Detroit’s 'shocking' 47 percent illiteracy rate

Nearly half of the adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate. Who's to blame for this jaw-dropping figure?

More than 200,000 Detroit residents cannot read and critics are blaming not only schools but the city's politicians as well.
(Image credit: Randy Faris/Corbis)

More than 200,000 Detroit residents — 47 percent of Motor City adults — are "functionally illiterate," according to a new report released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund. That means they can't fill out basic forms, read a prescription, or handle other tasks most Americans take for granted, according to the fund's director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, as quoted by CBS Detroit. Her organization's study also found that the education and training aimed at overcoming these problems "is inadequate at best," says Jackie Headapohl at Michigan Live. So what's to blame?

Our education system is broken: This study "shows the staggering degree to which public education has failed in one of the most economically depressed cities in the United States," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. And it's "even more shocking" that half of the illiterate population "somehow made it through public school." Clearly, "taxpayers aren't getting their money's worth." It's too bad that half of them "aren't able to read the report to figure that out."

"Study finds 47% of Detroit residents are functionally illiterate"

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Score one for supporters of standardized testing: Given these numbers, "I find it difficult to be seized with worry" about "teachers 'teaching to the test' too much," says Matthew Yglesias at ThinkProgress. The fact that so many kids "are passing through school systems and not learning basic literacy" means that school districts need to be monitoring and checking what these children are actually learning. That means better standardized testing. While testing is a "limited tool," it is "also an important one."

"Half of adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate"

Politicians have failed, too: "Where is the inspiration? Where are the ideas?" asks Greta van Susteren at her Fox News blog. These people in Detroit have been "totally left behind," because if they can't read, they "can't even fill out an application for a job" to try to improve their lives. So as the 2012 election nears, "I want to hear from the candidates how they intend to reverse this trend."

"Totally left behind....this just is not right"

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us