HOWTO Establish a 100% Literacy Rate

One of the nice escapist features of The West Wing is that the characters are verbally much more apt that their current real counterparts. There are a lot of good quips in The West Wing. This is one of my favorite pieces of West Wing script writing:

President Bartlet: Did you know that in Sweden they have a one hundred percent literacy rate? One hundred percent! How did they do that?

Leo McGarry: Maybe they don’t, and they can’t count either.

For the benefit of leaders pondering this question, I reveal the Swedish recipe.

  1. Assume that people want to engage in an activity that in the absence of effective contraception is likely to lead to childbirth.

  2. Don’t make effective contraception available.

  3. Establish social norms that make it unacceptable to have children out of wedlock.

  4. Make marriage subject to a license (from the church).

  5. Make passing an adulthood rite (confirmation) a prerequisite for the marriage license.

  6. Make demonstrating the ability to read text aloud (from the Bible) a prerequisite for passing the adulthood rite.

  7. Make basic education available throughout the kingdom.

That’s it. 100% literacy.

So how is the 100% literacy rate sustained now that #2 and #3 no longer hold? Subtitles.

P.S. According to the CIA, Sweden is losing its grip (2003 data), but Finland (formerly part of Sweden) is still at 100% (2000 data).

P.P.S. Looks like the CIA doesn’t use ISO country codes but makes up its own.