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One in five UK adults 'illiterate' (a statistic from year 2000)

At least two BBC websites that summarise the news for London ("Page last updated at 21:03 GMT, Monday, 11 August 2008 22:03 UK"), had here and here an identical caption (pictured on right) that said:
'Illiterate Worker' angers judge
An angry judge labels a prosecution worker an "illiterate idiot" for spelling mistakes in an indictment.
The caption was linked to this URL, which - when I followed it - led to a 404 error ("404 - Page Not Found"). Thus it rather looked as though the BBC editors had "pulled" the story, presumably because the matter may have been, or was about to have become sub judice (i.e., under the consideration of a judge or court and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere). One suspects, after such harsh words by the judge - even if uttered out of provocation - that an employee grievance case against the Ministry of Justice was to have been expected. (Note: Thanks for the comment Anonymous - who mentions that there's a news item about it here. I have since noticed that the original URL now leads to the BBC article, not a 404 error anymore.)

Searching the BBC website for the "pulled" news item, I came across this news item (Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK), elsewhere on the BBC, which bore the headline:
One in five UK adults 'illiterate'

That article stated that "At least seven million adults in the UK are functionally illiterate, according to an annual United Nations (UN) survey ... It is going to get worse for people who are functionally illiterate."

Whether it's 20% of the adult population, or 7+ million adults, that would seem like a staggering number of people who might be potentially at risk of being marginalised by virtue of their illiteracy, and who would find it increasingly difficult to find employment in unskilled jobs - where the prediction was that those jobs would tend to have progressively rising literacy entry requirements as standard.

So, 8 years on, it seems as though the entry requirements may not have risen as expected - at least, not in the justice system. Does it matter? Was the judge justified in lambasting the worker for being illiterate? Looking up the definition of "lambast" in my copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, I came across this quote by Alvin Toffler: "Intellectuals..have lambasted television, in particular, for standardizing speech, habits, and tastes."

This made me wonder what, if anything, the BBC might have contributed to high British illiteracy levels, given that one of the purported objectives of the BBC was to help to increase literacy. What else did the erudite Toffler have to say on the matter? Anything he had to say could be worthwhile, given that he was the sociologist and futurologist who authored the best-seller Future Shock (1970).

Well, I found a lot of his quotes here, and this one stood out:
"The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write. They are those that can not learn, unlearn, relearn."
I was gobsmacked by the heavy import of his ingenious playing with tenses in this statement. Was he making a statement about himself, I wondered? However, after some thought I realised that I was becoming somewhat disenchanted and entirely perplexed by it all, and I had to resign myself to the fact that its rilly got to the stage wair I just dunt kno wot I are to make of it.
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  1. 'Illiterate Worker' angers judge' can be found here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1043721/Judge-brands-court-worker-illiterate-idiot-spelling-word-wrong-times-charge-sheet.html

  2. @anonymous
    Thanks for the URL, I have embedded it in the post.