Why are most politicians illiterate?

World Literacy Day : Illiterate people also have a choice

It is the supposedly simple things that suddenly become insurmountable hurdles: operating instructions, package inserts or voting documents. According to Unesco, around 750 million people around the world who are older than 15 cannot read and write properly. 7.5 million live in Germany alone, 320,000 of them in Berlin. Many of them are so-called functionally illiterate, understand a maximum of single sentences, they find it difficult to coherent texts. The social participation of the people is impaired, the federal election becomes an obstacle and illiteracy - to put it somewhat exaggeratedly - a danger for the legitimacy of the democratic community.

Pascal Busche, research assistant at the Federal Association for Literacy and Basic Education, assumes that the majority of illiterate people are able to vote “purely technically”, but questions the extent to which those affected are able to engage in in-depth discussions with the parties. "It would be desirable that they not only allow themselves to be influenced by election advertising and the charisma of politicians in TV programs, but that they are also able to compare their interests with the program," says Busche. That is sometimes difficult, but the ideal of participation.

Basic right to basic education

The German Adult Education Association supports illiterate people in preparing for their elections at Ich-will -wahl -iegen.de. Exercises set to music show how voting works, how to apply for postal voting documents or how to fill out the voting slip correctly. In order to gain access to the content, the Federal Association for Literacy and Basic Education has also developed so-called touchstones on eight subject areas. The answers formulated by the parties in easily understandable sentences, for example on security, migration and education, can be found at www.alphabetisierung.de.

You can also read there how the parties intend to campaign for those affected within the “National Decade for Literacy and Basic Education 2016–2026”. Almost all large parties consider a basic right to basic education to be sensible. The main differences are found in the plans for political implementation.

Gerhard Prange from Berlin, 60 years old, already knows who he will vote for. For the majority of his life he could only write names and addresses, and for the past seven years he has been developing his skills step by step. What contributed to his voting decision? Education, TV news, and an election test at his school. “It's important to vote,” he says. And if you are illiterate you are not stupid.

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