North Carolina Blues: Ignorance and Illiteracy in the South


I come from the South.  I am a tried and true Southerner. I bleed Carolina Blue.  I grew up hearing stories of the Late Unpleasantness, also known as the Confederate War or the War Between the States.  I was raised with manners and hospitality, and I know how to be rude to someone while still being polite about it. Most of the fiction I write is set in the South.

I am not uneducated, and I have never eaten dirt because I was hungry.  It is a stereotype of the poor white man that does not need to continue.  I do not have any idea why the elected leaders want North Carolina to remain in poverty and without education. But then again, who stands up for the hillbilly when all is said and done?  No one wants to lose a source of derision and ridicule. We can’t do that.

Half of the state’s budget goes to education, and many of the programs that are bringing North Carolina OUT of the lowest rankings for education and literacy are funded by temporary taxes. 22 percent of all North Carolinians have difficulty with reading or writing that seriously affect their daily lives.  Another million and a half could benefit from further reading or writing instruction, even though their everyday tasks are accomplished fairly well.

In Guilford County alone, approximately ten percent of college-aged constituents, aged 18-25, have a 9th grade reading level.  Ironically, this is the same county that houses UNC Greensboro, which used to be called The Teacher’s College.

In most states, the budgets cuts are hitting education the hardest.  North Carolina is no exception, despite Republican promises: “When Republicans ran last fall, we made three basic promises,” Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger said at a recent news conference. “One, we were not going to allow temporary taxes to be extended. Two, we would reduce spending, and three, that we would protect the classroom.”

Okay, so, one and two are being met, but the third has been traded for one and two.

When asked about this, Berger’s reply was, “Nonsense. I looked outside this morning, and the sky was not falling. This is a responsible, reasonable budget to move North Carolina forward,” he says.

Nonsense indeed.

I am not exactly sure how Mr. Berger thinks that creating a generation of illiterate ignorance is forward thinking, and I am not exactly sure why he thinks that not keeping the taxes in place is a good idea. Were these taxes to remain, so too would programs aiding in adult literacy, preschool programs similar to California’s groundbreaking First Five and finally, perhaps most importantly, the North Carolina Center For the Advancement of Teaching.  There is data in place to remark upon the importance and the effectiveness of all three types of programs.

What am I missing?  Is it better to reduce taxes and have illiterate voters?  Or is it better to realize that the tradeoff of keeping a popular promise just isn’t what is best for the State?

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Photo credit: barbourians via flickr


Mary Vaughn
Mary Vaughn6 years ago

Thank you for your comment Jane H.
I too was born and raised part of my life in KY. Isn't it strange that Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell scream the loudest about the government spending while they are the biggest reciepients of it. This just proves to me that they could care less about the national debt. Mitch McConnell stated that he was going to make sure that O'Bama was a one term president. The other reason is because the largest portion of the national debt, 2.6 trillion dollars in T-Bonds is owed to SS. Since the baby boomers are retiring these bonds will have to be made good. Think about it.

Nicole B.
Nicole B6 years ago

Ok, but here's my question... If half the budget is going for education as stated in this article, why are there still 22% who are having trouble? I lived in SC for 13 years and raised my son there. Bringing him back north has been a huge disadvantage to him. Educational standards seem to be a lot lower there (in SC) than they are here (in ND). Plus, the parental involvement just wasn't there. I think that has a lot to do with it based on my experiences. PTA had almost no involvement at all. Get parents more involved and maybe things can start to improve.

Joe L.
Joe Lade6 years ago

The uneducated and illiterate are more prone to settle for lower wages and bad working conditions. More likely to vote emotionally, instead of with knowledge of the issues and facts. They are more easily lied to by people in power and less likely to find out the truth for themselves or make a stand.
There is a method to this madness. It's the GOP.

Christine S.

I don't understand any portion of the government who would want their people uneducated just to reduce taxes!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Karina Najera
Karina Najera6 years ago

isn't this happening all over the world?

Beth M.
Beth M6 years ago

Illiteracy will cause taxes to up even more in the future. Educated children become productive, self-sufficient taxpayers.

Dan B.
Dan Brook6 years ago

The regressive Republican Party of No is obstructionist, mean-spirited, thuggish, religiously fanatical, scientifically ignorant, corrupt, hypocritical, xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic, evolution and global warming denying, oily, anti-environment, anti-consumer, anti-choice, anti-education, union busting, Medicare and Social Security slashing, authoritarian, selfish, greedy, out-of-touch, lacking compassion, warmongering, and otherwise dangerous.

NEVER vote for Republicans.

Fa'izah J. A.
Jauharah Andrews6 years ago

Illiteracy can be eradicated through the availability of academic programs for all people, of course there will be some who won't avail themselves of it, but then that's their choice to remain illiterate. There was once a time when the church could help, but I see a lot of illiterate and uneducated people sitting among the pews and the church is all about taking money so of course they don't want literate people around.

Ignorance on the other hand, has no cure because some people just like being ignorant and many of them run for and are elected to political office.

Jane H.
Jane H6 years ago

I'm from Kentucky which is alot worse off that NC, if i'm not mistaken.... a poor and a red state if there ever was one. We elected Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, and we get more money from the federal government than we give it. What a mess!