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It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle s point is that once we have been educated, through schools or our parents, we have the choice to accept or decline different ideas. Perhaps the most important aspect of education is learning to read and write. Literacy is the basis of education and yet not everyone has luck of being literate. In Jonathan Kozol s The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society the author discusses the ways in which illiteracy can be life threatening. By this he does not only mean the fatality to which it can lead to but also how disruptive it is to everyday life. The writer exposes the hazards illiteracy can bring to people s health and also the implications it has on mental well being.

Kozol describes the ways in which illiteracy can bring health problems to the point of death. In his essay, the author is very concerned about the trouble people who cannot read go through when it comes to medicine or medical assistance. Because they cannot observe preventive health care admonitions, their physical condition is at risk. They could take drugs that have already expired; they could take medicine to which they are allergic to; or they could take something without reading the warning labels that tell them what to expect. The problems do not stop here. For example, they cannot fill out insurance information that is vital to good service at any hospital. Even calling a hospital or an ambulance can be difficult to an illiterate because the numbers are too frequently beyond the recognition of non-readers. All these factors come into play and affect the illiterate s physical health, but there are also problems in everyday life and mental stability.

Through his anecdotes and descriptions, Kozol explains how hard it is to live a normal life when a person cannot read. The essay is filled with short examples of how problematic life can be as an illiterate such as choosing and preparing food as well as choosing decent living conditions. The author explains how an illiterate has to depend on someone else s choice of food because he cannot read a menu. Kozol tells us the humiliation illiterate mothers go through because they cannot read to their children. He also tells the story of woman who saw the picture on the label of Crisco and when she found out it was not chicken, she had no more money to feed her family. He also explains how illiterate people are taken advantage of by their landlords. For example, landlords demand things that are not in the actual lease but since there is no one to read it to them, they comply. Even a task as simple as paying the bills can become an odyssey that can leave people on the street and therefore threaten their life.

In The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society, Jonathan Kozol describes the many ways in which being illiterate can threaten a person s life. They go through an uninsured existence in which they are humiliated and at constant risk. A person who cannot read cannot use his rights freely, and cannot make choices out of free will. They are in constant need of assistance, which they normally get from people who are not trustworthy. Illiteracy is disease that every country in the world suffers from and it is time for the leaders of these nations to start curing it. If it is not fixed, then we cannot call ourselves civilized. If we allow such atrocities to continue, then we do not have a true sense of freedom, of liberty and of democracy.


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