In the story of “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society” Jonathan Kozol reasons the negative effects of being illiterate. American illiterates are being shut down by society in a world where becoming a successful that seems uncertain for illiterates. Kozol shows to the reader the many risks that an illiterate American has to face on a daily basis and the dangers that results from it. “They cannot read traffic signs and, while they often learn to recognize and to decipher symbols, they cannot mange street names which they haven’t seen before” (256).
This confirms how American illiterates are in danger of getting lost or not knowing how to get back home. They need constantly need assistance, and cannot go anywhere without a help of guidance through the streets. We tend to ignore a person in need when they need us the most, which makes illiterate people, scared of asking for help until it’s too late. Another potential problem that illiterates can occur is that their children can be in danger and needs to seek medical attention, but since the parent is illiterate she can’t help his or her own child. “What do I do if my kids stared choking?
I go running to the phone…I can’t look up the hospital phone number” (257). The child eventually dies and the illiterate parent can’t help because he or she cannot call the ambulance and tell them their location, and leaves them in shame. American illiterates are challenged everyday and fail a lot because of not be able to read or write. Most people don’t understand the important reasons of why being literate is important. Illiteracy can run into conflict such as, not being able to help their children with homework, cannot read bills, have problems with reading prescriptions on bottles, and other everyday tasks.
Illiterates are afraid to ask for help for doing the simplest tasks. “The purchaser who cannot read does not dare to ask for help, out of the fear of being stigmatized” (Kozol 256). The American illiterate person doesn’t want to disgrace his or her family because of a simple task of not being able to read a label. They can also feel insecure and feel abandon because there is no one willing to give them help. These can lead them to not trust anyone, even those who are helping them.
Billing agencies take advantage of the people who are Illiterate that have lots of bills to pay for, and the billing agencies offer them an excessive payment. “Billing agencies harass poor people for the payment of the bills for purchases that might have taken place six months before” (257). The struggles of being illiterate leave them financially unstable. This also leads them to get money from loans or people who say that this is “no problem just sign here. ” I learned that there are many dangers and risks into being illiterate, and how they are limited to achieve.
I had some experience with illiteracy also when I came to America from El Salvador. I was frustrated when I can’t answer a question or that I had classes that helped me read from basic articles. It is also hard to communicate with a person who can read and write since they have the potential to achieve challenges and I can’t keep up with him or her. It was also hard to make study as I struggled to read or write. I missed opportunities to get scholarships or to go to events that can improve my reading skills. My parents had troubles because they were also illiterate, and had to seek help from strangers.
“Illiterate Americans must trust somebody else: a friend, a relative, a stranger…” (257). These strangers could put my parents to risk of signing wrong documents or signing away their rights to becoming an American. My parent also had to constantly ask for directions to get to work or home. My parents had a difficulty in keeping a job just because of not being able to read or write. They also were harassed with the IRS because of misplacement of money, not knowing where or to whom to pay their taxes. My parents also can’t go to school to get more education, and were stuck at a job that can’t pay the bills.
In conclusion, illiteracy is a problem for some Americans and foreign people. Illiterate Americans can be taught to read or write, and we need to help them to achieve this. This will create more problems in the future if we don’t do any about it. This is all true and experiencing this will only make life harder. They need to have more opportunities, so they can achieve what we have. We need to help one another as this trend can help eliminate illiteracy, so everyone can enjoy reading and get the right education to help them succeed in their life.