Creeping Illiteracy Across Canada


It seems literacy isn't a top priority for hewers of wood and drawers of water. Literacy skills that a student  develops in school can be lost in jobs where muscle memory is more important than reading comprehension. Literacy, it seems, can be a "use it or lose it" proposition.

Automation is no friend to the marginally literate. Unfortunately, automation is also targeting jobs where illiteracy rates can be highest.

Recent studies have found that upwards of half of Canada's adult population has some literacy/numeracy impairment

The Oil Patch created a high school drop out problem, luring young people out of school with high wage jobs that required on-the-job skills but not formal education. Now, even those jobs are being automated as the bitumen traffickers need to slash operating costs to continue mining high-carbon/low-value pitch.

Another problem associated with weak literacy is a vulnerability to online disinformation - conspiracy theories, etc.

Governments today are rarely disposed to paying for errors and omissions of previous governments. They're much too busy creating errors and omissions for future governments. And, in provinces where the focus is on "everyday low taxes," there's not much surplus money in some treasuries to fund retraining. Yet we have to retrain as many of the literacy challenged as we can. If we don't we will still have to provide for them even as we consign them unnecessarily to an unacceptable future.


  1. The issue is not unique to Canada.

    The bitumen trafficker's are the modern day version of big forest industry in BC.
    In the 1970' we could not keep young staff in Prince George as they took off to earn more than twice as much driving a crummy to the bush.

    Serious reading has been replaced with social media soundbites and political / advertising driven TV.
    The US media is much worse as right wing talk show hosts blast education as the route to the evils of socialism.


    1. I agree, TB. We're losing our grasp of critical thinking, reading comprehension, even basic literacy. We don't even teach cursive writing any more. I doubt many great books are waiting to be written on phone keypads.
      Research has found our minds are being re-wired by our addiction to texts, instant messaging and social media of several varieties. Our concentration spans are becoming truncated.

      My children are sometimes frustrated by my refusal to embrace texting and instant messaging. I just have no interest in it. I have a some-years-old smartphone, when I can find it. I use it mainly in the car - for emergency calls or GPS navigation. That's it.

      While I have a Kindle, I use it mainly to store the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle or Mark Twain and a mass of classics that you can pick up free. In the main, however, nothing beats a real book although I'm coming to suspect that my stacks of pending reading are breeding behind my back. Somewhere, in one of those stacks, I even have an as yet unread copy of Marie Kondo's book about uncluttering. I love the irony of that one.

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