Human cost of an illerate society Essay

In Jonathon Kozol’s eye opening essay, he discusses in depth the negative effects that illiteracy has on everyone in the American society. Unfortunately illiteracy is a common problem today and is usually more prone in lower income families and is passed down through the generations. When your parents can not read or write, you grow up without the importance of being taught these skills and then the cycle of illiteracy continues. Knowledge is something one cannot take away from one another.

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The more they are subdued, the better for the country. “A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives” (2). This is saying that having illiterate citizens benefits the U.S., because having illiterate citizens is much easier to deceive than having literate citizens, which would have to be convinced to do anything.

Questions arise from all literate citizens when they disagree with something, or with the laws of the government and this becomes a nuisance, but on the other hand an illiterate citizen is simply a follower. They depend on others, and cannot stand up for themselves. [They] don’t choose, [they] take their wishes from [others]. (26)

Imagine living a life so closed and sheltered that the daily experiences, which most people enjoy, are a horrifying burden. Imagine the shame and discomfort one feels being one of Americas countless underprivileged restricted to poverty, because of a handicap that so many take for granted. It’s sad to think about the feeling of embarrassment one must have with not being able to read or write. I just can’t even imagine a life full of painfully awkward moments that never cease, and a life of restriction that so greatly diminishes a person’s sense of worth that they are constantly surrounded by hopelessness and grief.

As scary as this sounds, and as dangerous as illiteracy might be, I believe that the U.S. doesn’t mind the illiterate. In fact I think that the illiterate citizens put an ease on the U.S. by being followers instead of putting up a fight trying to be the leader. Since illiteracy is so easily manipulative, I feel that the U.S. would much rather deal with them, than have to deal with someone who is literate and has the advantage of fighting against and arguing what’s being said.

There are so many disadvantages of illiteracy, and some can be quite dangerous. For instance, if an adult cannot read the warning label on harmful products, or medications, it could put our community at risk. This makes you wonder why the U.S. almost prefers illiteracy instead of trying to find ways to prevent it. Why does it seem that we always want to find the easy way out of something, like in this case even though we have one of the highest illiteracy rates, we don’t let it bother us simply because the illiterate is “easier” to deal with.

In my opinion it almost seems quite selfish. When thousands of individuals cannot fill out job applications, it’s not surprising that the unemployment rate is so high. There are so many things in society that we have problems with, and a good percentage lead back to our high rates of illiteracy, yet we do nothing to try and solve this. Illiteracy promotes poverty that can result in substance abuse and crime. Just like in Kozol’s essay a man was killed for no more than calling another man “an illiterate subhuman” (42), yes I agree it was wrong, but was it wrong enough for death to be the ending result? I don’t think that it is fair that we see a problem and do nothing to try to find a solution for.

I do understand that there are some cases of illiteracy that have no solution, but there is no reason for young kids just becoming a part of society to be illiterate. It sad how many kids these days just don’t care, and don’t realize how bad it will affect them in later life. Not only is illiteracy a problem for society it’s a problem for the people with this handicap. If the illiterate society wants help and wants to learn I believe we should help them. It’s bad enough going through life without the capability to read and write, and it’s sad that they have to live with constant self-consciousness and embarrassment.

Kozol’s essay was extremely revealing to me, and I never realized until now how important this situation was. Illiteracy has many different causes and effects, along with many negative results. I hope that one of these days that we as a society are able to lessen the high rates of illiteracy, and grow as nation. After all, everyone pays for the problem of illiteracy.

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