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Illiteracy in the Americas

by Homer Kempfer
Specialist for General Adult and Post-High School Education


mates are derived from information pro. vided by the Pan American Union. Minimum ages included range from 7 to 15 years.

WO-THIRDS OF THE PEOPLE of 5. Illiteracy and the Education of the world cannot read or write-in

Adults. this enlightened age. Three-quarters Accurate and up-to-date data are not of the world's population go to bed hungry

available from many countries, but an estievery night-in this age of science. And

mated 70 million adults over 15 years of every morning for breakfast we have 55,000

age in North, Central, and South America more mouths to feed than we had the day cannot read or write. This number conbefore. These are the latest estimates pro- tinues to be fed from a pool of approxivided by the United Nations and the Food

mately 19 million children who are with and Agriculture Organization.

out schools, without teachers, without For 5 weeks, July 27 to September 3, the formal educational opportunity of any Inter-American Seminar on Illiteracy and

kind. Adult Education, meeting at Quitandinha Hotel north of Rio de Janeiro, focused on Where Are the Illiterates? these and related problems. Unesco, the

The United States has far too many Organization of American States (the Pan

2,838,000 native whites, Negroes, and American Union), and the government of

foreign born-according to the latest estiBrazil cosponsored the seminar in which

mate, which is undoubtedly low. Nearly delegates from 19 of the 21 American Re

9 million adults have had only 4 or fewer publics and observers from 5 other coun

years of schooling and are considered functries studied the problems involved under

tionally illiterate. In World War II over these heads:

676,000 men between the ages of 18 and 1. Documentation and Statistics. 37 were classified 4-F because they could 2. Organization of Campaigns Against not read and write at fourth-grade level. Illiteracy.

Aside from the illiterates in the United 3. Objectives, Methods, and Materials States and a few in Canada the remainder for Literacy Teaching.

in the Western Hemisphere are in Latin 4. The Primary School and Illiteracy. America.

America. The following data and esti

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Volume 32, Number 3


The chief cause of adult illiteracy, of At least a dozen Latin American coun- compulsory attendance ages each year into course, is lack of primary schools even tries have started literacy campaigns dur- adult life. That calls for more money for though the constitution or laws of every ing the last 10 years. Usually these cam- more teachers and buildings so that every nation except those of the United States paigns are connected with primary schools

child in the Americas can have his birthcommit the government to a program of and use primary teachers. Some cam

right of education. universal, free, and compulsory education. paigns are integral parts of life-improveCauses of this lack are multiple: Poverty, ment programs or general elementary edusparsity of population, difficulties of com- cation for adults. Special materials for Survey of Adult Education munication and transportation, sanitary adults are used in a few programs although troubles especially in the tropics, indiffer

WHAT KINDS of educational activities for children's materials are used in others with ence of the mother countries to education content having little practical application

adults and out-of-school youth are going on in the colonies, race and class prejudice, to daily life.

under public school auspices? Where is lack of interest of leaders and government Methods almost without exception are

adult education best developed? Where in popular culture, lack of administrative based upon the alphabetic approach; re- are the activities held? How many adults continuity caused by frequent changes in sults of research in the psychology of read

are served ? government, and ignorant and superstitious ing seem not yet to have permeated Latin These are the chief questions answered in populations. People unacquainted with the America in any significant way. The Semi- Pamphlet No. 107 Adult Education Activi. benefits of education have little interest in it. nar, however, after due study and much ties of the Public Schools, a report of a

More than a half million additional teach- debate, came out in favor of the sentence survey covering 1947–48 recently issued. ers would be needed to educate the 19 mil. or global method of teaching reading. The The study was conducted by Homer Kemplion children who now have no school. first Basic Spanish Word List similar to fer, Specialist for General Adult and PostReasons for the teacher shortage in Latin that developed by Thorndike years ago in High School Education, Office of EducaAmerica are similar to those in the United English is now being prepared by the Uni- tion, with assistance of a number of State States: Low pay, inept recruitment, low versity of Puerto Rico.

education department officials. social prestige, lack of opportunity for ad- Benefits of most of the literacy cam- Inquiry blanks were sent to districts in all vancement, hesitancy to go to or remain paigns are often hard to estimate. Mean- communities having a population of 2,500 in isolated and rural areas, insufficient and ingful statistics are

Enrollment or above in 1940, and returns were received inadequate training opportunities, and lack figures mean little because of many unspeci. from 80.8 percent of them. In addition, of professional ethics.

fied factors. People who achieve only a 1,202 smaller districts thought to have adult Even where schools exist, absenteeism low level of literacy often lose their skills education activities were queried. often is high because of poverty, child labor, in the absence of a variety of suitable read- An estimated 3,000,000 adults and outill health, indifference of uneducated par- ing materials. The campaign in Brazil en- of-school youth were served by public ents to any form of culture, distance from lled 594,000 last year. Ecuador claims school programs during the year covered. school, inadequate buildings and equip- 140,000 adults were made literate in 6 years. Data broken down by States indicate that ment, sterile curriculum, and unenforced Mexico has reached 1,700,000 since the California, Wisconsin, and New York had attendance laws. A Brazilian authority each-one-teach-one campaign started. The most extensive programs in relation to popestimates that in rural areas 5 years of en- Dominican Republic campaign claims to

ulation. California schools alone served rollment are required to gain the equiva- have benefited a quarter million during the nearly a million adults. lent of 3 full years of primary schooling. last 8 years. In the United States only a Over four-fifths of all school districts in To close off the stream of illiterate children few thousand adults earn their elementary communities of 2,500 or above returning growing into illiterate adults, the Seminar school diploma each year.

the questionnaire claimed to provide edusuggested that in every nation primary Even with literacy campaigns in Latin cation for adults, although the amount in schools should be established and financed America and a long tradition of public edu- many cases was small. Less than 1.5 perby the government so that a minimum of cation in the United States, the illiteracy cent of the total population was involved in 3 years of schooling would be guaranteed problem still faces us. Democracy depends adult education provided by the public

upon educated people—in other parts of the schools in 1947–48. Small districts usu

world as well as at home. Every typical ally reported less adult activity. What Is Being Done?

community in the United States of 500 peo- Recreation, high-school subjects, arts and The United States is doing very little to ple has enough illiterate adults in it to form crafts, Americanization, physical education reduce illiteracy among adults, although a class. Many communities of the same and fitness, and music education ranked 351 school districts reported that they size in parts of Latin America have too few high in the nonvocational fields. One out of offered literacy classes in 1947–48 and 323 educated adults in them to teach a class. eight schools reported having literacy classes claimed to have classes in elementary educa- We still have our own problems, but if we for adults, whereas one-half of the evening tion for adults. Probably no more than could share some of our technical skills, we schools offered high-school subjects. Advi200,000 adults are enrolled in literacy could go far in helping our neighboring sory committees were connected with fewer classes in the whole country.

countries to raise their educational level. than half of all the programs reported. 1 Adult Education Activities of the Public Schools, 1947

The very least we could do is to shut off Copies of the survey report are available Washington, Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Gov. the spigot which lets scores of thousands of on request from the Superintendent of Printing Office.

(Federal Security Agency, Office of Education Pamphlet No. 107.)

functionally illiterate youth pour past the Documents, Washington 25, D. C., 15 cents.

every child.





State Departments of Education

To Fit the Times


by Fred F. Beach, Specialist in State School Administration E HAVE outgrown State educational units, the establishment of State-wide pro- education vested with such powers. In

structure in many parts of the coun. grams for the care and education of excep- other States there is a diffusion of authority try. No more fitting analogy could be tional children, the development of State. and responsibility among State boards, found to depict the present status of the wide programs for improved school plants agents, and agencies. In some cases there structures of a number of State departments and sites, the growth of nursery school and are as many as a dozen such authorities. cf education than the immortal words of kindergarten education, the provision of State educational survey reports show Thomas Jefferson, inscribed on his me- educational opportunities for out-of-school that such diffusion of authority and responmorial in Washington.

youth, the upward extension of public edu- sibility is a serious handicap to education; I am not an advocate for frequent changes in

cational opportunities through the thir. it renders difficult, if not impossible, the laws and constitutions. But laws and in- teenth and fourteenth years, and the rapid development of comprehensive State educastitutions must go hand in hand with the

increase in higher education enrollments. progress of the human mind. As that be

tional programs, it establishes barriers to comes more developed, more enlightened, as Because of these and many other educa. effective coordination of State educational new discoveries are made, new truths dis. covered and manners and opinions change

tional developments, it is not surprising that programs, it often fosters duplication of with the change of circumstances, institutions some of the early State educational struc- effort and leads to confusion, it makes diffimust advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to

tures which have persisted have become less cult the fixing of responsibility for the sucwear still the coat which fitted him when a and less adequate to carry the load of the cess or failure of the State educational en. boy as civilized society to remain ever under

times. the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

terprise and it hinders the development of

a strong unified central education agency. Early in our history State structure and Need for Modernizing State organization for education were fixed in Educational Structure Recognized

The absence of a single State educational

authority also makes it difficult for the constitutions and statutes by the people in The urgent need for modernizing State

Federal government to know with whom to terms of then existing social, economic, and educational structure is recognized by those

deal in the State on particular educational educational conditions. Most of the basic who are chiefly concerned with the problem. problems. structures were conceived and have persisted The desire of the National Council of Chief for more than half a century with little or State School Officers to perfect State organi- Trend Toward Making State no modification. Yet during these same zational structure is clearly expressed in its

Boards of Education Directly years the concept of the functions and serve

Policy Statements. Moreover, it is cur- Represent the People ices of State departments of education and

rently sponsoring a 3-year self-improve- Some of the early State boards of edthe loads they must bear has changed radi- ment project which has this as one of its ucation were composed wholly of ex-officio cally. Organizational structures are con- objectives. Literature in the field of State members, that is, of officials elected by the ceived, they are employed, and they finally school administration, survey reports on

people to State offices such as governor, atdisintegrate unless remodeled. Those for

State educational systems, and the Policy torney general, secretary of State, and chief education are no exception. They must be Statements of the National Council of Chief State school officer. The trend is definitely frequently overhauled to carry the load of State School Officers are in general accord toward the elimination of ex-officio memthe times.

on the necessity for modernization and on bers from State board membership and their the goals to be attained.

replacement by laymen who are selected for Growth of State Services for

These major goals involve the three ele. the sole purpose of serving on the State Educat.on

ments which constitute the central educa- board of education. With the recent change A portion of the major developments in

in the State—the State board of from an ex-officio to a lay State board in American education since the turn of the education, the chief State school officer, and Colorado, there remain but 2 States which century, which are reflected in services State the State department of education.

will have State boards composed solely of departments are called upon to provide,

ex-officio members. include: The universal extension of second- A Single State Educational

Another type of State board membership, ary school opportunities to a high percentAuthority for Elementary and

that of special interest group representation, age of our youth, wide expansion of Secondary Education

such as professional educators, farmers, vocational education and vocational re. It is generally agreed that a most signi- employers, and the like, appears also to be habilitation, the extension of the ideal of ficant goal to be achieved is the unifying on the wane. The inadvisability of having equality of educational opportunity through of authority and responsibility for the State special interest group representation on more suitable programs of State financing, educational program for elementary and State boards of education has been recog. the transportation of millions of pupils secondary education in a single properly

secondary education in a single properly nized so that now but 5 States continue such daily to and from school, the development constituted State board of education. membership. of more satisfactory local administrative Eleven States now have State boards of

(Continued on page 43)

tion agency


Trading Posts for Teachers


a second grade teacher from the United Kingdom exchanges with a second grade teacher from the United States. Or a teacher of high-school biology in a high school in this country exchanges places with a senior biology master in a grammar school in Great Britain. At this point a word of caution should be added to teachers of English in this country who wish to go to Great Britain because experience has taught us that not a large number of teachers of English from the British Isles have indicated a wish to come to the United States.

The openings in Great Britain are in all British Exchange Teachers received by President Truman at the White House. To left of President, Oscar R. schools at all levels from the nursery-kinEwing, Federal Security Administrator, and to his right, Earl James McGrath, Commissioner of Education.

dergarten through the grammar school. We have included and wish to continue to do so, teachers from special schools, such as those from the schools for the deaf, schools for the otherwise handicapped, and open

air schools. There is also a rather marked by Paul E. Smith, Chairman, Committee on Interchange of Teachers

interest in home economics, physical edu

cation, and some vocational subjects. In HE CLASS will please come to order.” the Office of Education inaugurated inter

Canada similar conditions obtain so far All over the United States, these words changes of teachers between the United as the identical exchanges are concerned. have been used again and again since States and the United Kingdom as well as In France, our high school teachers of schools opened in September. Plans have in the following year between this country

French are assigned to lycées, where they been taking shape for the class party, the and Canada.

teach English; the teachers from France class play, the orchestral concert, the Senior Since that time teachers in 225 cities in are assigned to French classes in American Ball, the Yearbook, Christmas holidays. 44 States have exchanged teaching posts

high schools. And in the minds of some teachers plans for with teachers from England, Scotland,

All teachers in the United States are elinext summer and next year are stirring. Wales, Northern Ireland, Canada, and gible for consideration for these posts There has been a good deal of talk about France. During the present school year

abroad. The national committee has been teachers going abroad to study or to teach there are 97 American teachers in the Brit- reluctant to set rigid standards regarding for a year. State educational journals, pub- ish Isles, 7 in France, 16 in Canada who age and experience. In the main, however, lications of teachers associations, news- have exchanged positions.

teachers with 5 or more years experience papers have carried stories about the possi- Already announcements of the 1950–51

have been selected. Since approval by minbilities of teaching abroad or about teachers exchange program for teachers have been

istries of education abroad is one of the who have taught in other countries. These sent to State school officers, superintendents factors in final selection, those teachers accounts have led teachers to ask, “What is of schools, and educational journals

under 45 have had a better chance of selecthis teacher interchange program?” “How throughout the United States, indicating tion. One absolutely essential attribute does one apply for an exchange position?” that interchange programs will be oper- each teacher contemplating an exchange "Who is eligible?” “What about pension, ating in the United Kingdom, Canada, and must possess is good health, both mental tenure, and increment rights?” “How France. In addition to these countries,

and physical much will it cost?” “What countries may plans are under way to send teachers to Bel- To apply for these exchange posts, the I select?"

gium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, teacher may secure application forms from All of these questions and more have New Zealand, Burma, and the Philippines. the city superintendent of schools or from come to the Office of Education because the In the announcements concerning the in- the Division of International Educational Office has been administering an inter- terchange of teachers between this country Relations, Office of Education, Washington change of teachers program since 1946. and Great Britain, Canada, and France, the 25, D. C. When these forms are completed During that year, in cooperation with the fundamental condition is that the post must and signed by the superintendent, they are Department of State and assisted by the be an exchange. That means the teacher returned to the Office. Accompanying the National Education Association, the Amer- must not only secure a year's leave of ab application forms are reference forms which ican Association of School Administrators,

pay but must also make provision the teacher is responsible for distributing the National Association of Secondary for the teacher with whom she exchanges to the superintendent, principal, and one School Principals, the American Council positions for a place in the school system. representative citizen of the community. on Education, the American Federation of In Great Britain and Canada, since language In midwinter the teacher is informed that Teachers, the Institute of International Ed. barriers are not obstacles, the exchanges she is to appear before one of the 25 reucation, and the English-Speaking Union, are as nearly identical as possible; that is, gional interviewing committees in this country. These committees have been organized in localities so that teachers have only a limited amount of traveling to do, and the meetings are held on week ends so that school duties are not interrupted. Then in March the chairmen of committees in Great Britain and the United States match the pairs of teachers. During April and May announcements of completed exchanges are made and preparations begun for the year ahead.

sence with

It is still the hope of the Committees on both sides of the Atlantic that selections may be made early this year, so that teachers who are going abroad may have a maximum time for preparation. Similar matchings are made for the Canadian and French exchanges and approximately the same schedule holds as for the British program.

The costs of the program have been carried by the teachers from the several coun. tries involved. The American teacher is

paid by her school board and thereby pro- Norway, Burma, and the Philippines. tects her pension, tenure, and salary incre. These teacher programs are not necessarily ment rights. The Canadian, British, and direct exchanges whereby a place must be French teachers are also paid their regular provided for a teacher from those countries. salaries by their local educational author- And these posts do not require that the ities. During the present school year the American teacher secure leave of absence teachers from the United States going to with pay, because they are under the Great Britain and the British teachers com

auspices of the Fulbright Exchange Proing here have received partial travel grants

gram which provides a stipend, travel and of $200 each under the Fulbright Exchange

maintenance allowance to teachers selected Program. The teachers from France and

to teach in the national schools of these the American teachers going to France have

countries. In most instances the country received round-trip travel under the same

involved requests teachers in certain fields program.

and the recruiting, therefore, is more selecThe cost of living abroad for a year is

tive. Announcements of these opportuni. approximately the same as the amount required in this country plus the additional

ties as they become available are made in amount necessary for travel during the long

School Life, in professional educational vacations in England and France.

journals, and to the teacher placement There are also limited opportunities for agencies of the State departments of edu. teachers in countries such as Belgium, cation, State teacher associations, and Ceylon, Ethiopia, the Netherlands, Sweden, teacher education institutions.

Flight Enlightenment for Pupils and Teachers

BOTH TEACHERS and pupils brushed up greater number of Air Age Education work- Idaho, is in five sections: History of Air on aviation experiences during the past few shops indicates that teachers will be more Age Education in Idaho; Analysis of Idaho months.

air-minded this fall. A record of 96 Air Teacher Suggestions for Air Age Educa. For the boys and girls there were the Age Education summer workshops are tion; Future Program of Air Age Educaevents which bring together model airplane known to have been offered to teachers in tion in Idaho; Aviation for Teachers; flyers in national and international com- all parts of the country. This figure of 96 Sources of Air Age Education Materials. petition held annually in July and August. workshops for 1949 compares with 84 in The second, entitled, Air Age Handbook Results were many brilliant new national 1948 and 75 in 1947.

for Teachers in Missouri Public Schools, records and at least one international rec- Many teachers experienced their first replaced an older publication. It is conord for the United States, established by flight by means of these programs through cerned with aviation in the various grades an Alameda, Calif., school boy. His gas- the courtesy of arrangements made with lo.

and subject fields. It contains suggestions powered model flew at a speed of 81.587 cal flight operators. Other teachers took

for programs, activities, assemblies and m. p. h., officially clocked by National special educational tours made available at

stresses the need for proper school guidance Aeronautic Association officials as a new lower rates to teachers by a leading airline.

facilities. Source materials are listed. international model plane speed record. One group made an air study of “SurThe previous record of 66.536 m. p. h. was face Geology” via a DC-3 Flying Class

-Willis C. Brown, Specialist in Aviation held by Russia. room. Arrangements for this unique ap

Education, Division of Secondary Education. In the competition for the International proach to teacher education were made by Wakefield Trophy, established in 1928 by State Teachers College, California, Pa. The

On Other Countries Lord Wakefield of England, the winner this 2-day field trip took 24 selected educators

MANY countries throughout the world have year was a boy representing Finland. The on a planned observation flight to study established services to provide commercial, two previous cup winners were boys from the older geologic area of the Northern

travel, and general information to those rethe United States and England. The United Appalachians including the Triassic LowStates six-boy team of aero-modeling ex

questing it. Kenneth H. Campbell, man

lands, Delaware Water Gap, Finger Lakes perts with an experienced coach were flown Region of New York, the glaciation area,

ager, Foreign Commerce Department,

Chamber of Commerce of the United States, by Pan American Clipper to the competition and Niagara Falls. in Cranfield, England, where they ably rep- Two worth-while publications on Air Age

Washington 6, D. C., announces publication resented this country. After the competi. Education were recently received. Both are

of "A Guide to Foreign Government Intion, the Wakefield team were guests of the jointly issued by State Departments of Ed

formation Services” which lists and gives British Society of Model Aeronautical En. ucation and State Departments of Aero.

the specific addresses of these information gineers in London.


offices. Copies of the guide are available The trend of increased attendance at a The first, entitled, Air Age Education in

upon request.

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