Do We Care If Johnny Can Read?

Americans first learned to read to save their souls, then to govern themselves. Now the need is not so clear.

In 1765 John Adams wrote that “A native of America who cannot read or write is as rare an appearance as a Jacobite or a Roman Catholic, that is, as rare as a comet or an earthquake.” He went on to say that “all candid foreigners who have passed through this country and conversed freely with all sorts of people here will allow that they have never seen so much knowledge and civility among the common people in any part of the world.” It is a broad claim. The question is, was it true?Read more »