The State Incentivizes Illiteracy

Most people believe the state wants to promote literacy. If the state was actually interested in promoting literacy you would think it would avoid incentivizing illiteracy but the opposite is true:

THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.

Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18.

“The kids get taken out of the program because the parents are going to lose the check,” said Billie Oaks, who runs a literacy program here in Breathitt County, a poor part of Kentucky. “It’s heartbreaking.”

When an employer wants to attract top talent they generally do so by offering incentives in the form of money and benefits. If you’re a company that wants to hire away a top employee from another company you generally approach that employee with an offer for higher pay and improved benefits. Money is also a common tool to incentivize good behavior. Parents may make their children’s allowance dependent on good behavior, which includes performing chores satisfactorily. Not surprisingly money can be used to incentivize bad behavior, which is what the state does when it makes checks dependent on poor performance.

If a child can net a family a check for being illiterate then that family has a direct interest in preventing their child from becoming literate. Human action is performed in self-interest. When it’s in the interest of the parents to keep their children ignorant they are likely to keep their children ignorant. By rewarding illiteracy the state demonstrates that it doesn’t care whether or not a child remains illiterate, it does demonstrate a desire to keep people dependent on the state though.

One thought on “The State Incentivizes Illiteracy”

  1. The whole purpose of the public school system is state dependence, anyway. For instance, literacy rates in Massachusetts when public schooling started FELL from around 98% to 90%….

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