Americans Don’t Read… and That’s Affecting Our Elections

In 2013, the Nation’s Report Card showed that only 38% of high school seniors were proficient in reading. With scores like that, the U.S. isn’t likely to earn the “most literate country” award any time soon.

So what is America’s international literacy ranking? According to The Washington Post, the U.S. places seventh behind Nordic countries such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Such a score is obtained by looking at newspaper circulation and readership, library availability, education access, reading scores, and computer usage in each nation.

The Washington Post bemoans the fact that the leading nation of the free world ranks so low in such an important area. And well they should, particularly as the following U.S. literacy statistics are even more alarming:

14% of adults can’t read.

Only 13% of adults can read at a proficient level.

28% of adults didn’t read a book in the last year.

50% of adults can’t read a book written at an 8th grade level.

Related: Good Grammar in Text Messages Might Make You Look Like a Jerk

But so what, right? In our enlightened digital age, what harm does it really bring if American literacy is tanking?

A lot of harm, according to John Adams, particularly when it comes to elections. In 1761, he noted:

“The very Ground of our Liberties, is the freedom of Elections. Every Man has in Politicks as well as Religion, a Right to think and speak and Act for himself. No man either King or Subject, Clergyman or Layman has any Right to dictate to me the Person I shall choose for my Legislator and Ruler. I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any Man judge, unless his Mind has been opened and enlarged by Reading. A Man who can read, will find in his Bible, in the common sermon Books that common People have by them and even in the Almanack and News Papers, Rules and observations, that will enlarge his Range of Thought, and enable him the better to judge who has and who has not that Integrity of Heart, and that Compass of Knowledge and Understanding, which form the Statesman.”

Considering the state of the modern election circus, would you say it’s high time for Americans to step up their literacy game?

Image Credit: samuel bletenholz (cropped)

Written by Annie Holmquist and published by Intellectual Takeout ~ March 9, 2016

~ The Author ~
Annie is a senior writer with Intellectual Takeout. In her role, she assists with website content production and social media messaging.

Annie received a B.A. in Biblical Studies from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. She also brings 20+ years of experience as a music educator and a volunteer teacher – particularly with inner city children – to the table in her research and writing.

In her spare time Annie enjoys the outdoors, gardening, reading, and events with family and friends.

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2 thoughts on “Americans Don’t Read… and That’s Affecting Our Elections

  1. Jeffrey Post author

    Not being able to read (nor understand) the written word? Why, when kids reading level is comprised of ‘LOL,’ ‘WTF,’ ‘STFU,’and other short and fanciful ways of texting/speaking/writing – then what does one expect? There is now a movement on to lower the voting age to 16? Soon David Hogg will be running for the Presidency.

    If they cannot read, what is their perception level of that which has been written. Can they even comprehend Archie Comics from the 1960’s. Some of the above doesn’t even speak of illegal voters, some of whom speak little English – let alone can read it. Oh what a mess of a world we live in.

  2. Rick Bonner

    Here’s how I apply one of my favorite axioms:

    There is no way to have read too much. It IS possible to have read too little. (If I read ” not at all”, that’s too little.)

    Interesting that you note, Jeffrey – ‘Comic books’. Everyone I ever encounter who’s ‘well read’, was a comic book buyer and reader as a child. Then, of course, they discovered their favorites, Jack London, Mark Twain, Emily Bronte, even Mary Shelly… OK, Eddy Poe, first maybe, before Mary Shelly.


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