This page contains shortened samples from the writings of Dr. Edward Rondthaler. He wrote weekly editorials in various newspapers, plus articles, books, and a bi-weekly newsletter that was dedicated to the cause of literacy and suggestions for facing the real causes of our plunging literacy rates. A few samples are collected here.
Study Says Half of Adults in U.S.
Can't Read or Handle Arithmetic
Nearly half of the nation's 191 million adult citizens are not proficient enough in English to write a letter about a billing error or to calculate the
length of a bus trip from a published schedule, according to a four-year Federal study of literacy in America.
The study, released by the Education Department, presented a bleak statistical portrait of the nation's literacy.
The Department tested more than 26,000 Americans, in a representative sampling of those above the age of 15, with questions revolving around
practical matters that people face every day... making out a bank deposit slip and understanding instructions for prospective jurors.
...Insufficient education and a growing number of adults whose first language is not English were important reasons that the scores were so low.
...conducted by the Educational Testing Service, the New Jersey Company that administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test for college admissions and
other standardized tests.
...called for a comprehensive approach to solutions, involving businesses, schools, and community groups.
...businesses estimate they lose between $25 billion and $30 billion a year nationwide in lost productivity, errors, and accidents attributable to poor
literacy. So, the results came as no surprise to the business community.
Dr. Rondthaler on Illiteracy Figures and Causes
If you're flying to Mexico, you can hold in your hand a little card that shows the spelling of every Spanish sound. Then, when the plane lands,
you can pronounce, in Spanish, virtually every word on every sign you see. You won't know
the meaning of many words, but you can pronounce them, and that's a good start toward learning the language.
The reverse is not true. No immigrant coming to the U.S. can hold a card that shows the spelling of English sounds. Such a card, if it could be made
would be the size of a refrigerator door since we spell our 42 sounds in a potpourri of over 400 different ways. Scores of rules and exceptions add to the confusion.
In our major cities over a hundred different languages are in daily use. For many immigrants this means little or no communication beyond their ethnic
borders. They never see the big picture. We lose them as creative and productive citizens... An innovative proposal follows...
From the Book "Dictionary of Simplified American Spelling"
In this book the 45,000 most frequently used English words are listed in standard and simplified spellings arranged
in parallel columns for handy comparison.
The book includes statistics on frequency of phoneme occurrences, and contains charts
graphically depicting the wide variety of ways in which most of our phonemes are spelled.
Shown, for example, are the 24 different ways in which the spoken oo-sound (as heard in
"moon") is spelled.
In this short list from the book, note that only six English words (followed by a dash) are spelled
as they should be pronounced.
That implies that about 85% of normal English words have arbitrary
letters scattered throughout, resulting from centuries of random evolution from old English and the
influence of foreign words as they were assimilated into English.
Many more tables like the one further below are displayed in the Red Simplified Spelling Dictionary.
The tables are displayed elsewhere on this web site also for nearly all English vowel and principal consonant sounds,
Easily over three-fourths of the words on an average page have
irregular spellings as shown in the book. (Scientific and foreign words not included.)
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Old Fashioned Spelling is Tuf and Dum
by Edward Rondthaler
(Excerpts from the U.S. News & World Report article, available from the ALC.)
About a month ago we crowned the latest winner of the National
Spelling Bee. This 13-year-old champion has memorized more illogical English spellings
than most of us master in a lifetime.
...The (Spelling Bee) lauds a course of study that lags far
behind the times and is partly to blame for our illiteracy and its disastrous
It's not easy to defend English spelling. Try explaining to a
rational child why sane adults spell KUM "come" or DUM "dumb" or BLUD
"blood" or SED "said" or TUF "tough." Where's the logic?
Other means of communication don't scramble words. Neither TV
nor radio nor tape recordings nor the telephone give us sounds that must be unscrambled to
be understood. Our spelling ought to be a mirror of speech. Other languages do it. . . .
(This article was written in 1987. Since then Germany
identified 185 core words (in 1996) whose spellings did not consistently identify sounds,
and they corrected them to a simpler, consistent spelling by government legislation.
Spelling has never been a grade school subject in Germany, France, or Spain.)