Reader ML sends along this Washington Post article about the new literacy data and asks whether perhaps “spiraling tuition costs and classes taught by graduate assistants are catching up to us?” There is an interesting paradox here. More people going to college but discouraging findings about adult literacy.
Let the wild speculation begin! ML’s idea is plausible but Eduwonk thinks instead that it might have something to do with course-taking patterns as higher education has increasingly become somewhat vocational. It’s now basically possible to get through even a lot of pretty competitive schools without doing a lot writing or reading of non-technical things if your major is anything involving business, science, engineering, etc…Often just one gut class in the humanities, a survey where centuries are compressed into weeks, is all a student gets. So, to the extent that students are not getting this in high schools they’re just not getting it really anywhere.
Other possible explanations?
Update: EdWahoo’s speculation here.