk as unworthy or unintelligent, we view them as disabled. We don’t hear about the silent minority, because how could you tell someone you need help, when you need internet literacy to do so? So why is it that we view people that can’t read like this? Or even people who can’t do math? Or have difficulty memorizing history? 

The theory is that this is a concept created and enforced by society. We judge students on standards set by adults who met those standards, not ever understanding the students who grew up and didn’t meet those standards, usually because those students don’t go into teaching or being a principal. They find things they can do for work, once they’re adults, and don’t input into school systems until they have kids. It’s a cycle of isolating the students who don’t fit standards or need a more personalized learning path, but even then these students will likely be demeaned by their peers or feel disdain for learning. And even if these students are given these resources, what if they still can’t fit the standards, even then? Well, usually, these students either graduate school with lower grades or they drop out, finding happiness elsewhere. 

Illiteracy will likely not be made a federal disability, as the resources they need likely aren’t going to be given just by having an extra couple hundred dollars. But illiteracy, in the world we know, is a set back. At least, in schools, or in vocations that require complete literacy. We must destigmatize the concept of illiteracy, the same way we must destigmatize the concept of learning disabilities and in all, disabilities in general. We must have compassion for those who have a different skill set in reading. 

The stigma of a learning disability, that you can’t hit a benchmark of reading, is a result of the environment and class of a student, the concept of establishment values and unsympathetic standards, a result of years of denying the right to education. We hear only success stories, those who started from the bottom and worked within established systems to succeed in capitalism, with superior intellect, not because the systems are fair but because they were smart enough to defy these systems. Our economic state is built on the concept that the poor will stay poor and the rich will only get richer. We view education as it pertains to jobs not to actual comprehension.