Read a piece in the SF Chronicle this morning about how infant car seat installation manuals are being rewritten to make them more understandable. “That’s good,” I thought. I read on. Turns out the manuals are considered too difficult to understand because they are written at a 10th-grade reading level, and include really hard words like “automobile” and “collision” and “remedied.” Turns out that health-related information is best digested when written at a 5th-grade reading level, so they’ll be changing these words to “car” and “crash” and “fixed.” Okay, whatever it takes, I thought. Then I digested the kicker:
“… data suggest that nearly a quarter of U.S. adults read at or below a fifth-grade level, and at least 25 percent read at about an eighth-grade level.”
Read that sentence again (if you can). This is the most prosperous country on earth and one quarter of our citizens are leaving the educational system reading like 5th graders? Fully one half graduate as if they had never been to high school at all? I knew illiteracy was a problem in the U.S., but I had no idea we were talking about levels like this. I am dumbfounded. Blown away.
Next time you get confused about how the country can be in such an unthinkable political quaqmire, don’t forget: These people vote.