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How To Train Your Child To Be Fully Literate

The great Russian writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, has described the evangelical preachers of Russia as "semi-literate."

  • Ellsworth McIntyre,
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The great Russian writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, has described the evangelical preachers of Russia as "semi-literate." At first glance, this description may seem harsh, but based on what I know of education in America, our college graduates are also certainly less than fully literate. That is, our professionals cannot read, assimilate, make applications, or write original insights based on their own opinions and research. They are captive to what other people say and think. Not only are they politically correct, they are political prisoners, never able to fully function as literate persons. Verbal communication is virtually their only source of ideas. In fairness to our preachers, the same must be said of all of our professions. To put the problem in religious context, Presbyterians are Baptists who can read and Reconstructionists are Presbyterians who can read and think. OK, maybe that's not so funny, but it helps to define the climate of literacy in America, and I suppose Russia as well. What this means to parents is this: Can you trust such people to educate your children? The purpose of this article is to outline a solution for your child's development into a fully literate adult.

I have been a teacher for over 30 years at every level from secondary to pre-school. The most common question asked of me at pencil-and-examination time indicates literacy problems. The question is usually framed, "Do you mean this, or do you mean that?" In other words, the student doesn't trust his interpretation of the printed word. He needs verbal assurance that he is properly reading and comprehending. Also there are problems of application. For example, if the question is: "In your opinion, can it be claimed that the Protestant Reformation was political as well as religious? Support your answer with specific examples," the semi-literate will sweat blood, because the question requires an application instead of mere memorization of information. Another example that exposes or divides the literate from the semi-literate would be, "In your opinion, does God love all men equally? Support your opinion with specific examples from the Bible and reconcile with the contemporary social-economic scale." Such questions give the discerning teacher a sneak preview of which students after graduation will be independent thinkers and able to gather information from print in the marketplace. I frequently find some "A" students mystified by such questions, because they earn their grades by virtue of burping up memorized facts. It was not unusual in my classes to find some of these "scholars" bathed in tears when asked to think, apply, and write down their own opinions and ideas. On the other hand, I discovered some "C" students delighted to get a chance to express those ideas that had personal interest to them. So what? Well, the millionaires or creative stars of our society must be able to assimilate information and create original solutions to problems. The entrepreneur, for example, must produce solutions to a constant stream of problems that may, in general, be similar but always different, because his problems are created by human souls that vary from one another like snowflakes from the sky. For this reason, schools can train economists but only the marketplace can train entrepreneurs. In God's free market, economists earn less money than business owners; teachers can make 10-50 times less than private school owners. In every field the fully literate person (if we define literacy as the ability not only to read but also to assimilate, analyze, and make application to real-life problems), earns enormous sums relative to the ordinary college graduate. As the country western song says, "Mama, don't let your child grow up to be a cowboy," I would say, "Mama, don't let your child grow up to be like his teacher, preacher, accountant or lawyer i.e., semi-literate."

That's the problem; now, please take notes. Here is the solution! Give your home school student a constant stream of assignments that demand independent reading, independent analysis, and independent application. To begin with, use verbal feedback and then progress to written form. For example, your child is assigned to read the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20:1-17. Verbally, you ask him why the Ten Commandments are abbreviated on plaques and stained glass windows. What is left out? Are the Commandments less likely or more likely to be obeyed with warnings, punishment, and rewards omitted? Where in Exodus 20 is it warned that our great-grandchildren are likely to suffer because of our sins? Where in the Ten Commandments is long life and private property promised for obedience? Note, these questions are not open-ended. The child is not asked his opinion at this time. You are guiding the child to read and analyze. Next, you get the child to say in his own words why Exodus 20 is better doctrine than watered-down versions on plaques and stained-glass windows. Next, you get the child to write his opinion (really yours) on paper. Finally, you get him to think of why a child born in the ghetto may want and pray to obey his father, mother, teachers, or policemen better and better (Hint: Be certain the child sees personal material consequences as a direct consequence of obedience to the law.)

At Grace Community Schools, we teach many privileged and under-privileged children in the above manner. We believe teachers who spend four years in our apprenticeship program while pursuing a college degree can become fully literate. Our goal is to produce a new and larger generation who can read and appreciate R. J. Rushdoony. For that reason, we support Chalcedon with our gifts and offerings and urge future educators to start and operate Christian schools like Grace Community. We urge parents to consider sending their high school graduates to us for apprenticeship. I will pay them a salary to "steal all of my trade secrets." After three or four years, your child will know how to start and operate a private school from scratch. When the apprenticeship is complete, use the $50,000 to $100,000 college tuition that you saved to finance the new business instead of lining the pockets of "semi-literate" educators.

For information and employment applications, please write Grace Community Schools, 4405 Outer Dr., Naples, FL 34108; phone 941-793-4022; or fax 941-793-2461. My new book, How to Become a Millionaire in Christian Education, will be available this spring. Advance sales are only $10.00 per copy. Send orders to Nicene Press, 4405 Outer Dr., Naples, FL 34108.

  • Ellsworth McIntyre
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