Perfect Storm for Illiteracy


A Perfect Storm for Poor Literacy: Poor readers, weak vocabulary, and bad spellers

Recent data show most middle and high schoolers are poor readers, weak in vocabulary and spelling, and with widespread issues in grammar.

Of the five components for effective reading instruction, a rich vocabulary is the key to
learning more. Apparently, little of that is taught in school. [ACED]

What data says

  • 70% of 10-Year-olds are now in “learning poverty,” unable to read and understand a simple sentence. [World Bank, 2022]
  • NAEP testing shows U.S. education achievement slides backward. A substantial decrease in reading scores among the nation’s eighth graders. [Hechinger, 2019]
  • A study in 2019 shows high school graduates have inferior vocabulary skills. Despite years of education up to college, vocabulary scores declined. [PsyNews]
  • In 2009, a survey by Ipsos MORI showed more than half of Americans are bad spellers. [R.P. News]

What fuels the illiteracy storm in America?

1. Demphasizing traditional methods

Advocates who push for “deemphasizing phonics,” such as literary expert Lucy Calkins, may have played a role in the prevalence of poor readers in middle school.

Structured phonics is crucial for effective reading, no wonder more high school students struggle with reading complex words, often not knowing their definitions.

Also, the previous emphasis on rigorous study habits has been replaced with accommodations. Evidently, it has contributed to a culture of complacency among students who do not take their education seriously.


2. American vs. Asian culture

Education in Asia is primarily teacher-centered and traditional. A holistic approach to discipline includes a heavy emphasis on nationalism and class discipline.

For example, school uniforms are enforced in most Asian schools. Rights and privileges are deemphasized, and patrimony is instilled.

These, in turn, translate to higher levels of submission to authority.


3. A watershed moment: the iPad in 2010

The iPad rollout in high schools beginning in 2010 undeniably has worsened literacy. It became the standard for reading and writing because it was convenient, especially with amazing apps that made learning more fun.

However, iPad also robbed the joy of reading. It discouraged critical thinking and encouraged a shorter attention span that resulted in poor comprehension. [Allcot, 2021]

4. Leniency, rights, and privileges

With more rights, privileges, and leniency accorded to high school students, teaching the value of patience and endurance is impossible. The result is a perfect storm of an “entitled generation” who are impatience and lazy.

An “entitled generation” who are impatience and lazy.

Critical thinking and writing

The best way to teach people critical thinking is to teach them to write, according to psychologist Professor Jordan Peterson.

Today, more students are bad writers with glaring wrong spelling, grammar, and incoherence. “If you can think, speak, and write, you are absolutely deadly,” he said.

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