During the Great Depression of the 1930s numerous school districts were plagued by high drop-out rates as a result of the economic needs of so many families having to put their children into the workforce, while others fell sick due to malnutrition. When the Depression ended and the Second World War began, the drop-out rate continued as thousands of boys lied about their ages to enlist. As if that wasn't bad enough, many thousands of teachers quit the classrooms for more lucrative positions in the defense industry. By 1946 it was assessed that there were as many as ten million Americans who were unable to read.
"The Army was the first to feel the blow. Selective Service boards started out with instructions to reject all illiterates... The draft boards went blithely along on this principle until there was suddenly an agonized cry from the Army. Between the men who were being rejected for physical reasons and others who were being rejected for illiteracy, almost a third of the possible men were being lost. It was decided then to take the illiterates and educate them."