Books not Bombs

By Kenneth S. Goodman

We have been winning a war against illiteracy in the United- States.

Now there is a shift away from this policy. This shift is not simply a shift from spending to not spending. It is a shift from spending on education, health and social welfare to spending on weapons and instruments of warfare….

I believe we must recognize and oppose this shift in national priorities, not only for the good of American society, but also for the good of the world. It is an irony that the countries with the highest rates of illiteracy in the world have great difficulty getting American aid for their schools but no difficulty getting tanks and planes and bombers which often wind up being used to suppress their own desperate, restless people. If we want to keep the Nicaraguans friendly to our interests we would do better to support their literacy campaign than to destabilize their society.

This is what I recently had the opportunity to tell an Appropriations subcommittee of the U.S. Congress: ….[T]he war against illiteracy is relatively inexpensive. We can teach a lot of children to read for what one tank costs. We can run big city school systems for a year for what a bomber costs. We could totally fund all the necessary research on illiteracy we would ever need for far less than a nuclear submarine costs.

If as our President says, we must choose between bombs and books because we cannot afford both, then the choice is clear to me. We cannot pay for military hardware with the hopes of our children.

Kenneth S. Goodman, President, International Reading Association