Illiteracy in the United States

May 1, 1963

Report Outline
Lingering of Illiteracy Among Americans
Extent of Illiteracy and Near-Illiteracy
Educational Programs for the Illiterate

Lingering of Illiteracy Among Americans

Reasons for Current Over Illiteracy

Illiteracy, associated in the minds of most Americans with other times or other countries, in emerging as a matter of present and serious domestic concern. Persons who have had no schooling, or only limited schooling, do not all live in underdeveloped foreign countries. A surprisingly large number of them are American citizens. They are attracting attention now because difficulty in reading and writing has taken on increased significance as a cause of chronic unemployment.

Political as well as economic factors also have given prominence to literacy skills or the lack of them. Literacy tests of doubtful validity are used in certain southern states to combat the intensified effort of Negroes to become qualified voters. To meet that situation, the Kennedy administration is pressing for adoption by Congress of legislation that would equate six years of schooling with literacy qualification for voting in federal elections.

Schooling will not always give literacy qualification for a job. Educators point out that formal credit for attending school a certain number of years does not necessarily guarantee competence in use of the language. Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz recently noted the dismaying fact that more than one-eighth of the young men rejected for the draft last year on the ground of illiteracy had high school diplomas.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 19, 1995  Learning to Read
Jun. 24, 1983  Illiteracy in America
May 01, 1963  Illiteracy in the United States
Elementary and Secondary Education
Research in Education