“For the entire history of the human species until the 1960s, a majority of adults were illiterate. Now 85 percent of adults worldwide are literate and the share is rising,” Nicholas Kristof notes in a September 22 New York Times op-ed, The Best News You Don’t Know.
However, most people in the United States don’t know about this, or about other dramatic improvements in the overall human condition that have resulted from international aid efforts in recent years. “A poll to be released Thursday by Motivaction, a Dutch firm, finds that only 1 percent of Americans surveyed realized that global extreme poverty had fallen by half over 20 years,” he writes.
Kristof suggests that advocates in humanitarian fields need to report on progress as well as needs: “Otherwise, the public may perceive poverty as hopeless and see no point in carrying on the fight — at just the point when we’re making the most rapid gains ever recorded.”
As we look forward to Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, September 26-30, Kristof’s suggestion — and that 85 percent statistic — are worth remembering.