Essay # 3
Reading essay The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society by Jonathan Kozol rekindles the candle of the horrors of illiteracy within us, a candle that has been extinguished by our hectic lives. As he quotes James Madison’s statement, “A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives”, these words make us think about ourselves and the society around us.
A country is run by Government. That Government is chosen by people. And one third of them, who chose the government cannot read or write, and has no knowledge of the policies they offer to implement, their political background, and their achievements. This is really not a picture of democracy we have in our mind. All an illiterate person depends upon for knowledge of Presidential candidates is audio and visual media. Often they are misguided by the candidates and are exploited on the basis of race, culture, and religion.
Besides politics, Kozol points towards many difficulties an illiterate person faces in daily life. Let’s just start with the basic necessities of life, food and shelter. Even having means to buy it, an illiterate person cannot read the brands, labels and instructions on the food packing. All they depend on is visual recognition that once is identified to them by some literate person. They have to stick with the same food all year round.
An old couple lives in my neighborhood who cannot read and write, and they often come to me for assistance with their bills and letters. One day, I was walking by their house and they invited me in. They served tea and cookies, but I hesitated to eat those cookies as it looked strange. When I asked them what kind of cookies are these, the women replied “I don’t know about the type, but we always buy it by looking at the picture and color of wrapper”. When I asked them to show me the package, it turned out to be cookies for Dog’s. They were so embarrassed to know that they have been serving...
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