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Jonathan Kozol begins his essay, "The Human cost of an Illiterate Society" with a well-known expression "Precautions. Read before using.” When thinking about the meaning the expression has, one may conclude that perhaps the writer aims at warning people to use products without being acknowledged of they are. As Kozol points out, an illiterate person will not understand what the product aims at and how it will affect one. Thus he/she can use the product against the instructions issued. Kozol uses as many examples as possible to clearly bring out the theme of discussion. The main point in this essay is to show that the illiterates cannot and never will be capable of working effectively in a western society. The picture that Kozol gives presents a perfect portrait of the life the illiterates experience every day.
This essay was written in 1985 in accordance to what Kozol observed. One could argue that these were those years when people lived in a different world and that the world today is not like the one of the 80s, though I still observe the same picture today. Illiteracy is a greater crime these days than it was twenty or thirty years ago. With new and advanced technologies and education systems it has become even harder for an illiterate person to function in this world.
The illiterates have problems in communication with their comrades, because they do not want to be humiliated. Kozol in his essay writes, “They are afraid to visit in the classroom. They do not want to humiliate their child or themselves.” Instead they select a trusted one to do them this favor. A problem is still observed in this decision. A guide can decide to bring in his/her own satisfactory motives, this in turn may result in satisfaction of his/her own goals or a failure to accomplish the goals set.
It is true that the illiterates do not deserve the sufferings they undergo. Some get to pay extra bills and suffer from the course like in the case with the woman from Washington D.C. in Kozol’s essay. “Illiteracy has many costs; few are so irreversible as this” as the author records. A friend of mine ended up paying off a fine that he did not deserve. The worst bit of the whole story is that he could not hear the rules because he could not understand English and could rely on translation alone. The end result was that he gave his mediator twice as much of money as he was supposed to and never asked for a change.
While the problem of travelling has been unraveled by the new systems like road signs, and the problem of cooking can be resolved if the person takes a cooking course, illiteracy is still a hazardous disability. One may be able to work normally but will never move at the same pace as his/her literate counterparts.
Today, no age is an exception for literacy. One can join courses at any elementary school, high school or junior college to deal with adult illiteracy. The internet is also another means of fighting the illiteracy.
It is necessary to work hard to reduce, moreover to eradicate illiteracy in our society. Failure to do so will evoke problems we would not be able to solve anymore when they reach certain stages.