I’m a lover of books and so is the Mistress of the Manor. We read virtually every day, a lot of the time to each other. Our humble manor and garage are cluttered with books, massive amounts of books. Although the majority are fiction, we have plenty of books dealing with history, religion, politics and, of course, aliens and zombies. The only kinds of books we don’t have are those of the self-help or self-improvement variety. Why? Because we don’t need no stinkin’ help or improvement, we are fine just the way we are.
As you might expect, when I saw a list about the most and least literate cities in these great United States my interest was aroused. Where do the erudite dwell? Where do the refined reside? Where do the well-versed lodge? Then I thought, who cares, I want to know which squalid cities house the people who think a chlamydia brochure is literature. Well, it appears that the majority live in California and Texas. Really, is this any surprise? Hell, in Texas a completed coloring book is considered fine art.
Cities were judged on the weekly newspaper circulation, the percentage of adults with a college degree and the number of retail bookstores per 10,000 people. Now, the newspaper and bookstore categories I feel are legitimate measure of literacy, however, I’m not so sure about the college degree category. You see, I attended college and even graduated, much to the surprise of my parents, who thought I was planning to make college attendance a vocation. During my illustrious college career, and yes, it was illustrious; I knew a lot of very smart people. I also knew people who would go on to graduate despite soaking up about as much knowledge as a pitted prune. There are plenty of people working for minimum wage, participating in illegal activities and sleeping in a van down by the river, who are much smarter than many with college degrees. The mind, not the certificate, determines intelligence.
Anyway, back to the squalid cities of which I spoke earlier. California is the runaway winner in the least literate category with five, yes, count them, five cities among the 10-city list, which is not surprising since the U.S. Department of Education ranks the state dead last with a 23-percent illiteracy rate. Bakersfield claimed the top spot, which would make Buck Owens very proud if he wasn’t dead. The city ranks third from the bottom in both the number of booksellers and periodicals such as newspapers and journals, but, on the bright side, is the nation’s leader in underarm odor. Stockton was third, Anaheim fifth, Fresno seventh and Long Beach 10th. Apparently, books and newspapers have been outlawed in most areas of the state, so most Californians rely on liquor bottles and jars of Cheez Whiz for reading material.
Texas is represented on the list by three cities – runnerup Corpus Christi, No. 4 El Paso and No. 6 San Antonio. Since the main source of reading material for Texans is the brands that appear on cattle’s butts, it’s not surprisingly the Lone Star State ranks 47th in illiteracy with a 19 percent rate. Texans are, however, number one in armadillo molestations. It should also be noted that Corpus Christi’s library resources were among the worst in the nation, mainly because none of the books had been completely colored.
Now, you probably noticed there are two states in between Texas and California at the bottom of the literacy rankings. Those two proud states are Florida, 20 percent illiteracy rate, and New York, 22 percent. And while that is an important fact to know if you’re thinking of relocating, the bigger question may be how did Virginia fare. Well, not so good. The Old Dominion has an illiteracy rate of 12 percent, tying it with Kentucky and Oklahoma for 29th. So to all my fellow Virginians, if books aren’t for you, please, please, please don’t rely on a Cheez Whiz jar for your reading material, lift up your standards. I hear the Grey Poupon label is excellent reading.