Letter to the Editor: A small favor please – more details

I’d like to ask a small favor of the person who mentioned the U.S. Department of Education study revealing that 54% of American adults read below a sixth-grade level. Could you please be more thorough and specific when citing studies?  I ask this because some questions automatically pop into my head whenever I encounter something like “research shows” or “according to a study on.”  Basic questions are invariably sample size and demographics, methodology, and operational definitions.  Fortunately, the Safari search engine, and the info, USDOE, 54% reading below 6th Gr. Level, gave me the choice of a few articles on the topic, I elected to go with the “Forbes” magazine report.

On the plus side the study mentioned controlling for age, gender, urbanicity, race, ethnicity, and parental education.  One area where the study could be improved is that it claimed to “estimate” the reading level in each county in the US.  A few details about how the researchers arrived at their estimates would have come in handy.  Another interesting find in the Forbes article was that the study “Assessing the Economic gains of Eradicating Illiteracy Nationally and Regionally” was sponsored by the Barbara Bush Foundation.  The late Barbara Bush was the mother of President George W. Bush.  Both Barbara Bush, and George W’s wife, Laura Bush, placed great emphasis on education, particularly reading, during their time as First Ladies.

Considering that his mother, his wife, and presently one of his daughters were/are so heavily involved in education and reading, it seems strange that G.W. Bush would have said what you allege about the US Constitution being just a ___ ____ piece of paper.  Perhaps he continued to say something to the effect of, “Until the constitution is put into effect by the citizens of the United States.”  If there was more to the statement, that would mean that you employed a debate, or propaganda, technique called “quoting out of context.” I’d also like to point out that Forbes, being Forbes, emphasized the differences in annual incomes for literate, versus semi-literate wage-earners.  Forbes didn’t mention political viewpoints; did you add that part on your own?

Gene Nielsen


Crescent Mills