"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The "Perfect Storm"

The storm as conveyed by the author paints a convergence of 3 major points (divergent skill distribution, changing economy and demographic trends) causing some sort of injury or perhaps death to the "American Dream", causing inequality in wages and wealth, as well as social and political polarization. A fair shake at "future prosperity" is something the USA is known for- the land for opportunists, entrepreneurs and dreamers. There are SO many factors however, that interfere with achieving prosperity in America, but if I had to chose one topic that stood out in this article, it's the piece on adult literacy from the NLSY data in determining who in the long run earns a B.A./B.S. or higher. Being enrolled in READ 602, I'm currently tasked with finding an adult learner who has literacy issues (my learner has problems with reading/spelling). He would probably be somewhere in the middle of the pack concerning the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) data, which makes since seeing as only 15% of those in the 6th decile  of basic academic skills earned a bachelor's or higher compared to 76% in the top or 10th decile and 2% in the lowest. This relationship between basic academic skills and bachelor's attainment holds true regardless of gender, race or ethnic background. This is troubling news to me, and an obvious problem here is the divide that's being created due to lack of basic academic skills. This divide can be partly explained by the fact that those who are in the 10th decile are earning significantly more than those in the 6th and drastically more than those in the 1st. The size of the gap (according to the NLSY data) in mean annual earnings between high school (12 or less total years of school) and college graduates (23-30 year olds, 16 or more years of school total) was stunning. College grads earned 58% more in 1979, and in 2001- the gap had widened to 81%! Although a tad old, I certainly see this data as reason for fast track GED programs and a bigger push for adult literacy programs to help adult learners through basic academic skills with the ultimate outcome being a college degree.


  1. I share your concerns with the growing divide, Jason! And agree that education (including adult literacy programs) are an essential component in fighting poverty. And I'm also not buying the Perfect Storm narrative that poverty can be fixed merely by fixing the broken ships in our fleet!

  2. Like we talked about in class, poverty is so deeply intertwined in education in this country (and probably everywhere, actually!) that you can't work towards fixing one without fixing the other. I'm not sure in capitalism that there's room (or desire) for fixing poverty. I wonder about countries with bigger / sturdier safety nets, if their literacy rates improve when the effects of poverty are eased? This issue's a head-scratcher for sure.


  3. Jason, I agree with your concerns and observations about the "Divide" discussed in the Perfect Storm report. In particular, I would to expand upon your comment:

    "I certainly see this data as reason for fast track GED programs and a bigger push for adult literacy programs to help adult learners through basic academic skills with the ultimate outcome being a college degree."

    I concur with the need to obtain a GED in order to continue their education-perhaps earning a college degree. However, there is another reason to advocate for adult literacy programs -- to enable parents to support their children's efforts to finish high school. One of the major contributors to the "Divide" is the high school dropout rate, which is about 1.2 million students nationally each year.

    A few weeks ago I participated in a Community Town Hall Meeting which brought together various members of the community, i.e. teachers, school administrators, nonprofit orgs, social services, etc. to discuss how best to address the high school dropout rate in the local area. We discussed several interventions and strategies to lower the dropout rate and several of them involved the parents.

    In particular, we discussed the need for Adult Education programs to enable the parents to raise their literacy skills and levels so that they could become more engaged with their children's school work. This would help break the cycle of high school dropouts who grow up to become parents -- but are unable to support their children's efforts to earn a high school diploma due to the fact they do not have the necessary literacy skills themselves.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.