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.

Why Most Adult Illiterates Do Not Become Literate

Compared to other “alphabetic languages,” learning to read fluently in English is a very serious problem. Statistics show that presently less than one percent of U.S. adults who have left school will ever get the training they need to become fluent readers. Part of the problem is that functional illiterates do not want to admit that they cannot read very well. Two other problems are that (1) they must spend most of their time making a living (often with more than one job) and caring for their families, and (2) the location and time of the reading classes are so inconvenient that most of those who enroll drop out before learning to read well enough to be functionally literate.

Unless the method of learning to read is made much simpler and quicker, the problems and suffering of functional illiterates will continue and their numbers will increase. Merely tweaking the teaching methods as we have been doing for almost a century will demonstrably NOT solve the problem. Only a revolutionary change, involving “thinking outside the box,” will succeed in ending English functional illiteracy. Only after English-speaking people understand the scope of the problem and the solution, can they be expected to honestly evaluate the proposed solution for our very real literacy crisis.

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English Functional Illiteracy in Developing Nations

Although these blogs have been concentrating on learning to read in the U.S., the same problems and solution applies to English-speaking people in any part of the world. If English-speaking people in other nations are functionally illiterate in English and cannot read English very well they may have a serious educational disadvantage. If their language is one of the many languages in the world that is an unwritten language, or if their nation has financial difficulties in being able to provide their citizens with a sufficient amount of written material in their native language, the inability to read the readily available English material is a very serious educational disadvantage.

English-speaking people in many smaller nations and developing nations around the world will have the same disadvantage described in previous blogs and in information in our website about ending English functional illiteracy. People in other nations can use the same information available for ending the very real literacy crisis to solve their problems in other nations. The information in this amazon.com detail page about the breakthrough book, Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Revised Edition is also available at no-cost and no-obligation in the updated Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Second Revision available in a .pdf format linked in the left-hand column of the “ending English functional illiteracy” link above. This is a 265 page E-book with 164 pages of text, 46 pages in eight appendixes with a multitude of facts and figures supporting the text, 178 references and extensive end notes, an extensive bibliography (including some which were neither quoted nor paraphrased in the text), table of contents and index, glossary, “about the author,” and other features — the ideal way for learning to read.

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Is News Coverage of Scientific Reports Dependable?

Unfortunately, when scientific reports are issued on important studies, many reporters only read the “Executive Summary.” They must hurry to write their article about the report before a competitor does and it is no longer “news.” Furthermore, if the report requires a small amount of mathematical analysis — as was the case with the most accurate study of U.S. adult literacy ever performed — the reporters (most of whom are journalists, not mathematicians) do not try to analyze the data in the report. As a result, the newspaper, TV, and radio reports badly underestimated the seriousness of a recent report on literacy — the most comprehensive and statistically accurate report on U.S. adult literacy ever commissioned by the U.S. government.

Bob C. Cleckler, with Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc., two non-profit educational corporations, has been researching and writing about ending English functional illiteracy since 1985. The extent and seriousness of the problem of illiteracy is much worse than almost anyone realizes. People have a strong tendency to believe what they want to believe, and few people want to believe that teaching reading in the U.S. is as difficult as it really is, because they do not know what to do about it. If anyone determines the true seriousness and extent of English functional illiteracy, they will want to help. The best way is to learn how we can definitely and permanently end what is provably a literacy crisis. The “English functional illiteracy” website linked above provides five short statements on the extent, seriousness, cause, and cost of functional illiteracy and five short statements of how to permanently end English functional illiteracy, all of which are proven by the “Read More” pages following each statement. The home page of this website can be read in less than six minutes. This website also has a link for a no-cost, no-obligation copy of the second revision of the award-winning, breakthrough book titled Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis. A careful, honest evaluation of this book will convince even the most rabid skeptic — who is not completely close-minded about the teaching of reading — that the proven solution to illiteracy that we are advocating is the RIGHT way to solve the serious problem of English functional illiteracy.

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Do We Have A Serious Hidden Problem in the U.S.?

Do we have a serious hidden problem in the U.S.? In a word: yes! Functional illiteracy is being hidden. To a large extent, a person’s literacy level causes a natural separation of the “haves” and the “have nots” through the zoning laws separating houses by purchase price and through the natural separation of the clientele and employees of various businesses and entertainment centers.

Chances are very good, however, that many of your associates — and even some of your family members — are very poor readers who have mastered the art of concealing their illiteracy through various tactics, as a way of avoiding the embarrassment and hurt pride of being found to be illiterate. The news media are complicit in this deception. They do not know how to solve the problem of English functional illiteracy and do not want to alienate educational and political leaders by exposing the problem. So they simply ignore it — if they have investigated enough to even be aware of the problem.

The problem of English functional illiteracy is serious enough, however, that for the sake of easing the problems and suffering of hundreds of millions of illiterates around the world and for reducing the more than $5,000 each year that illiteracy costs every U.S. adult, the facts of English functional illiteracy should be carefully examined. Anyone who carefully, honestly evaluates English functional illiteracy will want to solve our very real literacy crisis, instead of merely fighting the symptoms of the problem as has been done for almost a century now.

There are many reasons why any one student does not learn to read. There is only one problem affecting every student, however: English functional illiteracy. English spelling confuses everyone — all attempts at improving literacy for the last century have, in effect, been fighting the symptoms of confusing spelling instead of correcting (greatly simplifying) the spelling. It is equivalent to taking aspirin, decongestant, and cough medicine to fight the symptoms of the pneumonia instead of antibiotics to solve the problem. In the left-hand column of the “English functional illiteracy” website is a link to a no-cost, no-obligation 265-page E-book which gives a proven solution to our very real literacy crisis.

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America’s Dirty Little Secret, II

Please follow this link to see a very important August 16, 2012 blog about ending our literacy crisis. Placing this blog on more than one website would result in a search engine optimization downgrade.

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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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Debunking All Reasonable Objections to Spelling Reform, Part 4

If you have been reading these blogs and are not concerned about literacy — or more specifically, the shocking level of English functional illiteracy around the world — you have not been paying proper attention to what you read. Or you need to read the most complete blog about our humanitarian project, “America’s Dirty Little Secret.”

If they knew the situation you now face, at least 600 million people would hope you aren’t reading this just for entertainment or for temporary relief from boredom. For the benefit of these 600 million — and for your own benefit — they are hoping you will take action on what you read. For the success of this or any similar humanitarian project, publicity is badly needed. Are you up to the challenge? Do you know at least two or three people you could refer to this blog? Do you know a celebrity whose endorsement would be much more influential than an endorsement from you or me?

This is the fourth in a series of five blogs about the only reasonable objections to spelling reform. Some people will complain that a phonemic spelling would hinder the recognition of the plural and past-tense forms of words. This is not true. If the plurals and past tenses were shown with a standard prefix, the reader might recognize them as plural or past tense a millisecond sooner. When the reader’s eyes reach the end of a word, however, if the word has been recognized (read), the reader knows that the word is plural or past tense — not only by knowing the word but also by the context. The ability to decide the pronunciation from the spelling is a big help in recognizing the word.

What is the ideal solution to our serious English functional illiteracy problem? The website linked here shows the problem and solution for English functional illiteracy. This website gives five short statements of the problem and five short statements of the solution, which can be read in less than six minutes. The proof of each of these statements is shown in the “Read More” pages. This website also has, in the left-hand column, a link to a no-cost download of an amazing, breakthrough, 265 page e-book in .pdf format which — if read carefully and honestly — will convince even the most skeptical reader of the wisdom of adopting the proposed solution to English functional illiteracy.

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Debunking All Reasonable Objections to Spelling Reform, Part 3

Reason for this blog: to start a grass-roots movement of the American public to permanently solve the serious problems that functional illiterates must constantly endure — problems that we would consider a crisis if they occurred to us — which affect a huge number of U.S. adults (see the shocking extent of illiteracy in the U.S.) rather than continuing merely to fight the symptoms of the problem as we have been doing for over 250 years. Merely reading this blog and making complimentary comments will accomplish nothing — readers need to reach logical conclusions from what they read and spend a few minutes to take action to further this important humanitarian project.

This is the third in a series of five blogs on the false excuses people give to avoid making the correction of our spelling which is the obvious way to permanently end English functional illiteracy.

A third and much less convincing supposed disadvantage of spelling reform is that reformed spelling would destroy the etymological or linguistic history of words. Samuel Noory shows that “today’s spelling is in many respects as much an offspring of fancy as of design.” He gives several examples, on pages X-XIV of his book Dictionary of Pronunciation, in which spelling is not based on historical roots. Also, etymologists themselves would prefer to see English spelled phonemically, and thus, from this point forward, have a dynamic history of the language. As it is, we have more than 250 years of repetition of a “snapshot” of spelling the way many words were pronounced 250 years ago — a static history. Adoption of a phonemic spelling of English — as recommended by Dr. Frank Laubach, who is arguably the world’s greatest expert on teaching adults around the world to read — would not result in the instantaneous destruction of all books written in English. On page 48 of Dr. Laubach’s book Forty Years With the Silent Billion, he states, “If we spelled English phonetically, American children could be taught to read in a week.” Dr. Laubach prepared reading primers for 313 languages and devised spelling systems for 220 unwritten languages. He found that adults could be taught to read fluently in from one to twenty days in 95% of the languages and that adults could be taught to read fluently in less than three months in 98% of the languages in which he taught — because 98% of these languages were very nearly phonemic (words spelled the way they sound). In the U.S., almost half of the students never become fluent readers, and those who do become fluent readers require at least two years to do so. This is because there are at least 1,768 ways of spelling only forty phonemes (the smallest sound used to distinguish between syllables or words in a language or dialect), and not even ONE spelling rule that does not have exceptions — some of the exceptions have exceptions! Prior to 1750, English was a conglomeration of the spelling of eight languages, the language of every occupying nation in the British Isles. According to page 2 of Henry Hitchings’ book, The Secret Life of Words, English has adopted words (and usually the spelling) from 350 other languages.

As a result, the question must be asked, “How much more static history of a mid-1700s spelling freeze do we need?” A much more pertinent question must be asked. Let us grant for a moment that the etymological history of present English spelling is very valuable. Should we let the desire for etymological data by a limited number of scholars cause us to keep a spelling system that is causing a severe problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world?

No one knows how many facts will be required to get any one person to take action. Reading all of these blogs may not result in the badly needed action. A very careful, honest reading of Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Second Revision, however, is likely to be very beneficial to hundreds of millions of English functional illiterates by resulting in the needed action — if the reader is at all compassionate about the suffering illiterates. This breakthrough book is available as a no-cost download in .pdf format from our website on ending English functional illiteracy.) This is a 265 page ebook has enough facts and figures to convince anyone who will honestly grapple with the multitude of facts presented. It is offered in the left-hand column of a website which gives a very good introduction to the humanitarian project of Literacy Research Associates, Inc. and NuEnglish, Inc. (two non-profit educational corporations). The home page linked above has five short statement about the serious problem of illiteracy and five short statements about the solution, all of which can be read in about six minutes. The proof of each of the ten statements in given in the “Read More” sections after each statement.

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Debunking All Reasonable Objections to Spelling Reform, Part Two

The Purpose of This Blog: Very few people realize the seriousness of the problem of functional illiteracy in English. The most statistically accurate and thorough study of adult literacy in the U.S. was a five-year, $14 million study commissioned by the U.S. government. It employed lengthy reviews of 26,049 U.S. adults statistically balanced for age, gender, ethnicity and location to represent the entire U.S. population. It was balanced for urban, suburban, and rural locations in twelve states across the U.S. and included 1100 prisoners in 80 prisons.

The report titled Adult Literacy in America (available for free inspection and download here) was released September 8, 1993. It received first page coverage in many newspapers the next day which essentially downplayed the seriousness of the findings (partly at least because the reporters more than likely read only the executive summary rather than the entire 200 page report and largely because the report did not mathematically analyze some of the most important findings). A follow-up report in 2006 (available for free inspection and download here) using a slightly smaller database (19,714 U.S. adults) showed no overall statistical improvement.

These reports proved (1) that 48.7% of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate (defined as reading and writing so poorly that they cannot hold an above-poverty-level-wage job), (2) that 31.2% of U.S. functional illiterates are in poverty, and (3) that functional illiterates are more than twice as likely to be in poverty because of their illiteracy as for all other reasons combined.

The findings in these reports have essentially been ignored since they came out. Many people believe the functional illiteracy rate is lower than the above-mentioned reports prove because of several other reports that came out in the last ten years based upon a smaller database and/or less rigorous statistical methods. Educators and politicians want to believe these reports showing a less serious functional illiteracy problem because — at least in part — the reports mentioned in the paragraph above make them look bad, but primarily because they do not know how to really solve the problem. Their only solution is to request more money for education and request smaller class sizes. Despite numerous attempts at employing increasing amounts of money and smaller class sizes for the last hundred years or so, the literacy rate in the U.S. has not statistically improved.

Numerous apologists for our educational system claim we have made progress in improving literacy. They can only do so, however, by carefully choosing which data they include in their studies and by taking a small enough time period for their studies. Appendix 7 of my book, Let’s End Our Literacy Crisis, Revised Edition gives a point by point refutation of a book claiming that there is not a literacy crisis in America. A more honest evaluation of the data would compare the literacy rate in the eighteenth century (other than that of the slaves who were often uneducated) with that of the twenty-first century. President John Adams did a literacy study in the very early nineteenth century and stated that it was easier to find a meteorite than it was to find an American who could not read.

This is the second in a series of five blogs that debunk all reasonable objections to spelling reform. Spelling reform solves the problem which is the primary cause of English illiteracy — the illogical, inconsistent, and chaotic spelling system — rather than merely fighting the symptoms of the problem. The symptoms of our erratic spelling system are: almost half of the students do not learn to read fluently and most students who do learn to read English fluently require at least two years — students in 98% of the alphabetic languages other than English learn to read fluently in less than three months.

The symptoms of our erratic spelling have been fought for the last hundred years or so by trying to improve (1) the reading textbooks, (2) the teaching method, (3) teacher training, (4) the number of students in each class, and (5) anything else they can think of — other than changing the spelling that is the primary cause of the problem. This makes about as much sense as taking aspirin, decongestants, and cough medicine to fight the symptoms of pneumonia instead of taking antibiotics to cure it!

Debunking Objections to Spelling Reform: Is a standard pronunciation required? Many people believe that instituting spelling reform would require a fixed standard of pronunciation, which we do not have. This line of thinking is a fallacy. We almost always understand each others’ spoken words. We will understand the written transcription of words even more easily than spoken words because spoken words must be understood in the split second in which they are pronounced whereas written words can be examined as long as necessary to understand them. Also, the fact that written words are separated by spaces will be of great assistance in understanding written material. It is often difficult to know the start and end of spoken words because they are run together — unless the speaker purposely speaks slowly and distinctly.

Frank C. Laubach, who was perhaps the world’s best authority on teaching adult illiterates around the world to read, stated on page 233 of his book Teaching the World to Read, “It is a linguistic axiom that what is understandable as speech is also understandable when written with a suitable phonetics.” So, basing our spelling upon pronunciation would not require that we all pronounce words the same to be understood.

No one wants to be told how to pronounce their words — nor should they be. As a result of spelling our words as they sound, however, people’s speech will become more standardized with that of their peers by reading written material published in their area as time goes by. This will occur both by choice and by the same process as widespread use of radio and television begun in the twentieth century caused a large amount of standardization of speech in the area where the radio and television program originated.

Almost every English reader who does very much reading has had the experience of not recognizing a written word that is in their speaking vocabulary. If the word were spelled as it is pronounced they would immediately recognize it. Almost every English reader who does very much reading has seen a new word (not in their speaking vocabulary) that they understand by the context but they do not know how to pronounce it — if they do not take the time to find the word in the dictionary or ask someone who knows the word. At a later date they may hear the word pronounced but not recognize it as a word they read earlier but did not learn how to pronounce. Having a spelling system in which the words are spelled as they are pronounced will help standardize their pronunciation.

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Debunking All Reasonable Objections to Spelling Reform, Part 1

This is part one of a five-part series. This blog is presented in an attempt to promote our humanitarian project which is a proven way of ending functional illiteracy.

For several reasons English illiteracy is very much a hidden problem. As a result, very few people except the closest friends of some of the illiterates know the serious effects of illiteracy.

The most statistically accurate and thorough study of U.S. illiteracy ever commissioned by the U.S. government proves that 48.7% of U.S. adults are functionally illiterate (defined as reading and writing so poorly that they cannot hold an above-poverty-level-wage job), proves that 31.2% of functional illiterates are in poverty, and proves that functional illiterates are more than twice as likely to be in poverty because of their illiteracy as for all other reasons combined.

People may have developed some misconceptions if they have not carefully researched the effects of English spelling upon illiteracy. Certain items, upon brief examination, may seem disadvantages of spelling reform, although they are not. The supposed disadvantage also may be counterbalanced (or even overbalanced) by a corresponding advantage.

Will Existing Writings Become Inaccessible?

This is perhaps people’s most serious objection to spelling reform. Conventional wisdom states that if a completely different spelling system is adopted, all the existing material in English will become inaccessible. However, learning a new language will not make us unable to understand our first language. Learning a new way of spelling will not erase all memory of traditional English spelling. Nor would the printing of new books suddenly cause all the existing books to self-destruct.

The truth is this: all the existing books in English are ALREADY inaccessible — to illiterates! After NuEnglish is implemented, everyone except the most severely mentally handicapped will read. People who now read English will keep their books written in English and read either English or NuEnglish. Libraries will keep their books in English. All others will read only NuEnglish, unless they choose also to learn English, similar to English literature scholars who must learn Middle English to read Chaucer and other writers of his era. Lawyers, English scholars, historians, and all those whose vocation or hobby requires extensive research through written material of the past — if it is not of sufficient interest to make reprinting in NuEnglish economically feasible — would learn English spelling as a college (or possibly high school) elective course.

All the books that are so important that they have a readership large enough to make reprinting economically feasible for the publishers will be reissued in NuEnglish. Competition among printers for their share of the market suddenly swollen with millions of previous non-readers will ensure such an event. In the same way that we recently saw “Now in HDTV!” preceding certain television programs, we will soon see advertisements by bookstores declaring, “Now in NuEnglish!”

Many libraries have few books that are fifty years old or more. Many libraries sell outdated and least used books to make room for new ones. Often the books they sell are only one or two years old. The average age of books in a bookstore is much less than that of books in a library. Few books in a bookstore are so eagerly sought that they will be reprinted for more than a year or two. Our website on Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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