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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Illiteracy is problem that will haunt U.S.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

In the Los Angeles region, 53 percent of workers ages 16 and older are functionally illiterate. That translates into 3.8 million Los Angeles County residents who cannot write a note explaining a billing error, use a bus schedule or locate an intersection on a street map.

When I first read this report, I could not believe its accuracy. But when you understand the massive influx of immigrants with limited English skills, the numbers start to add up. Combine that with a 30 percent high school dropout rate and you have the ingredients for a disaster.

But here's the most telling issue in this new report.

Despite millions upon millions spent in public education to improve literacy rates in that region, the numbers remain at the same dismal level. That should tell our government leaders that simply throwing good money to solve a bad problem is not the solution. And you wonder why jobs move elsewhere or why out-sourcing is such a hot button topic these days?

If we don't address this massive problem, America will be a bilingual nation within the next generation. You can't begin to imagine the problems associated with that prospect. It's our children and their children who will pay a price.

Though politically incorrect, it's far past time that we examine our immigration policies in this nation. Willing workers with English language skills will always find a home here and will be welcomed with open arms. But uneducated, non-English speaking workers will flood our society with problems that will break the financial foundation of the United States.

America has always been a melting pot. That's what we learned in school. But history shows that today's ingredients in that melting pot are far different from the past. And a willingness to do the unpopular jobs available here should not be the sole motivation for opening our borders.

I once was appointed to a statewide commission on literacy in Missouri. We spent weeks and months exploring the issues and barriers facing those lacking reading skills. But the explosion of non-English speaking workers is another matter. And a 30 percent dropout rate is not the fault of society nor public education. It's the fault of the breakdown in the family structure in this country.

We can talk about terrorism and tax cuts all day long. But someone, someday must address the issue that is facing Los Angeles today. I don't see anyone on the horizon willing to tackle this issue with the determination and resolve required.

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