End Illiteracy in English

The problem of English functional illiteracy is a very real nightmare, but the solution is easier than you would ever dare to dream.

Debunking All Reasonable Objections to Spelling Reform, Part 5

This is the blog where I “bare my soul” — or “spill my guts,” as the saying goes — and the blog where I name the names of the “guilty.”

This the fifth in a series of five blogs in which the falsity of all the “reasonable” objections to spelling reform is exposed. This is the objection which is quite obviously dependent upon a person’s opinion rather than upon a careful consideration of all the pros and cons of the idea. It is the result of reaction for or against only one or two aspects of the idea. In a sense, it is the most difficult to counter because it is based upon a firm opinion, not upon all of the facts.

Perhaps the best example of the objection mentioned in the previous paragraph is the following. Some scholars will say we need to keep our present spelling even though spelling phonemically would reduce the variability in the spelling of plurals because in traditional spelling there are four different ways of spelling plurals: adding S or ES to words not ending in S or Y, adding SES to words ending in S, and changing Y to I and adding ES. There are only three sounds of plurals, S, Z, or UZ. Words in which the plurals are formed in a different manner would be about the same in traditional spelling and in phonemic spelling, such as NuEnglish, which is promoted in these blogs. (See the page in the heading titled “Why NuEnglish is the Optimum Spelling System” to see why we are recommending NuEnglish.)

One scholar (who will probably appreciate remaining anonymous, if he carefully examines this blog) states that the actual differences in sound are “irrelevant.” Let’s analyze this statement. If written communication were the primary form of communication (that is, if all spoken communication were just a way of turning the written words into sounds) and if everyone who had a need to read English knew exactly what sounds every S added to show plurals stood for, the statement might have some validity. Neither “if” is true, however, and the first “if” is the exact opposite of the truth. Regarding the first “if,” the spoken language is primary for these reasons.

  1. Almost everyone learns to speak their native language before learning to read it.
  2. Human beings act as talkers and listeners much more than as readers and writers; 90 percent of all human communication is through speech. (Mario A. Pei, “Language,” The World Book Encyclopedia1979, vol.12, p. 62) Note, however, that written words can be disseminated to more people more easily than spoken words, and the value of what is communicated by written words is often greater.
  3. David Crystal points out that, “No community has ever been found to lack spoken language, but only a minority of languages have ever been written down.” (David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 1987, p. 123)
  4. Writing is simply a way of making spoken words or vocal ideas in the mind permanent for later use by the writer or someone else that the writer wants to communicate with but cannot (or does not desire to) speak to.
  5. Whether a language has a written form is irrelevant to the characteristics of the language itself. Many unwritten languages are as highly structured, as rich in vocabulary, and as efficient for communication as languages that are written.

As Aristotle expressed it, “Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words.” (I. J. Gelb, A Study of Writing, 1963, p. 13) Regarding the second “if,” both beginning readers (especially immigrants trying to learn English) and adult illiterates are badly confused by written words that give no hint of how they are pronounced. Since most English words are learned in spoken form first, if the written word does not suggest how it is to be pronounced, it often cannot be recognized (read).

Why Do Some Scholars Oppose Our Proposed Solution?

Most scholars insist upon precision and “exactitude” (as they should). A few scholars insist upon “pedantic exactitude.” This is insistence upon maintaining “high standards of scholarship” for the purpose of displaying their scholarship. NuEnglish will not require the scholarship of remembering complex spellings and spelling rules. We must not misjudge motives, however. We must not casually attribute all scholarly opposition to spelling reform to pedantic exactitude. Most opposition to spelling reform comes from a natural human resistance to change. It also comes from overlooking the real purpose of a written language. Scholars (like the rest of us) can easily isolate themselves from the monetary and human-suffering costs of illiteracy to such an extent that they may even fail to see that

. . . the purpose of writing is to COMMUNICATE IDEAS, not to display an ability to remember complex spelling rules and traditional spellings of thousands of words.

Dr. Thomas R. Lounsbury, LL.D, L.H.D, emeritus professor of English, Yale University, presents a devastating attack against all the common objections to spelling reform mentioned in previous blogs, as well as the objection of spelling homonyms the same, in his book English Spelling and Spelling Reform published in 1909. He convincingly demonstrates that the real motivation in opposing spelling reform is the natural human tendency to resist change — even change for the better. Although Dr. Lounsbury convincingly disproved the objections to spelling reform, his book is a scholarly one which was evidently not as widely circulated as it should have been. As a result, present-day references to spelling reform still dredge up these same disproven objections as sufficient, in themselves, to dismiss any further consideration of spelling reform. Perhaps another reason his book had no lasting influence is that, although he vehemently attacked what he recognized as ridiculous arguments against spelling reform, he did not take the next logical step of proposing a solution to the problem by advocating a specific spelling reform proposal. The book Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Second Revision does propose a specific spelling reform. A link to a no-cost, no-obligation copy of this breakthrough book is available in the left-hand column of our website for ending English functional illiteracy.

A Common Injustice to Writers

As I am sure you are aware, the number of sales of a book does not depend upon the merit of the book nearly as much as upon how well-known the author may be. Books written by celebrities often sell millions of copies as soon as released. After a large number of people read the book and decide there is little value to the book other than learning interesting facts about the author, the sales will drop off considerably. Many of the books by celebrities make no proposals which will benefit mankind, such as Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Second Revision attempts to do.

I have spent twenty-seven years of my life in researching and writing a book which I am absolutely convinced will greatly benefit every English-speaking person on earth and the nations they live in. I have spent multiple hundreds of hours in researching illiteracy and its cure and in preparing tables and figures for my books — several of the tables required a full day of work to format them to a 5 in. by 8 in. page and still remain legible.

I have spent over $35,000 of my IRA on marketing programs, books sent free to dozens of reviewers, computers, computer programs and accessories, and office supplies and services. Seeing essentially worthless (but entertaining) books sell millions of copies while I have difficulty in getting any serious attention is extremely frustrating. To date, no one of influence other than Gary Sprunk, a person with a genius mentality and a Masters Degree in English Linguistics, has helped in my humanitarian project to end English illiteracy.

Here is a very brief resume to show that my experience as a writer is not a shallow experience. I have a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering degree and worked for Hercules Incorporated for 29 years as an Aerospace, Product, or Safety Engineer. In my last assignment at Hercules I was a Safety Engineer in a $400 million solid-propellant rocket motor manufacturing plant. My boss and I had to review every proposal made by other engineers to change the materials, the equipment, the facilities, the procedure, or the rocket motors themselves. The casting solvent for the solid propellant is about 90% nitroglycerin, which is extremely sensitive to electrostatic discharge, excessive heat, or even mechanical shock (you must NOT bump a container holding liquid that is 90% NG). If we approved the change, my boss and I and the proposing engineer presented the change to the Plant Process Control Board, consisting of the Plant Manager, Assistant Plant Manager, and the heads of all the departments. If we made a mistake, several people could die and property damage of millions of dollars could occur.

I had to write detailed reports of the findings. All of this was good preparation for my research on English literacy which I began in 1985. I realize that measures of intelligence mean little to most people, but for whatever it is worth: a recent IQ test rated my IQ as 133. Supposedly anyone with an IQ over 140 is rated as a genius, so I am certainly not a genius, but my collaborator, Gary Sprunk, has an IQ of about 155 and his work proves that his rating is well-deserved.

Despite all of the facts in the two previous paragraphs, I am still essentially a nobody to over 99.9% of the people who read this blog and who read my book. People have a tendency not to take seriously those who are nobodies. It is as if only the well known scholars, scientists, and inventors of the world can come up with good ideas. It goes much deeper than that, however — my humanitarian project intersects with celebrities.

Celebrities, quite understandably, are almost always very busy. They are busy receiving adulation — and quite often: gifts — from their fans. Seventy-eight celebrities received a gift from me. Copies of my book cost me $17.95 each (since I did not buy them in quantities of more than one hundred) and another $6 to $8 dollars to mail (by Priority Mail, to give the book a little extra sense of value). I sent them a cover letter, a one page article about my book prepared for magazine publication, a five page synopsis of the book, several pages from the government commissioned study of U.S. adult illiteracy, a page with two short suggested endorsements that they could choose or a space for an endorsement that they chose to write, and a copy of my book.

Seven of these celebrities (or more likely: their screeners) had the decency to send me a letter saying that they did not endorse books. The other seventy-one completely ignored my package. It is as if the package did not exist. In fairness, many of the celebrities may not have seen my book. Most of them have someone screen all of their mail. The screeners may have jumped to the conclusion that something that seemed to be too good to be true (that a nobody, an unknown person such as myself, could SOLVE a literacy crisis that they are not convinced even exists) was not true, and they did not want criticism from the celebrity for bothering them with something they were too busy and too important to examine.

I sent copies of my book to every celebrity who has expressed an interest in education, literacy, or dyslexia, as reported by a service that provides contact information about celebrities, categorized by what the celebrities have said they are interested in. Copies were delivered to Andre Agassi, Troy Aikman, Julie Andrews, Jeff Bridges, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffet, Jose Carreras, Cher, Deepak Chopra, Bill Cosby, Tom Cruise, Jamie Lee Curtis, Neil Diamond, Michael J. Fox, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Green, Valerie Harper, Faith Hill, Mick Jagger, George Lucas, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Dr. Phil McGraw, Rupert Murdoch, Dolly Parton, Itzhak Perlman, Keanu Reeves, Rob Reiner, Geraldo Rivera, Nolan Ryan, Carlos Santana, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Sylvester Stallone, Elizabeth Taylor, Charlize Theron, Justin Timberlake, John Travolta, Selena Williams, and Oprah Winfrey between October 3 and October 7, 2008.

Copies were delivered to Princess Beatrice, Halle Berry, Christopher (Ludacris) Bridges, Sergey Brin, Warren Buffet, William J. Clinton, Phil Collins, Michael S. Dell, Matt Dillon, William H. Gates, Wayne Gretzky, Tom Hanks, Goldie Hawn, Samuel L. Jackson, Earvin (Magic) Johnson Jr., Angelina Jolie, Jon Bon Jovi, Ashley Judd, Jessica Lange, Jay Leno, Lindsay Lohan, Yao Ming, Mike Myers, Lou Diamond Phillips, J.K. Rowling, Kurt Russell, Brooke Shields, Gary Sinise, Sharon Stone, Alex Trebek, Denzel Washington, and Kate Winslet between October 1 and October 5, 2009.

It is astounding to me that at least one or two of these people who have expressed an interest in education, literacy, and/or dyslexia or their screeners would not be a little curious, read the cover letter, and then spend a few minutes with the other pages in the package, and send me an endorsement. Is their expressed interest real or just for show? You be the judge. Almost all celebrities are interested in helping alleviate poverty, and some celebrities actually so something about it, but the number of people helped in in the dozens, or even the thousands. If celebrities were interested in helping end functional illiteracy, which is one of the main causes of poverty, they could instead help hundreds of millions of people in one “swell foop,” as Reverend Spooner would say.

The website of Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc. (two non-profit educational corporations) gives a very good introduction to our humanitarian project of permanently ending English functional illiteracy. It gives five short statements about the serious problem of English functional illiteracy and five short statements about the simple, proven solution to illiteracy. The “Read More” pages following each statement gives the proof of the statement. This page can be read in less than six minutes and if read carefully and honestly will convince all but the most skeptical readers, who will probably be convinced by the much more authoritative and comprehensive information in the book titled, Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Second Revision which is available at no cost or obligation in the left-hand column of the website.

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