Illiterate in Washington

April 25, 2007

More than one of every three D.C. residents is functionally illiterate, according to a report released last month by the University of the District of Columbia.

The study, which was conducted by UDC’s State Education Agency for Adult Education and Family Literacy, analyzes data from a national literacy survey in 1992 and the 2000 Census. The agency is tasked with managing D.C.’s citywide literacy initiative, which receives funds from the city government. The report pinpoints specific areas of the District that had severe literacy problems.

Wards 5, 7 and 8 had the highest functional illiteracy rates, which stand at approximately 50 percent. The national average for functional illiteracy is 25 percent. GW is in Ward 2.

Functional illiteracy is defined as having “below basic” literary skills, which means the person “can perform no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills,” according to the report. Examples of simple literacy skill are finding an intersection on a map, completing a job application, or reading bus schedules.

– The George Washington University Hatchet

The District of Columbia suffers from de facto segregation. Traditionally black neighborhoods in DC have been poor and ignored for generations. Such dismal statistics reminds us that at the heart of the American Empire joblessness and illiteracy are the norm.