Cloaking every town, city and state is a deepening shadow of decline affecting all citizens in some way. A travesty overlooked by the media and politicians because it doesn’t garner a rise in emotions like immigration, abortion, Trump and gay rights do.

The literacy rate among our youth is so low that half of all Americans can’t read a book beyond an eighth-grade level. Society’s financial, moral and spiritual well-being is only as good as the literacy level of the population.

Sixty-four percent of all eighth-grade students are unable to read and write proficiently, including 82 percent of black students and 77 percent of Hispanic students, according to a recent study by the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Additionally, 30 million Americans cannot read or write beyond a third-grade level. When one cannot read well, then one is written out of the national conversation, essentially handing over their voice to others. Why aren’t the politicians talking about this in their town hall meetings? The answer lies in power.

Historically, the upper-class white landowners were the only ones reading and writing ensuring preservation of the social classes. The poor remained marginalized, while those with the means to attend school retained privilege and power.

Instead of discussing the illiteracy crisis today, politicians focus on issues that contribute to emotional reactions. The media study human behavior and target news in clips rather than in depth. Its premeditated deception becoming the poison that kills.

Average Americans work longer in order to live less. Reading well and thinking critically equals choices. When one simply charges through life, life becomes a battlefield; thoughtful reflection takes a back seat to volatility. Exhaustion becomes the national anthem, whimpering.

There’s no time to read with the children, nor to think critically about societal issues. Cellphones and video games replace parental guidance so critically needed for moral and intellectual development; thus, continuing the illiteracy chains of poverty.

The educated send their children to the best schools where they read myriad books that challenge their thinking. Research shows a 72 percent chance of being illiterate when the parents have low literacy levels. Alexis de Tocqueville said, “Literature is an arsenal from which all, including the weak and poor, daily choose.”

The young people of the upper classes will continue the economic divide because they have parents who have the finances and time to ensure their academic success.

All children deserve a chance to create a life of emotional, intellectual, and financial security — to contribute to the national story of this country. If parents aren’t educated and can’t provide opportunities, then the schools and teachers must do it. Each instructor must be well-educated and passionate about teaching in order to increase the students’ literacy levels, no matter the discipline they teach.

The single greatest impact besides a parent in promoting academic success and emotional maturity is a good teacher. America’s illiteracy crisis should be the No. 1 story told, but it’s not because power is their drug of choice.

Leslie Cappiello is an educator in Galveston.

Locations

(39) comments

Robert Braeking

Visiting my sister when her children were young revealed the reason for their illiteracy. There were no books, magazines, newspapers or anything else to read. It is up to parents to teach their children not only to read, but to enjoy reading. School is merely supplemental support to the real educators - parents.

Gary Miller

Robert. You be a crowd of one understanding the problem. My kids and grand kids learned to read before going to Americas great destructor of literacy. The local ISD day care camp. (AKA ISD school) Places where quality is measured by money spent instead of learning provided. Where more money spent results in less learning provided.

Bailey Jones

When I was a child my parents bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias. I devoured them. I still remember the joy of having some little curiosity satisfied by flipping through and reading. I also remember my 7th grade math teacher, who brought me Robert Heinlein scifi paperbacks. Some mornings she would assign an exercise to the class while she sat with a boy who somehow had gotten to 7th grade without learning to read. These days I find I don't have the time for recreational reading, and I've turned to audio books. I get through about 1 a month in my daily commute. It's a wonderful technology that can open the whole world to anyone, even those who can't read the written word.

Gary Miller

Bailey, Less will be learned from a lifetime of TV watching than one hour reading a non fiction book. The Encyclopedias of our youth were trips around the world and into the world of learning.

Miceal O'Laochdha

I believe an interlocking combination of parents (family in general) and teachers together result in the best outcome of the knowledgeable and well-rounded adult. I certainly learned the critical importance of reading from my family but, it was also the broad spectrum of exposure to literature from my teachers that enables me to recognize Ms. Capiello's reference to de Tocqueville; my teachers are the reason Democracy in America is in my home library and that my own children know the importance of this seminal work. In turn, their teachers have broadened their exposure beyond what they learned from me.

Jose' Boix

This column states a significant problem and provides National data. The column does not discuss if there is a trend or any approaches to improve these metrics. • 64% of all 8th grade students are unable to read and write proficiently, including 82% of black students and 77% of Hispanic students. • Additionally, 30 million Americans cannot read or write beyond a 3rd grade level. • Research shows a 72% chance of being illiterate when the parents have low literacy levels. I would be interested to just see how we trend in Galveston County, and what we are doing to work on solutions. Then show trends. Just my thoughts.

Robert Braeking

I believe that Galveston county would constitute a statistical confidence in the 96th percentile with the rest of the country. Suffice it to say that the illiterate beget the illiterate and no amount of government intervention will chance that metric.

David Hardee

Excellent article! She wrote the truth and gave the supporting facts. But nested in the facts is the disaster that stunts the solution. The growth of public illiteracy has become self inflicted perpetual motion. Illiterates combined with politics of permissiveness (tolerance) and the big tent “the village (government) will raise the child” have relegated the future of the USA to a slow progress as an entry in the book of once great societies that were destroyed by self inflicted corruption. Elections by illiterates produced progressive liberal governance because they can get without struggle a cradle to grave substance. Shame (a word that does not exist in the lexicon of progressive liberals) on us.

Bailey Jones

And yet, among first world countries, every "progressive, liberal" state has a higher literacy rate than the US. (Not hard to do since EVERY first world country on the planet has a higher literacy rate than the US.) But thanks for blaming the problem on your political enemies, it provides valuable context for the rest of your comments. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-highest-literacy-rates-in-the-world.html

Carlos Ponce

"progressive, liberal" state has a higher literacy rate than the US". Do any of the countries listed have the same population as the US? No, they do not. Do any of the listed countries have a similar influx of illegal immigrants? No, they do not. Faulty comparisons, Bailey. Andorra- Total pop. 85,660 Luxembourg 582,291 Norway 5,265,158 Liechtenstein 37,937 Really, Bailey??????

Bailey Jones

Really, Carlos???? The US is 125th in the world and it's because of immigration? One need only look at the racial demographics of illiteracy in the US to see the fallacy there. It's true that Hispanics are the lowest performers, but even if you take them out of the calculation America still ranks low. But you already know this.

Carlos Ponce

Not really, Bailey. Not because of immigration, but because of ILLEGAL immigration.

David Hardee

Bailey – First – my political enemies have no doubt who they are. You needing this much time and context to determine the obvious is another flaw created from progressive liberalism. They have no center, consequently, no point from which to begin to construct a path to a better humanity. Wandering in liberalism is like the ball on a pin-ball machine bouncing and bumping as gravity directs it to the hole. - Second - Thanks for the additional proof for my central point. “The growth of public illiteracy has become self inflicted perpetual motion” and will bring down even a “first world country”. Since you object to my conclusion (blame) on the permissiveness of the liberal philosophy as the destroyer of self responsibility, incentive and promoter of corruption please educate us with your conclusion. If you don’t offer a conclusion it is evident you are so progressive indoctrinated that blame (cause and effects) do not exist. Ps – I was curious what on the HOOTERS menu tantalized your taste buds to have lunch there. That attempt at deception was too weak for a response, then. Flail away and have a nice day.

Bailey Jones

David, you made an assertion - American illiteracy is due to "liberal, progressive" shenanigans. I provided an exhaustive list of liberal, progressive countries who are more literate than the US, thus disproving your assertion. Your response is another attack on liberalism. In order to prove a point one needs to present evidence. I'll wait.

Carlos Ponce

Wow, Bailey! We have cities larger than many of the "liberal, progressive countries" you provided. Not a valid comparison. And if they're so wonderful, why isn't the rest of the world trying to get to them?????? Instead, they want to come to the United States.

Bailey Jones

"Wow, Bailey! We have cities larger than many of the "liberal, progressive countries" you provided. Not a valid comparison." Really, Carlos??? Do I have to go through the list just to disprove your argument? Australia, Canada, the whole European Union? But we don't even need to look outside the US to disprove the "it's all the liberals fault" argument. If that argument had merit, one would expect to see our least "liberal, progressive" states at the top of the literacy list, and our most "liberal, progressive" states at the bottom. And that's not the case. But, you know that. Why is it so hard to admit that we have a literacy problem? Do we need to have a Democrat in the White House before conservatives can recognize that we have problems in America?

Carlos Ponce

Baileyl: Australia Population 25,086,638, Canada 37,411,972, Belgium 11,190,846 , France 65,480,243, Germany 82,436,127, Belgium 11,539,478 Etc. Sounds like an old episode of "Hee Haw" - SALUTE! How do ANY of them compare to the United States- Population 329,070,382? Faulty comparison.

Charles Douglas

Not that David need help but maybe I can throw a little light on the subject where liberism is concerned. It is a well known fact, and better than that, a truth that liberals are world famous for give - a - ways, and freebies to people who they perceive as needy! They, the left are not interested in the long range welfare of such people but are interested in harvesting their VOTES for political power! They have played this approach with the African-Americans so long that many of us have caught on to their plans and deserted the plantation of ignorance and suckerhood!! Now, the LIBS are going after the Hispanics and Litanos for back-up. This is what open borders is all about! They see African-Americans slipping away now, so UP POP THE REPARATION issues and past Slavery issues! I call that manipulation, slight of hand tricks, and thinking those they are making fools of, to think they are inferior! I wish I had somebody to help me say this!!!! Am I doing alright with this? Shall I keep going? I'll tell you something first hand about slavery. When they ended it they bought a system into existence call SHARE-CROPPING WHICH was almost no difference economically! I know because I was raised in the atmosphere for a good part of my life. SHARE-CROPPING was designed to keep Blacks in long term through never ending DEBT while continued supplying slave like labor to the landowner. They gave you credit at the general store, until harvest time to sustain you. After you paid all your debts, you had to borrow from the landowner, to start all over again! It never took the liberals much effort hoodwink the perceived black leaders in a town or community to get them to do the leg work in obtaining the black vote. That is what they are doing now in the DC SWAMP and down through the country. Schools are not important to liberals, VOTES are! Look at Chicago, Detroit, LA, and Houston! I digress.

David Hardee

Your wait is over! Feast on this. We are in a debate on a issue that is seriously destroying our future. It is especially serious to those with progeny (children). Why is literacy essential! Literacy has a purpose beyond simply the ability to read-write-and comprehend any specific item (article, novel, etc.). That purpose is putting accumulated comprehension(s) into use collectively in making wise decisions. In applying collected comprehension to this particular article the objective/use is generating/stimulating the public to deliberate on the current and future of the USA as affected by the current education system. The linkage and dependency of education to comprehension to wisdom is indisputable. This discussion/deliberation is not a frivolous subject and does have an objective. Following is - Response to Bailey’s latest flailing attempt at diversion: Once more we find your device of diversion from the central theme is inserting a tangent. Diversion to INTERNATIONAL literacy standing of the USA being dismal actually produced additional proof the USA is awfully illiterate at home and abroad. The condition of and what foreign governance or ideology had on literacy in other countries is irrelevant to this debate. The article being commented on is isolated to the conditions of literacy in the USA. To that point – literacy in the USA is statistical proven that USA’s literacy level per capita has declined severely on a comparison of year by year in the last 4 decades. The latest by the National Center for Education Statistics - "quote - The latest survey revealed that the literacy competence of about 40 million adults was limited to the lowest level, Level 1 which meant they could only understand the simplest written instructions." Now – Bailey – a little history might simplify the logic struggle for you. The control of the education system was usurped from locals in the establishment of the “the Great Society” in 1964 installing 3 new cabinet position – Departments of HEALTH, EDUCATION and WEFARE. Let it not escape notice that here 65 years later the disastrous effects of the Federal government control over HEALTH, EDUCATION and WElFARE. And that in 1964 also - the Democratic Party embrace the PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL philosophy. A little Galveston history relative to the usurping by the Federal department of EDUCATION is definitely worthy of consideration for a CAUSE EFFECT consequence. Catholic schools existed in Galveston since 1847. In 1964 there were 7 Catholic schools in Galveston which supplied education for approximately 33% of the student in grades Kindergarten thru 12th. Today of those 3 high schools and 4 grade school only One (1) exist and it has and enrollment of 200 (.022 percent) of the approximate 9,000 eligible students. There are many causes that created this effect. In analyzing the potential causes it is profoundly obvious that the Federal government is the biggest, most powerful culprit/contributor. Finally - I thank Bailey for illustrating that at this local level the progressive liberal pandering from Democratic Presidential candidates to GIVE is blinding weak minded voters to the facts the country is in decline.

Jim Forsythe

Adult literacy rate of China increased from 65.5 % in 1982 to 96.4 % in 2015.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- USA place in the world as far as literacy is 125! This illustrates that population, type of government or any other reason one can use to justify why we are so far behind others, is false . The USA's rate is 86%, and our plan to fix our failure in this area is? Pointing fingers at each other is not going to fix it! Do we have a real reason that all cannot read? As far as Texas, we are the 44th lowest rated state in the USA at a 79.9% literacy rate .

Carlos Ponce

"Adult literacy rate of China increased from 65.5 % in 1982 to 96.4 % in 2015." And Jim believes a Communist Country. "As far as Texas, we are the 44th lowest rated state in the USA at a 79.9% literacy rate ." Not according to the study cited in the article. We are higher than that according to them.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, since you seem to know, what is the rate in China? The issues we should be worried about is the USA rate. Anyway way you slice it, we are not doing the job that is needed Several other developing countries in Asia have mirrored China’s improvement, including Thailand (with a 96% literacy rate), the Philippines (95%) and Indonesia (93%).

Carlos Ponce

The problem lies with an overly PC Education system, our not controlling the border.

Bailey Jones

Jim, America is the richest and most powerful country in the world. We can have literally anything we want. Which is to say, we have everything we value. We have the largest and most advanced and most expensive military on the planet, for instance. We have the highest gun ownership per capita in the world. We make the best movies in the world and the best music. We have the best barbecue. Our whiskey is top shelf. Texas has the best high school football program in the world. We're not literate simply because, especially here in the south, we don't value literacy. We never have.

Carlos Ponce

Jim posts, "As far as Texas, we are the 44th lowest rated state in the USA" According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mentioned in the article at Grade 8, Texas ranks 23rd in Mathematics, 38th in Reading, 22nd in Science, 34th in Writing. Not at the top but not 44th by the NAEP standard. Above average in Math and Science because of emphasis in STEM curriculum. Reading and writing below average but not as low as 44.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, my numbers are for adult literacy which means we are in real trouble as "The literacy rate among our youth is so low that half of all Americans can’t read a book beyond an eighth-grade level." This means if do nothing but talk about the problem , the USA will be a lot lower than 125th in the world. Leslie Cappiello was talking about the USA and not Texas.

Carlos Ponce

"my numbers are for adult literacy" And that can be explained by the millions of undocumented immigrants into the country.

Jose' Boix

We continue to debate and argue a host of significant issues, but we do not seem to concentrate on the 5-7 performance indicators defining success. And, we do not track their progress along side the multitude of "fix approaches" to at least "see" if we are approaching our target. Everyone of the metrics cited in this column is significant but must be first widely accepted as one of the metrics along a few others and then show trends/tracks over time. Until we consolidate and unify our efforts under the tenets of the continuous improvement process, we will continue "debating, arguing and swinging in the breeze." Just my thoughts.

Bailey Jones

I've often wondered why, with 1000's of school districts in this country, we aren't trying dozens or 100s of different approaches to education. After a dozen years we'd know what works and doesn't for rural students, urban students, rich kids, poor kids, etc., and be able to tailor a suite of programs that work for everyone.

Carlos Ponce

"and be able to tailor a suite of programs that work for everyone" - No such thing.

Jim Forsythe

Bailey, this is type of programs that happening in some schools now. -------------------- What some may think is impossible, is impossible for them, because they do not think beyond what they know.-------------------------------------------------------------- Whitmore Lake Middle & High School Provides Personalized Education. They encourage the students and parents to contact teaching staff at Whitmore Lake Middle and High School. Students and parents have access to each staff member’s direct phone number, email, and website. Learning does not stop at the school house doors. Aside from the core curriculum, Whitmore Lake Middle and High School offers a list of unique course offerings that create a culture of next-level education readiness tailored to each student’s individual interests----------------------- Opportunity for each student. Whether in the classroom or on the field, WLPS is proud to offer our students the resources and opportunity to get involved and succeed. Every student is different, but our teachers, coaches, and staff are committed to helping each student identify his/her strengths to get the most out of his/her time at WLPS. This is so important to us because we have seen how this makes a positive impact on the future of each student. A College Readiness Culture This has resulted in a 97% graduation rate and our graduates going to the top Michigan colleges and universities.

Gary Miller

Bailey. The answer. Federal and union interference has limited looking for better ways to educate. One way for all is their product.

Carlos Ponce

Observation: Students of Asian descent, especially first generation Americans, do very well academically. Why? It all starts with the family. Ask the average Asian-American student: "What is your post high school graduation goal? Answer: Doctor, scientist, engineer, etc. When my non Asian students were questioned a common answer was pro football player, pro basketball player.

Bailey Jones

True enough, Carlos. Also true that as immigrants assimilate and become integrated into Americans society, that advantage peters out, by the third generation. Also holds true for Hispanics, where 1st generation immigrants do better than 2nd gen, who do better than 3rd. As I stated earlier - it's an American problem, not an immigrant problem. We value professional sports over professions. Probably has something to do with the extreme emphasis on sports in schools. Maybe we should emphasis reading and math instead?

Carlos Ponce

"Maybe we should emphasis reading and math instead?" On that we can agree. On the success of subsequent generations I'd have to say it's a family problem.

Gary Miller

Before the schools I attended were intergrated the rule was "pass to play". Failing one semester of on subject could end any chance of a pro sport future. Athletes learned or else. Intagration wasn't the fault political control was.

Jose' Boix

My point: How do we define success in educating our students? We just keep picking sets of indicators, but we don't stick to the ones that will define success. We must have all our students learning, and we are not "other" cultures or Countries; we are the USA. Just my thoughts.

Gary Miller

I ,6 years old, started in a small rural school, first grade no kindergarten, I had been reading and doing math for two years. An enjoyable book was a great babysitter. Gave parents more time to serve as teachers. Home schooling has always been the provider of the best education.

Gary Miller

Posted too soon. Parents have always been a child's first teacher. Illiterate parents have to try harder but only need to know more than the student to be great teachers. Teaching parents improve their own education while teaching a child.

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