The Country That Stopped Reading

David Toscana, New York Times, March 5, 2013

Earlier this week, I spotted, among the job listings in the newspaper Reforma, an ad from a restaurant in Mexico City looking to hire dishwashers. The requirement: a secondary school diploma.

Years ago, school was not for everyone. Classrooms were places for discipline, study. Teachers were respected figures. Parents actually gave them permission to punish their children by slapping them or tugging their ears. But at least in those days, schools aimed to offer a more dignified life.

Nowadays more children attend school than ever before, but they learn much less. They learn almost nothing. The proportion of the Mexican population that is literate is going up, but in absolute numbers, there are more illiterate people in Mexico now than there were 12 years ago. Even if baseline literacy, the ability to read a street sign or news bulletin, is rising, the practice of reading an actual book is not. Once a reasonably well-educated country, Mexico took the penultimate spot, out of 108 countries, in a Unesco assessment of reading habits a few years ago.

One cannot help but ask the Mexican educational system, “How is it possible that I hand over a child for six hours every day, five days a week, and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?”

Despite recent gains in industrial development and increasing numbers of engineering graduates, Mexico is floundering socially, politically and economically because so many of its citizens do not read. Upon taking office in December, our new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, immediately announced a program to improve education. This is typical. All presidents do this upon taking office.

The first step in his plan to improve education? Put the leader of the teachers’ union, Elba Esther Gordillo, in jail—which he did last week. Ms. Gordillo, who has led the 1.5 million-member union for 23 years, is suspected of embezzling about $200 million.


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  • sbuffalonative

    Why waste your time getting an education when your dream is to cross the border into the US and get government aid?
    If Mexico can’t educate their own people in their own language, why do people believe we can educate them here in any language?

    • Oil Can Harry

      True. And did you notice the New York Slimes calls Mexico “The Country That Stopped Reading”.

      Stopped? When did they begin?

  • [Guest]

    >>>Years ago, school was not for everyone. Classrooms were places for discipline, study.

    True. But democratization and egalitarianism have proven to be the grave error that earlier generations of thinkers recognized them to be.

  • One cannot help but ask the Mexican educational system, “How is it
    possible that I hand over a child for six hours every day, five days a
    week, and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?”

    Also, New York:

    • Howard W. Campbell

      Educating Indians who are barely out of the prehistoric era is about the same as educating blacks. Darn of those 70 IQ’s get in the way of progress. You can’t fix stupid!

      • Michael Harreskov

        Forrest Gump did Ok…

        • Anglokraut

          Okay–that movie? It’s not a documentary. Hope that clears up some misconceptions.

  • Tim

    As the former owner of a Mexican Cement Tile studio I have to contest this. When I was often in Monterrey circa 1994-99 , the were almost as many bookstores as there were VIP`s coffee shops. Maybe things or generations have changed in 25 years. I remember when their stone masons and cement guys were among the best in the world. Now it` seems to be a trade to earn money from Home Depot.

    • Anglokraut

      From what I’ve learned in conversation with Mexicans, Monterrey was a great place before the drug war heated up.

      • Tim

        Yeah it was. But you couldn`t pay me to go there now . It was like a Mexican New York. And the people were a distinctly different breed. Like the Mexican heros and heroines you`d see in an old Roy Rogers movie. I used to stay at the Gran Ancirra where Pancho Villa once checked in on horse back.

        • dukem1

          Sounds like Mexico is just like everywhere else these days..Used to be nice, now it’s not.
          Gee, I wonder what happened?

      • So CAL Snowman

        Yeah there were also A LOT of “White” mexicans that lived there. The University of Monterrey was also respected as an international center of knowledge. Now it’s just your typical mexican hell hole.

  • Anglokraut

    Perhaps add elocution to the curriculum, and take a real step forward in snuffing out that whiny quality to “Latin American” Spanish. My lessons in European Spanish had a sing-song flow that was quite pleasant. The Spanish I hear at work has all the acoustic charm of Fran Drescher.

  • So CAL Snowman

    And this is surprising WHY? What has mexico ever given the world in terms of scientific achievement, medical breakthroughs, literature, or technological advances. It’s funny, these people can’t read yet they somehow manage to fill out all of the welfare forms and get on all the SSI disability schemes.

    • The__Bobster

      They get a lot of help from libtard social workers.

    • They have some fine writers: Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Rulfo,.. But these folks were, actually, whites.

  • The__Bobster

    One cannot help but ask the Mexican educational system, “How is it possible that I hand over a child for six hours every day, five days a week, and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?”
    How? Here’s how:

    She ought to be behind bars, but education reform with a focus on teachers instead of students is nothing new. For many years now, the job of the education secretary has been not to educate Mexicans but to deal with the teachers and their labor issues. Nobody in Mexico organizes as many strikes as the teachers’ union. And, sadly, many teachers, who often buy or inherit their jobs, are lacking in education themselves.

    • Diamond_Lil

      “One cannot help but ask the Mexican educational system, “How is it possible that I hand over a child for six hours every day, five days a week, and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?”

      Mexicans, particularly the very brown ones, are stupid. And when stupid doesn’t want to learn, you can’t teach stupid.

      • TheAntidote

        Well, how stupid can they be? Before Cortez burst their bubble they had large scale agriculture, a calendar better than Europe’s, pyramids, roads, canals, and a type of astronomy. I don’t think there’s any danger these Indios will turn L.A. or Phoenix into Detroits.

        • “A calendar better than Europe’s”

          Huh? I am not aware of a pre-Cortez Indo/Mezo civilization having an inkling that the year was anything but exactly 365 days long. Meanwhile, by 1582, with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, Western civilization and the developed astronomers and scientists therein figured the year being 365.2425 days long. This was after having settled in on a 365.25 day long year since ancient times. Which means that ancient white men had a better calendar than any unmolested Indo/Mezo civilizations.

        • ViktorNN

          The Aztecs and the Maya both experienced large scale famines and wrecked large areas of the environment they lived in due to poor agricultural practices. In fact, the Mayan civilization almost completely disappeared and became a shadow of its former self thanks to problems of their own creation (overpopulation plus environmental degradation).

          The fact that they weren’t able to solve these kinds of problems doesn’t say much about the ability of their best and brightest. And if this isn’t evidence enough, the fact that the massive Aztec empire was brought down by approx. 500 – yes 500 – soldiers speaks volumes, in my opinion.

  • IKantunderstand

    The second step in his plan? Continue to export his illiterate citizens to the U.S., where they either learn how to read, or, count as our country’s population of illiterates.

  • bigone4u

    The Mexican-Americans (Mexicanos) I encountered in 30 years of teaching college do not read books. As I wrote on a recent post here, the local Goodwill has a huge selection of books for 49 cents each, but very few takers. What do Mexicananos like to do? The ones I am familiar with love the Spurs and other black sports, low riders, cable TV, and constantly yakking on cell phones. It’s a different culture than my culture and one that does nothing to help the Mexicano advance economically or socially. There are of course exceptions to my generalizations.

    • bluffcreek1967

      That’s very true. The ones who do like to ‘read,’ enjoy these booklets that are essentially comic books in Spanish. I’m not sure what they’re called, but for most Mexicans, that’s about as deep as it gets. When you tell whites about this, they think you’re exaggerating. But that’s only because they don’t deal with Mexicans on a deeply personal, everyday level. When you do, you finally realize how backwards and primitive these people truly are.

      • Fotonovelas.

        • bluffcreek1967

          Thank you.

    • Jenna Kerr

      You forgot gang-banging, drug dealing & stealing.

  • 1proactive2

    They really don’t have to learn. There is no need, and it’s no longer shameful to be a member of the parasite class. These are the people who take money from the productive in order to live a life of doing nothing but getting high and making babies they won’t parent.

    A majority of U.S. voters want the government to take care of them from cradle to grave, and the Democratic congress is more than willing to oblige them. After all, the government “cares”, the free money will never run out – just because, and the majority has spoken.

    Learn to read? Why?

  • bluffcreek1967

    This article doesn’t come as any surprise to those of who have had to deal with the Mexican illegals on a daily basis throughout their careers. Some are shy and humble, others are meaner than snakes, but they are almost all dumber than a bag of rocks! As a cop, I’ve witnessed that many of them cannot even spell their names, most just barely. A good portion of them aren’t even sure of their date of birth. Believe me, Mexico doesn’t give us their best and brightest!

    “My Experience with Mexicans Working Traffic,”

  • NeanderthalDNA

    The worst were the Puerto Ricans when I taught Spanish. The “Boriquas”. Invariably along with a few nice ones, the laziest, loudest, most ghetto Boriquas would slip slide their ways into some basic Spanish class, expecting that the fact that they could ook out their mushmouthed, Africanized creole Spanish meant they’d schlep out a decent grade while doing nothing but sleeping, disrupting class, and sucking their teeth. And invariably, to their outraged, befuddled amazement, they’d fail or barely eek out an inflated “D” when I had the audacity to teach them grammar.

    Not that there were no lazy Mexicans nor that all PRs were lazy and foul. In general I was liked by most Hispanic students. Once inadvertently/on purpose talked to a higher up in the Latin Kings about an especially troubling little ghetto Boriqua. No problems. Often those guys would surprise me – quiet, outwardly respectful, then they’d come home from Summer in Newark with a big scar on their face. “That kid? He’s in that gang stuff? Hmmm…”

    Once, however I had this quiet little (ILLEGAL) Mexican fellow, from some very Indian part of Mexico. Hard as hell to understand his dialect, but he was no fan of the Boriquas (nor any more capable of working the grammar of his sorta native tongue). Told me the following joke…

    Why don’t you ever see Puerto Ricans on Star Trek?

    They won’t work in the future either.

    Well, that’s a brief encapsulation of my experiences with Hispanic illiteracy and semi-literacy.

    • newscomments70

      I live in a hispanic state. Most of the cops are Mexican. If there is ever a legal incident, car accident, etc, many cannot read or write. They cannot even write Spanish words.

      • NeandrthalDNA

        Which is amazing considering Spanish is just about as close to a phonetic language you will find. Big difference between ooking out streetspeak and properly using the rather straightforward rules of Castillan grammar.

        • newscomments70

          That’s what I was thinking. I remember our spanish teachers in Middle School bragged, “everything is spelled the way it is pronounced”…but a hispanic cop cannot spell, “Santa Monica”. It’s very scary living here.

          • NeanderthalDNA

            Yeah…there are a FEW instances where one might confuse one letter for another but especially in terms of vowels it couldn’t be more straightforward if it were designed thusly. Beautiful, simple yet subtle language when spoken/written correctly.

            But if you can’t spell it…don’t know what to say…it ain’t English, lol…

          • newscomments70

            I feel badly for some of them. How does one survive if he or she does not know even one language that well? The recent immigrants speak some form of illiterate pidgeon, Spanish, but their kids do not know Spanish nor English.

          • NeanderthalDNA

            I was married to a Costa Rican many moons ago. Boy did she get steamed when someone confused her with EITHER a Mexican or a Puerto Rican. Her family was pretty Castillan, a little Indio on mom’s side (though not much), family full of blondes and folk who here would easily pass for “white” until they opened their mouths, lol. Why? Because they ARE white. She was the only one who came here, because of me. Later her brother followed but I doubt you would knoe he’s “Hispanic” either, even after he opens his mouth.

            Point is, most Hispanics like them…stay there and run the place and when they come here they look, act, and live White, which makes them white and you don’t know them because you meet them and assume they are white. Because they are, LOL.

            The two most obvious groups here are the Puerto Ricans, who as citizens, can come and go and have been beneficiaries of forced wealth redistribution for a long time. Some, like the “Sheen” clan (Esteves?) are obviously white. Ol’ Charlie may be nuts, but he’s nuts like a white person, and a good tipper. White.

            So understand, I have nothing against “Hispanics” whatsoever. I just believe, as my former in-laws did, that some Hispanics are white, many are mixed, some are Indian or black. In my experience, the further away from white, especially the further along toward black, the more likely there would be trouble. As far as I’m concerned most Puerto Ricans are black, culturally – an interesting contrast to the Dominicans who are a tad blacker on average, genetically, but often stridently consider themselves white. Read up on the 30 year Haitian occupation of Hispaniola to understand that little weirdness…

          • Costa Ricans are white, most of them (like Argentinians, say). Sheen clan is white by any standard- they are partly Spanish, from Europe (not “Hispanic”).Puerto Ricans are strange- many are light skinned & many could pass as “brown whites”, visually, but have some inner affinity with Blacks (behavior, preferences, …).

  • DudeWheresMyCountry?

    “Books? We don need no stinking books!” Primitive, shameless people.

    • Years ago I hired a regular white guy who bragged to me that he’d never read a book in his life and had no intention of doing so.

      • newscomments70

        Yeah, so that means every white guy is exactly the same. We’re all the same person. You look at averages, not one individual.

      • Katherine McChesney

        I think he was stretching the truth. Tough talk.

  • Felix_M

    There are a lot of Mexicans who shop at the same grocery store I do, the one with the lowest prices, and in the magazine section there isn’t a single paper or magazine in Spanish. Nor do I ever see a single one at any of the other of big chain stores.

    And this is what we’re bringing into the country by tens of millions when we’re telling our kids to learn because they’re going to have to compete with the best and brightest from abroad. It makes no sense.

    • Anglokraut

      The magazine racks at my workplaces are full of Spanish magazines, but nothing more sophisticated than TV y Mas, or just about any magazine that follows the novellas. Simple stories about television shows, with a gorgeous actress on the cover. The Spanish language trade magazines at contractor services are free, yet gather dust.

  • shaunantijihad

    Because it is getting more Negro. As the Negro gene spreads, so does low IQ. Anyone promoting racial “diversity” into White lands is perpetrating a gene war.

  • Bill

    Did they ever BEGIN reading in Mexico? They care about as much about learning in Mexico as they do when they invade us across our Obama-inspired open borders, which is to say not at all. They do NOT come here to learn to read. They come here to suck up all the welfare freebies we stupidly give them. That, and take our services, construction, and trades jobs out from under us at slave wages, while WE taxpayers are paying for the medical care, schooling, social services and other benefits usually payed for by reputable, HONEST employers through health care plans, taxes payed to the community and federals through paycheck deductions, etc. That doesn’t happen when you are relying upon off the books illegal alien scum as your employment pool, and paying them under the table in cash.

  • hernandez

    When a foreign nation leader like Obama advertises in Spanish on the Mexican media for over 4 years to come to America and get everything free and clear and a better life what do you expect would happen down there in the 3rd world druggie banana republic? Hell, you are being prodded by the liberal socialist president to move north and get the damn hated white race down to a minority to become another 3rd world heaven with everything free should immediately attract about 20-30 million spics like a swarm of green flies on fresh smoking horse hockey. But then again goofball Bush had already primed them to flood the borders with 20-30 million for 8 previous yrs with the promise of the same thing only he didn’t advertise but relied on world of mouth to do those dirty sweat jobs college educated blacks and drug dealers refused to do anymore. Plus Mexican leadership couldn’t wait to get rid of the undesirables the same way Castro opened his jail cells for Carter’s open arms in 1979 and the way African tribal chiefs hocked off their rejects to the dumb ass white slave traders in the largest continental purge in history although the kings and queens of Europe didn’t mind losing their human refuse to the west either but that was voluntarily.

  • Michael_C_Scott

    The upper classes there are having fewer children while they foist off their Mayan and Aztec ex-servants upon the Nortamericano taxpayer.

  • Paleoconn

    ‘Stopped reading’? When did they ever read? Well, they do SOME reading, for instance the sign to the welfare office or the unemployment line, or where to vote, or the sign directing to the prison chow line.

  • Michael Harreskov

    Do the Unions run schools in Mexico too?

  • Guest

    The tropical/equatorial institution of Roman Catholicism has always discouraged intelligence and gumption in lieu of faith and conformity.

    Reading, like math and self-discipline, is difficult. Reason and deferment of whims are difficult. People whose families’ biggest interest in life is the next saint’s day/feast/festival, the next low rider convention, and the next fotonovela or soap opera are not likely to develop any capacities other than going along to get along as easily as possible. The open bordered welfare state of Calexico USA hits up productive American taxpayers to foot the bill for this degradation of human potential. And when states try to stop this, like Arizona, the full wrath of the multiculti federal government come down on them.

    The good and respected teachers who survive in the increasingly dumbed-down school systems run by careerists and illiterates with degree-mill Ed.D.s and MBAs–well, bless them, they try. But low IQs coupled with low-aspiring family culture–which treats getting knocked up at age 14 as the latest milagro–there’s nothing that good old American institutions like public schooling can do about that. For starters, you can’t make Americans out of people who genuinely think that cockfighting and baby beauty pageants are as valuable as libraries and intrepidly cobbled community theatre versions of /Julius Caesar/.

    Read H.L. Mencken, Sahara of the Bozart. He was talking about the degraded bumpkinry of the South, not the Southwest, but same idea.