Monday, December 29, 2008

Are you literate?

The 2008 America's Most Literate Cities rankings have been released. Seattle and Minneapolis tie for first with St. Paul ranked fourth (having lived in the Twin Cities for 5 years, I have no trouble believing those rankings) while Rhode Island's cities aren't anywhere to be found. Actually, we don't qualify anyway -- the survey is limited to cities with populations in excess of 250,000 while Providence tops out at only 172,000. Hell, the entire state barely crosses the 1 million mark.

The study, by Central Connecticut State University President Dr. John W. Miller, ranks the top 50 cities in the nation based on:
  • newspaper circulation
  • number of bookstores
  • library resources
  • periodical publishing resources
  • educational attainment, and
  • Internet resources
Hmmm...OK, if Providence or even Rhode Island as a whole did qualify, would we have had a shot of getting on this list? Between my wife and I, we read enough books and news, patronize enough bookstores, and listen to enough NPR to carry some portion of the state into at least the #50 spot all by ourselves if there were enough people around to qualify! Seriously, I know we're not a big state but Providence alone is home to multiple colleges and universities (Brown, RI School of Design, RI College, Providence College, Johnson & Wales, etc.) plus others throughout the state. and we've got some smart people here in the Ocean State.

Nevertheless, I can see where we might fall down here in Little Rhody. Newspaper circulation sucks because our local paper has sadly become smaller and less capable, now little more than a collection of articles from other papers and wire services and not even complete articles at that (NY Times articles picked up by the Providence Journal are routinely chopped off to save column inches and I'm pretty sure that words are removed from the middle of some sentences). We canceled our ProJo subscription because we could get better, more complete, and more timely news from other news sources on the Internet or through our subscription to the Sunday New York Times.

We also don't have any major publishing houses here in Rhode Island though there are some outstanding small press publishers like Burning Deck Press in Providence while along the shore, Newport and Middletown are understandably home to a number of major international sailing and boating publications. Bookstores are also tough. Barnes & Noble and Borders have made their presence known to the detriment of some longtime local booksellers (RIP College Hill Bookstore) though thankfully some, like the outstanding and wonderful Island Books in Middletown have survived the big box bookstore onslaught and hopefully will continue to do so for a long time to come.

On the educational side of things, we're in pretty good shape. We're slightly below the national average for high school graduates (82.7% vs 84%) but make up the difference with a 2.4% bump in Bachelor's degrees or higher (29.4% vs 27%). Of course, Minnesota kicks our butt all over the place in these areas but at least we've still got bragging rights over Mississippi.

So, all things considered, we might have a shot if the qualifications were ever altered to allow us to compete. In the meantime, we're going to do all we can here at my house to get in shape for that competition. Bananagrams anyone?

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