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Illiteracy

fourteen, children and age

ILLITERACY The results of this increase in school attendance are seen in the figures for illiteracy. (Persons seem to have been reported as " illiterate " at the last census if they could not write their names.) Among children ten to fourteen years old, the age group which has had the advantage of the latest exten sion of educational privileges and requirements, there were only four out of a hundred who were " illiterate " ; among white children of native paren tage there were only two. In each older group of persons the proportion was higher, until at sixty five and over there were about fifteen in every hundred who could not write, the increase in il literacy at successive ages taking us back through successive gradations of less and less favorable childhood conditions, as far as facilities for educa tion are concerned. This again is seen most strik ingly among the Negroes: among the old people three-fourths are reported as illiterate, but the proportion decreases to less than one-fifth among the children ten to fourteen years of age.

Even in the way of keeping young children in school, therefore, we still have much to do, and serious efforts for those over fourteen are still in the future. The curve of school attendance, which you may imagine as rising from early childhood to the age of eleven, having a narrow apex of only three years from eleven to thirteen, falling at four teen and then more rapidly, must be considerably modified. It should be filled out and lifted up until it embraces at ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen years of age all the children whose education can profitably be carried on in schoolsó say something like ninety-nine and a half per cent instead of only eighty; and then it should be kept steadily at that same high point through fifteen and sixteen, and after sixteen should not be allowed to descend so precipitately. The "wasted years" between fourteen and sixteen, which are worse than wasted if used for earning, are the most pro ductive years for development.