Writing at CNN, L.Z. Granderson argues that Americans’ abysmal level of academic prowess undermines democracy at the voting booth, which has paved the way for a dysfunctional Congress. He bases the observation on findings of a recent survey showing that Americans trail other countries in literacy, math and computer skills.
You see, while we were busy waving our angry finger at Washington, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its findings from the Survey of Adult Skills.
The group’s research measured the literacy, math and computer skills of 5,000 adults from 16 to 65 and compared those numbers with that of 21 other countries.
The good news is that we didn’t finish last in anything.
The bad news is that we’re in pretty sad shape when not finishing last is the good news.
Trailing every country in the survey except Italy and Spain in math is rough. But how the OECD’s findings may play a role in elections and the economy is disturbing.
According to the report, “individuals who score at lower levels of proficiency in literacy are more likely than those with higher proficiency to … believe that they have little impact on the political process.” Also “in most countries, individuals with lower proficiency are also more likely to have lower levels of trust in others.”
U.S. adults ranked 16th in literacy proficiency.
The OECD findings seem to be consistent with that of the U.S. Department of Education, which estimated back in 2009 that some 32 million adults lacked the proficiency to read a newspaper. This was captured by a witty USA Today headline about the findings: “Literacy study: 1 in 7 U.S. are unable to read this story.”