Yesterday Mr. Lipstick and I attended a World Poverty & Economics lecture at our church (The glory of living in the DC area is that our fellow church members have big important jobs as economists at the places that actually produce the research that impacts policy.)
The entire discussion was fascinating, but I was struck by one slide. It discussed two important factors countries need to pull themselves out of poverty- the existence of a strong education/health care/social welfare network along with the right incentive structure & free market system for companies to bring economic growth to the country.
The room began to fall into a debate on which side was more important- the liberal church members leaning toward the importance of social welfare networks, and the more conservative members leaning toward the importance of the free markets. Both sides had valid points to make, and many were able to cite research to back up their points. Finally the Economist leading the discussion stepped in and brought the discussion back to the importance of both elements-
Countries with strong social welfare systems but do not allow private companies to grow do not pull themselves and their citizens out of poverty, which in turn means they do not have enough resources to actually provide their citizens with the social programs they'd like to provide- no money for education, health care, and welfare.
On the flip side, he went on, what has made countries like China be able to grow is that their citizens had a firm literacy base so that they were able to be able to access the resources the companies provided with their free market resources. When citizens could read they became a work force, could understand how to take care of themselves, and found benefits in the products being produced- if you can't read you don't have much use for an ipod, or other such gadgets.
In order for countries to pull themselves out of poverty- they must have literacy- they must be able to read.
Teaching reading- reading- truly is the strongest weapon to change the world. My little friend the other day who argued that "reading saves lives" knew what she was talking about.
I'm sure I'm not doing the discussion justice particularly with my last econ class almost 10 years behind me, but I don't think it changes the message about literacy.
It kind of makes me want to run out there, grab the nearest kid and start teaching them to read.