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Fresno: We’re overpriced, want to be healthier but we’re not very literate

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As you may know, I don’t give those rank-the-city lists that call Fresno the best this or worst that too much credence. Most of them, you have to know, are marketing ploys and attempts to get website clicks.

But I do find them entertaining. And Lord knows we Fresnans love to talk about them. So here are a few lists we’ve ended up on recently. Interpret them as you will.

Responses to "Fresno: We’re overpriced, want to be healthier but we’re not very literate"

Mike Dozier says:

i ain’t gots no understandin of these here things. I be exercisizing on regulrity. i’ze stil gots my hous, near da river. Maybe ita beter to live in Boston and freeze. They no speak englis there tho.

Donald Munro says:

Silly stuff. I’d be curious to know how many of these lists were pumped out before the online age. Like you say, Mike, they’re pretty much a blatant attempt to get website clicks. I couldn’t even find on the Forbes study an explanation of how the scores were determined or the methodology used. So we end up with an “overpriced” list that ranks Fresno way higher than New York. I guess that’s the case if you’re an investment banker and don’t mind paying $5,000 for a decent apartment.

Andrew Gray says:

Yeeeeeup.

Matt Gomes says:

aight so, what is this “literacy� they’re talkin about? or, what are we supposed to make of the title of “least literate�? what does that mean for us?
consider the way this item was measured. i’ve listed the criteria in an order, based on where fresno scored the highest and where we scored the lowest:
- “availability of libraries� (#47.5)
- “circulation of newspapers� (#50)
- data regarding whether residents “visited a newspaper/TV website in the past 7 days�, “purchased a book on the internet in the past 12 months�, or “currently owns an eReader� (#56)
- the number of “retail, rare, and used booksellers as of November, 2011� excluding “‘specialty,’ ‘adult,’ or ‘religious’ bookstores� (rank #67)
- “circulation of magazines� (#70)
- education level (#71)
what are we supposed to make of this information? that we’re actually “less literate� because fewer fresnans buy magazines? or own e-readers? or because there aren’t enough rare booksellers?
i’m gonna backtrack a second here, because when i read this, i was immediately reminded of the unemployment list you link to. [or, “to which you link� – 4 da grammar stikklers] notice how 6 out of 10 of those cities are in the central valley. notice how, in this study, again the valley’s major cities anchor the list.

hopefully you see where i’m going with this. i think the economic conditions in the valley deeply inform this literacy study. i think that, perhaps, we can entertain other possibilities. for example, i have heard people talk recently about a “brain drain� of college graduates leaving the valley, in search of a job. because they can’t find one here. (& so there goes our education level ranking! dang) i think it’s also possible (really, i believe it’s probable) that the economy of the valley simply cannot sustain enterprises like rare bookstores, or small book retailers who do not specialize, whether its in bibles or in porn.

2 other points:

- “literacy� tends to mean both reading and writing activities. mike dozier’s comment suggests as much, in his effort “2 rprezent a lakk uv litraciez via graffolektikal invntivnessez, aka fukkn w/ hiz grammarz� at the same time, the only things measured here are activities of consumption, namely the consumption of reading material. there is no criterion which seems to measure any kind of writing activity.

- i think that the reading activities that are listed in this study are largely luxuries, which require extra time and money. the study could have taken into account different reading activities: the ability to read and sign government forms, for example, or the ability to read instructions, or to read nutrition labels, or to comprehend political propaganda in order to make “informed� voting decisions, or the number of bible studies. literally, there are a million things you could measure which require reading. (“literally,� there are more.) it just so happens that the items which were measured require time and money. and you’ll notice, the measurements which indicate the cheapest activities are the areas where we rank the highest: access to libraries, newspaper circulation, internet browsing/e-reading.

this is something that is deeply concerning to me, because i think this study discloses how “literacy� can become a mask for “class.� at the same time, “literacy� tends to signify “intelligence.� and “literacy� implies its opposite, “illiteracy� (as in “Bakersfield is the most illiterate city on the list�). very quickly, then, i somebody might translate studies like these as “well, we’re just hella dumb! (statistically)�

mike, I think this is important to think about. during your time as a writer in fresno, i’ve noticed how bothered you are when fresnans hate on fresno. it’s something i see you returning to in your writing: how have we internalized this inferiority complex?

i’m not saying that these “lists� are solely responsible for perpetuating this complex, but they give some insight. when we look at ourselves, through whose eyes do we look? what standards do we use to judge ourselves?