Adults Left Behind

Byron, William J.
October 2004
America;10/11/2004, Vol. 191 Issue 10, p6
The article critiques the No Child Left Behind Act, educational legislation signed by President George W. Bush in January 2002. An estimated 40 million to 44 million Americans, age 16 and older, have minimal ability to read prose, interpret information on tables and graphs and manage everyday arithmetic. To the extent that the schools failed them decades ago, society owes them something now. As we argue about policies and practices that might improve education for youngsters who are still in school, we should be doing something for out-of-school adults who are falling further and further behind in terms of prose literacy, document literacy and quantitative literacy. To avoid fraud or any form of corruption, the federal government would have to print the vouchers and bond those who handle them. Many people need help at the lowest literacy levels in our nation. It won't be hard to find them. The availability of vouchers will help to get their attention-assuming, of course, that there is sufficient White House enthusiasm for this idea and enough Congressional action to make it happen. The article suggests that the federal government should set up a training program for AmeriCorps volunteers to help other volunteers learn how to tutor people who need help if they are to escape the lowest literacy levels. Many of them have been faking it for most of their adult lives, pretending to be able to read when they cannot. They will have to let go of their dodge devices, drop their visual crutches and become independently capable of reading print, interpreting graphs and making change. This requires pedagogical methods that trainee tutors could pick up in about three weeks.


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