|Students in Harper, Liberia.|
Yet that reflects a selection bias in how we report the news: We cover planes that crash, not planes that take off. Indeed, maybe the most important thing happening in the world today is something that we almost never cover: a stunning decline in poverty, illiteracy and disease.
Huh? You’re wondering what I’ve been smoking! Everybody knows about the spread of war, the rise of AIDS and other diseases, the hopeless intractability of poverty.
One survey found that two-thirds of Americans believed that the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has almost doubled over the last 20 years. Another 29 percent believed that the proportion had remained roughly the same.
When 95 percent of Americans are completely unaware of a transformation of this magnitude, that reflects a flaw in how we journalists cover the world — and I count myself among the guilty. Consider:
• The number of extremely poor people (defined as those earning less than $1 or $1.25 a day, depending on who’s counting) rose inexorably until the middle of the 20th century, then roughly stabilized for a few decades. Since the 1990s, the number of poor has plummeted.
• In 1990, more than 12 million children died before the age of 5; this toll has since dropped by more than half.
• More kids than ever are becoming educated, especially girls. In the 1980s, only half of girls in developing countries completed elementary school; now, 80 percent do.
Read the whole article here: The Most Important Thing, and It's Almost a Secret.