What is a “Literate Adult?”

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What is a literate adult?  In the world of literacy statistics we hear tons of information thrown around about “proficient” abilities, “basic” abilities, etc… but what does it really mean to be proficient or basic as far as these tests?

Over at Educational Cyber Playground they did some research to figure out what exactly was going on.  In order to do this they went to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy at the National Center for Education Statistics. What they found was more interesting…

If you’re willing to use some simplifications, we can break down some pretty fascinating information here.  I’ll let them tell the story:


World IQ averages about 90, so the 50th percentile for Americans (IQ 100) is the 75th percentile for the world.

FIRST QUESTION:
Find which energy source will supply more power in 2000 than it did in 1971, using this table.

1971
1980
1985
2000
Coal
18.2%
16.8%
16.8%
16.3%
Petroleum
44.2%
43.9%
43.5%
37.2%
Natural Gas
32.9%
28.1%
24.3%
17.7%
Nuclear Power
6.0%
7.0%
10.1%
25.7%
Hydropower
4.1%
4.2%
3.7%
3.1%
Total 10^12 BTU
69.0
96.0
116.5
191.9


Source: US Department of Interior United States Energy Through the Year 2000
BTU: Quanity of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

SCORE:
Now if you said nuclear power, you figured out what 46% of adult Americans can’t (and 71% of adults on this planet cannot either.)

THIRD QUESTION:
Use the article to write a sentence that explains why the investigating committee thinks these practices are dangerous.

Panel: Sloppy work perils nuke plants
By THOMAS O’TOOLE
Washington Post

WASHINGTON–After investigating corruption in two of the nation’s largest construction unions, the Senate Labor Committee charged Wednesday that so many incompetent welders and engineering technicians are helping build nuclear power plants it constitutes a national safety hazard.
“Unqualified workers have been routinely referred for work as skilled craftsmen, working qualification tests have been circumvented and favoritism is rampant in choosing who will work,” according to a 72-page report released by the majority staff of the Senate Labor Committee.
The committee spent two years investigating the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and one year investigating the International Union of Operating Engineers.
The report concluded that “new legislation to certify workers and make test cheating and extortion a federal crime is needed to ensure the safety, proficiency and durability of . . . construction sites.”
The committee said that one of the most serious practices it uncovered is the sale of union cards for as much as $1,600 to welders who never took qualifying tests.
The committee also charged that experienced welders routinely took tests for inexperienced welders, who were then put to work on jobs that included the Three Mile Island and Beaver Valley nuclear plants in Pennsylvania and the Perry, Ohio, plan near Cleveland.
The committee said that one witness testified that “60 percent of the welders he worked with on the [TMI] fuel pool [where spent radioactive uranium was kept under water] were not qualified for the union journeyman books they held and had bought their books right on the job.”
Another witness said that “some of the worst work I’ve ever seen” was done at the TMI fuel pool. The witness said “incompetent welders” made up to 25 or 30 bad welds in the pipe used to carry radioactive fuel, the report said. The witness added that the welders covered mistakes by “washing the bad welds down with a torch to make them all look uniform.”

SCORE:
This is a much tougher exercise. Only 20% of American (6% of world) adults could write the required one sentence. This corresponds to an IQ of 113.

Imagine for a second the ramifications of this.  We want our kids to be successful and we want our educational system to be excellent by world standards (the best, really) but only 20% of the respondents could even execute simple reading comprehension from a newspaper article(!)  Not just any article either, one that would directly affect how you vote and what you support for the future of our country.  The most important thing in a democracy and civilization is literacy because information is the key.  Meanwhile there’s only 20% of adults with adequate reading comprehension in our own country.

I’m more thankful for the NCFL’s efforts everyday…

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