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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Poll: San Francsico's Literasy 'Ranking' Plumetts

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge Literacy problems here...
  • Literacy problems here...
It's hard to read the writing on the wall when you can't read. And, according to a recent national poll, it's getting harder and harder to find a worthwhile, writing-splattered wall to enjoy here in San Francisco.

Central Connecticut State University's yearly "America's Most Literate Cities" rankings are out -- it appears ranking burgs' literacy is CCSU's gig in the same way Texas A&M is driven to engineer gargantuan bonfires -- and San Francisco dropped from fifth to 12th between 2008 and 2009. (Incidentally, Seattle won, as it always does. You can see the Top-10 here).

Now, that's not to say large amounts of San Franciscans have suddenly forgotten how to read or a large convoy of illiterates have landed here. What the CCSU poll contends, rather, is that the trappings of a "literate city" that folks who enjoy, like, literacy and stuff, have withered away here in the past year.

Most notably, according to the study, the number of bookstores in this city have exited even more rapidly than San Francisco's middle class. Trading verbal literacy for mathematical literacy, the study claims that 148 bookstores advertised locally in the Yellow Pages in '08 and only 38 do so now -- a 75 percent reduction (though it is possible -- but not probable -- that every bookseller simultaneously decided to stop advertising. We'll check on that).

For the purposes of CCSU's study, a city's "literary ranking" is tabulated by equally weighted scores in six categories: booksellers; education; Internet, libraries, newspapers, and publications. Since San Francisco dropped from a tie for most booksellers per 10,000 inhabitants last year to 41st this year, that alone essentially accounted for the city's plummeting ranking. But, disturbingly enough, San Francisco dropped in just about every category. Not that this is a surprise, however.

Take newspaper circulation -- sorry about that, folks. But, then again, the Chronicle's new strategy of shedding readers appears to be working out. Mark McLaughlin, a spokesman for CCSU who has worked with university president James Miller on these literacy studies, pointed out that every city's newspaper circulations are dropping. More literate cities, however, boast circulations that drop at a lower rate; as we've put it before, losing less is the new winning.

By the way, San Franciscans can till take pride that our city finished a full 50 places higher than Los Angeles.

McLaughlin took pains to soothe San Franciscans over the results of the study, insisting that our city remains "vibrant" -- and pointing out that, on other quality-of-life measures, such as "walkability," we remain near the top.

Left unsaid, however, is that it's easy to walk from here to there without incident when you're not bothered by reading anything. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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