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Old 03-03-2003, 02:57 PM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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Half of adult US population at eighth grade reading level or below???!!!

I was reading an article on car seats and it was determined that too many people were improperly installing them because the instructions were written at a 10th grade level. 25% are below 5th grade level. My question is how much of that figure is an education system gone drastically AWOL and how much is that figure altered by the inclusion of large numbers of recent immigrants who simply havnt had sufficient time for the education system to have done its work properly, adult mental retardation and other such statistical variables ?
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:00 PM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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Sorry preview should be my friend. The figures to be more clear were: approx 25% of US adults had reading comp level of the 5th grade or below. Another 25% were at the 8th grade or below.
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:04 PM
Meatros Meatros is offline
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Tat no b rite. I tink evebodie reeds at at at lest coledge levl.
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:09 PM
Indefatigable Indefatigable is offline
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What does 'an eighth grade reading level' mean, anyways? Reading is reading. If you know the sounds that the letters make, you can sound out the words (although with some words, if you've never heard them spoken before, you might get them wrong the first time).

Does it mean reading comprehension, the ability to assimilate a complicated idea into your mind after having it expressed to you in written words? I'd think that would be an inherent quality of individual brains more than an indicator of education.

Does it mean vocabulary? Too many big words? Calling that a 'reading' problem is misleading-- being able to read a word is one thing, but knowing the meaning of it is another.

If it's that last one, I'd suspect that the prevalence of 'reading levels' in school might actually be to blame. There comes an age when educators should probably stop trying to 'protect' kids from big words, and give them real books to read instead of readers specially tailored for their 'reading level'. And teach them to use dictionaries so that they can improve their vocabularies on their own.
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:10 PM
Shoeless Shoeless is offline
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I think it was George Carlin who said "You wouldn't believe how stupid the average person is. But what's worse is, half the people are even dumber than that!"
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:22 PM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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I worked for a company that did aircraft maintenance contracting for the U.S. Government. In the requests for proposals, they ASKED us to write it to 8th grade level. Utterly pathetic.
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:27 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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Well isn’t an eighth-grade reading level considered pretty decent? I know I was reading very well by the eighth grade, and I was never an exemplary student...
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:30 PM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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Crafter..thats the skill level of a 13 year old. You want to stop your development in ANYTHING at the ripe old age of 13?
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:42 PM
SCSimmons SCSimmons is offline
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My seven-year-old son tests out at a fifth-grade reading level. It genuinely frightens me that 25% of adults read no better than he does. If it's true, that is-I really do find it difficult to believe. How do these people function in society? Scary.
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:44 PM
ultrafilter ultrafilter is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Indefatigable
What does 'an eighth grade reading level' mean, anyways? Reading is reading. If you know the sounds that the letters make, you can sound out the words (although with some words, if you've never heard them spoken before, you might get them wrong the first time).

Does it mean reading comprehension, the ability to assimilate a complicated idea into your mind after having it expressed to you in written words? I'd think that would be an inherent quality of individual brains more than an indicator of education.

Does it mean vocabulary? Too many big words? Calling that a 'reading' problem is misleading-- being able to read a word is one thing, but knowing the meaning of it is another.

If it's that last one, I'd suspect that the prevalence of 'reading levels' in school might actually be to blame. There comes an age when educators should probably stop trying to 'protect' kids from big words, and give them real books to read instead of readers specially tailored for their 'reading level'. And teach them to use dictionaries so that they can improve their vocabularies on their own.
Just for fun, I copied your post and ran it through MS Word's grammar checker to get the grade level. It tells me that you wrote this at almost a 9th-grade level. I expect that scores like that are what's used to determine the reading level. How that's calculated, I have no idea.

FYI, it assigned the OP a 12th-grade level. And this post got a 4th-grade level.
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:51 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by jonpluc
Crafter..thats the skill level of a 13 year old. You want to stop your development in ANYTHING at the ripe old age of 13?
Well, no. I’m just saying that an eighth-grade reading level may not be that bad, all things considered. Heck, a couple centuries ago is was difficult to find anyone who could read…
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:51 PM
Janie Jones Janie Jones is offline
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Half of adult US population at eighth grade reading level or below???!!!

That's unpossible!

</Homer J. Simpson>
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:52 PM
zigaretten zigaretten is offline
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Here is the Fry Test for determining the "grade level" of reading material. It's just a matter of the average number of syllables per sentence.
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:55 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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Good advice, whuckfistle. Just remember to turn the lights off before you try to start the car.
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Old 03-03-2003, 03:57 PM
Crafter_Man Crafter_Man is offline
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Originally posted by Crafter_Man
Good advice, whuckfistle. Just remember to turn the lights off before you try to start the car.
Oops, wrong thread!
  #16  
Old 03-03-2003, 04:06 PM
tourbot tourbot is offline
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Here is a sample quick assessment test of eighth grade reading ability.
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Old 03-03-2003, 04:07 PM
Cillasi Cillasi is offline
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"Reading Level" incorporates many factors, including vocabulary, comprehension, speed and grammar. It makes no difference if you can sound out a word. When my son was 6 years old he could sound out almost any word put in front of him. That did not mean he understood what he read.

Just because instructions for installing carseats may be written on a 10th grade level does not mean that the instructions are clearly written, complete, or even comprehensible.
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Old 03-03-2003, 04:35 PM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by ultrafilter


FYI, it assigned the OP a 12th-grade level.
Does this mean i have grounds to sue my College for a refund? But on the bright side looks like ill be able to read car seat instructions
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Old 03-03-2003, 04:49 PM
monica monica is offline
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I'm a tenth grader. Some of the tenth graders in my non-advanced classes (stuff like health) can barely read at all! Our health teacher called on people in our class to read an article out loud, and some people could barely manage it! They were reading below the level that I was at in fifth grade (note: This was a higher level than the average fifth grader- I was reading stuff by Charles Dickens, soon followed by Shakespeare- but still!) How can a highs chool student not be able to recognize basic words?
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Old 03-03-2003, 07:41 PM
clayton_e clayton_e is offline
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I read the same article... And sadly I'm not surprised.
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Old 03-03-2003, 08:13 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by ultrafilter
Just for fun, I copied your post and ran it through MS Word's grammar checker to get the grade level. It tells me that you wrote this at almost a 9th-grade level. I expect that scores like that are what's used to determine the reading level. How that's calculated, I have no idea.

FYI, it assigned the OP a 12th-grade level. And this post got a 4th-grade level.
I didn't know you could do this, so I searched for "reading level" in the MS Word Help section. You can see the formulas used to come up with the score.

Then I pasted several of my own posts into Word and scored them. I was shocked that most of them came out in the sixth grade level. I mean, I was a National Merit Scholar, scored in the top 2% of SATs back in the 70s, etc. I thought I was a pretty sophisticated guy, language-wise. And my scores were disappointing at first.

But I've reinterpreted. Now I think it means I can make my ideas comprehensible to younger and/or dumber people. That seems a plus to me.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

PS My score in this post (to the end of the last paragraph) was 5.1
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Old 03-03-2003, 10:01 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I believe it was Asimov who once commented that, although nearly everyone in civilized countries can read these days, the percentage of people who actually do read on a regular basis has historically remained constant at about 5%. This I do not find surprising at all.
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Old 03-03-2003, 10:07 PM
Insecta Insecta is offline
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I personally feel that reading grade scores hangs largely on the length of your sentences. Boyo Jim, your sentences seem to be fairly short, so clearly you should go back to sixth grade and learn how to form obnoxiously long sentences that tail on forever, describing things in an unnecessarily complicated manner and essentially being downright rude.

That last sentence hit the 12.0 grade level. Just for fun, the extract below also received the coveted twelve point O. It comes from a document where I was deliberately trying to hit it and isn't too representative of my normal writing style:

"We had visited two of Ecuador’s three climate zones, so the next logical destination was the rainforest beyond the Andes. After another day in Quito we embarked on a five-hour bus ride through ever changing vegetation to the missionary town of Tena, nestled on the edge of the seemingly infinite Amazon jungle. In a nearby village we picked up guides, then the next day we boarded motorized canoes that were to be our transport for the jungle. The next four days were divided between trekking through the rainforest, visiting attractions, travelling in the canoes and relaxing in cabanas and on beaches. Some people enjoyed trekking in the jungle more than others, but we all agreed that it was fascinating, if a little repetitive on the longer walks. We got the exciting opportunity to visit Cayman mini-crocodiles in the night, as well as the chance to swing on a Tarzan vine! The absurdly placed (in the middle of the jungle!) attractions we visited, concerned the wildlife and native culture, and were extremely enlightening, adding a lot to the experience. Canoe travel was a calm experience for the most part, as we zipped down (or up) the widest rivers I have ever seen, so vast they seemed like moving lakes. The accommodation was like paradise, with simple cabanas, hammocks strung in every conceivable place, tropical food and river to swim in. There was a big phobia of bugs, snakes and the like present in the group, but although we saw everything from spiders in trousers, scorpions in bedrooms and large tarantulas, they proved to be no problem at all. In fact, what most of the group had been expecting as an uncomfortable experience, turned out to be an extremely relaxing and pleasurable end to the trip."
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Old 03-03-2003, 11:53 PM
Tamex Tamex is offline
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When I was in fourth grade, my teacher was encouraging us to start reading the daily paper. She told us that the average newspaper article was written at about a sixth-grade reading level, so there really wouldn't be very much, reading-wise, that we wouldn't be able to understand.

Why are newspapers written at such a "low" reading level? It's because journalists want to get information across in a clear, concise, and accessible manner, rather than get bogged down in a bunch of subordinate clauses and SAT vocabulary. They want people to read the news rather than spend hours studying it. Boyo Jim is exactly right--it's good to write clearly, and it does not mean that your mind is necessarily working at the sixth-grade level. What it does mean is that you are more likely to get your information across to a wider audience, and that your words will be read rather than studied.

My husband and I are no dummies. I graduated from high school with honors and have two years of college; my husband was a National Merit Scholar and has his bachelor's degree. However, car seat instructions are among the most poorly written documents on Earth! They really are confusing. If it was that bad for us, can you imagine the frustration of someone with less education, or with limited English skills? You should not need to go to college in order to put a car seat in a car!

I think the problems is less "people are soooooo dumb these days" and more "people who write these instructions can't write worth crap and couldn't get a point across clearly to save their lives".

This post is written at a 6th grade reading level.
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Old 03-04-2003, 12:08 AM
alice_in_wonderland alice_in_wonderland is offline
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Interesting, I just gramar checked one of my papers I submitted for a University course I took a couple of semesters ago.

It got the coveted 12.0 on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, but a mere 12.4 on the Flesch Reading Ease score.

Sooo - just about exactly what a psych paper should be - gramatically perfect, but almost impossible to understand.

Interestingly, this post is also at the 12.0 level, but understandability sky-rocketed to 40.
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Old 03-04-2003, 12:11 AM
alice_in_wonderland alice_in_wonderland is offline
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Oh hell. Can you folks just add a few "m"'s in at the appropriate spots?

Cheers.
  #27  
Old 03-04-2003, 12:18 AM
stockton stockton is offline
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Re: Half of adult US population at eighth grade reading level or below???!!!

Quote:
Originally posted by Janie Jones
That's unpossible!

</Homer J. Simpson>
Wasn't that Ralph Wiggam?
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Old 03-04-2003, 12:32 AM
Essured Essured is offline
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I'll never buy a car seat, so I have no idea what sort of language the installation instructions are written in. I tried Googling, but only found articles about it being written too hard. The only thing mentioned that gave some idea was the following from CNN:

Quote:
For example, 'collision,' 'automobile,' and 'remedied' could be replaced by 'crash,' 'car,' and 'fixed,"' according to the study
Anybody have an instruction booklet they don't mind giving examples from, or has anybody come across an online version of the instructions ? This has got me very curious as to what is considered "too hard".
  #29  
Old 03-04-2003, 08:27 AM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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1. When they say "reads at an eighth grade level," you have to understand that that's usually based on some arbitrarily chosen national or state standard for eighth grade reading ability. I think you will find such standards are reasonably good. If you can read at the state/nationally set eighth grade level, you can read most things. A smart eighth grader is a proficient reader.

2. Those computer "Grade level" tests are baloney. Ernest Hemingway isn't really Grade 5 material, ya know. Any test that bases grade level on syllables per word and sentence length is out to lunch.

3. The point, which I think is being missed, about the "simplify the car seats" bit is not that the purchasers of car seats are stupid. (Though, as usual, it gives the self-declared SDMB illuminati the chance to trot out the hoary old "people, except myself, are so stupid and I was reading Proust in Grade 3 and the kids hated me because I was so smart I have a 193 IQ blah blah blah" lines.) It's that technical writing in consumer documents is just friggin' terrible.

Have you guys READ an instruction manual lately? Half of them appear to be written by people who don't care if the device is installed properly or not. I'm a reasonably smart guy, graduated from university, but the instructions to my father's satellite receiver had me absolutely stumped. The instructions to my new "Master of Orion III" game may as well be written in Sanskrit for all the good they do me. My attempts to make minor repairs to my Hyundai Elantra have frequently been foiled by the owner's manual.

Avoiding run-on sentences and twenty-dollar words is just one way they're trying to remedy - er, fix that problem. They need to make other changes, too.
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Old 03-04-2003, 08:48 AM
RiverRunner RiverRunner is offline
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The instructions to my new "Master of Orion III" game may as well be written in Sanskrit for all the good they do me.
[hijack]
You're not alone; I don't have MOO3 yet, but I've heard many complaints about the manual.
[/hijack/

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  #31  
Old 03-04-2003, 11:04 AM
Sofa King Sofa King is offline
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ultrafilter gave me the idea to play around with that MS Word function a little bit. Here are some interesting examples:

Quote:
In this very attitude did I sit when I called to him, rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do—namely, to examine a small paper with me. Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.” --Herman Melville, "Bartleby the Scrivener"
Reading ease: 46.6
Grade level: 12.0

Quote:
Through all their pains and depravation, the Cuban people's aspirations for freedom are undiminished. We see this today in Havana where more than 11,000 brave citizens have petitioned their government for a referendum on basic freedoms. If that referendum is allowed, it can be a prelude, a beginning for real change in Cuba. -- President George W. Bush, Remarks on US-Cuba relations
Reading ease: 38.8
Grade level: 12.0

Quote:
What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill. You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now. -- Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Reading ease: 89.7
Grade level: 4.1

Quote:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
-- William Shakespeare, MacBeth
Reading ease: 72.3
Grade level: 4.0
  #32  
Old 03-04-2003, 12:55 PM
slortar slortar is offline
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I'd argue with the OP in that I consider it doubtful that most adults are even reading the directions, or giving them more than a passing glance. I'm guilty of this all the time, myself...

Anyway, it's hard to make an assumption about average reading level here when the directions might not be read in the first place.
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Old 03-04-2003, 01:46 PM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by slortar
I'd argue with the OP in that I consider it doubtful that most adults are even reading the directions, or giving them more than a passing glance. I'm guilty of this all the time, myself...

Anyway, it's hard to make an assumption about average reading level here when the directions might not be read in the first place.
Your arguement makes little sence. Shall we argue that we cant properly assess the reading level of William Shakespear because alot of people dont read plays? I think it is fairly assumed that the level of understanding of a set of directions has to have at the very least a premise of actually reading it first.
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Old 03-04-2003, 02:54 PM
slortar slortar is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by jonpluc
Your arguement makes little sence. Shall we argue that we cant properly assess the reading level of William Shakespear because alot of people dont read plays? I think it is fairly assumed that the level of understanding of a set of directions has to have at the very least a premise of actually reading it first.
Eye'll trie too xplane. Heer's pairte off thee OP, inn caise you neede refreshifying:

Quote:
I was reading an article on car seats and it was determined that too many people were improperly installing them because the instructions were written at a 10th grade level.
The article referenced in the first sentence seems to be making the point that a) car seats are being installed improperly and b) this is because the people installing the seats have inadequate reading skills. While I haven't read the article, it seems to be quite a stretch. Couldn't there be alternate explanations?

I believe a number of alternate explanations have already been given (favorite so far is that the technical manuals themselves are poorly written). How big a stretch is it to assume that some of these improper installations is due to people not even reading the darn things in the first place?

I'm not quite sure where you made the jump from my statement to William Shakespeare.
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Old 03-04-2003, 02:56 PM
slortar slortar is offline
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Wow, you are the OP. I'm dense. I still stand by my rebuttal.
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Old 03-04-2003, 09:17 PM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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Your rebuttal is nonsense.The issue is the reading level of the instructions printed for car seat installation. Nowhere does it discount the people that puruse or half read or dont read the directions. The exact issue at hand is the reading level of the directions printed for people that actually read the full and complete thing with the goal of understanding car seat installation. Period.
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Old 03-04-2003, 09:28 PM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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the word "discount" in my previous post should read "allow" Sorry
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Old 03-04-2003, 10:29 PM
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With all the Universal Signs we all see every day, it's a wonder readin' isn't phased out and viola - phase in Universal Sign Interpretation. So instead of reading I-4 Orlando - a Universally recognized mouse head sign will guide everyone to MickeyWorld. In a way, reading is not endorsed or encouraged, because it creates people who might get some looney ideas from reading inappropriate or questionable material. Reading also requires mental concentration, which most Americans no patience for. Instant gratification usually requires little or no concentration.
I'm sure Homer Simpson would vouche for that and give us a lesson or two. Doooh
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Old 03-04-2003, 10:46 PM
markdiscordia markdiscordia is offline
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Anecdotally, a great deal of the people I encounter seem functionally illiterate. I work in a retail environment, and I get a lot of people pointing to pictures, missing obvious lettering on signs and in ads, and exhibiting other behavior that makes me wonder whether their angular gyri have atrophied.
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Old 03-05-2003, 05:41 AM
dylan_73 dylan_73 is offline
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This is an attempt to score highly and inoculate myself from the stigma of having a low grade level. Of course, any particular nonsense can be written in a blue furry manner just to gain in respectability and converse with the greatest of confabulation. I now know what it feels like to write as a post-modernist but I must keep this sentence going since it drags down my score if I don’t ramble on meaninglessly for grinning after pathos, ignoring the fact that any reader will have long since lost interest in whatever idiocy I wanted to spew forth in the first place.

Flesch Reading Ease: 45.4
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Leve: 12.0

Grade level does not good for writing stuff make.
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Old 03-05-2003, 07:38 AM
Paul in Qatar Paul in Qatar is offline
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It isn't true, in any practical sense. Lemme tell ya a story from The Mismeasure of Man (Author? Date? I dunno)

It seems with the huge influx of recruits for WWI the Army (that is to say The Army of Rightiousnesss, the US Army) tested the intelligence of each new guy coming in. A long-haired professor was given the job of developing a test that was culture-neutral (after all lots of new Americans back then) and he even produced a version for people illeterate in English.

All very scientific.

The results were shocking. It seems the average young American man was an freakin' idjut. Much debate in postwar America was based on these reams of results. What did it mean to Democracy when the Average Kid couldn't read beyond the (whatever the number was) grade level?

The numbers showed that Northern European scored better than Southerners. As (just one) result of the national concern, quotas were established for new arrivals from various countires. Greeks and Turks need not apply.

Well, looking back on it now we can see the falacy here. The reports were all screwy. The test was (unintentionally) biased as hell. It was poorly administered and poorly graded. Looking back on it, the test and the resulting numbers were a steaming pille of horse pellets.

But it was printed in scholarly jounals so it was assumed to be true.

Same, I suppose, is true here. The report does not support what I see with my own eyes. I prefer to believe my own eyes.
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Old 03-05-2003, 08:12 AM
jonpluc jonpluc is offline
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That was my whole point of the OP. If this number is a statistical anomoly, what factors would cause this and how much of an influence would they have on the average? I mentioned a very few in my OP such as new immigrants who havnt had an opportunity to learn yet, the learning disabled etc. Take these groups out and is the result 70% read above 8th grade? Or 51%?
  #43  
Old 03-05-2003, 03:16 PM
Tamex Tamex is offline
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Well, you could also consider that an eighth-grade education was considered perfectly adequate not so very long ago. Out of my four grandparents, only one graduated from high school (as opposed to later getting a GED), and he only got that chance because he was the youngest in his family and wasn't so needed on the farm. If your parents needed you to help out around the farm or around the house, eighth grade was generally considered good enough.

Also, I believe that eighth grade was the last grade in which I actually took a "reading" class (as opposed to just a general "English" class.) It's the last grade in which reading is actively taught. If you're going on to college, you'll pick up more reading skill in your "college-bound" curriculum, but if you're not...well, you probably won't understand some scholarly journals, but you can read newspapers, magazines, road signs, and pulp fiction. Good enough to get by in society (unless, apparently, you need to install a child's car seat.)

In order to graduate from Minnesota high schools, you need to pass the eighth-grade basic skills tests. Notice that there are no twelfth-grade basic skills tests.

My point? Yeah, I can believe that many Americans read at about an eighth-grade level. I also think that car seat manufacturers are deluding themselves if they think that that is the big problem, rather than their poor writing (Look at Shakespeare vs. dylan_73's post ) and design (these things aren't easy to install anyway, even if you do know what you're doing.)
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