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Illiteracy a greater problem than in past

| Thursday, Oct. 7, 2004

Fifty-three percent of working-age adults in Los Angeles are illiterate to the extent they can't cope with street signs, employment applications or utility bills.

These 3.8 million people are a small portion of the 48 percent of adult Americans who can't read and write English well enough to have a shot at a good life.

We learned early that it is unwise to show any impatience with the ignorant as they blunder about lest they beat you to a bloody pulp.

This lesson was easily learned in the public schools, where large cohorts of students (excluding, of course, those who had already dropped out) would know next to nothing even as graduation approached.

But things have changed, and we do not fear the wrath of the defiantly unschooled.

Twenty-five and more years ago you could get a good-paying manufacturing job without having even graduated 12th grade. Today, drone-like, brute labor is no longer as well rewarded in the United States because free trade is ascendant, and there are other people in other places willing to do it for less money - or better.

Considering the literacy statistics (need we look further than the test scores from public schools?), mom and pop and the little ones still aren't getting it.

The world won't turn on a dime, so their ignorance can be of little consequence. They will be left behind and will have nobody to justly blame but themselves.

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