The Key to Life (Part 1/8)

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So epidemic is the failure to grasp written and spoken communication within this culture, concludes an LRH note circa 1980, "one should not ask further why it is failing.” In particular he cited those statistical links between illiteracy and violence, illiteracy and economic waste and illiteracy as a factor in political unrest. He also now spoke of functional illiteracy or hidden illiteracy as a serious impairment to living itself, while even the most articulate among us are stranded in a “world out of communication.”

     At issue here is the subject of the Key to Life Course: Why we cannot understand one another, and what that failure means to this culture as a whole. How this course came to be is a simple enough matter. In 1978, while working with students who had passed through American and European public schools in the 1950s and 1960s, Ron noted literacy levels far below any he had previously encountered short of Berber tribesmen in Morocco. In the worst, but by no means isolated cases, “they can’t read English in any shape or form, and in their common lives are reading stop signs as advertisements to the disco.” While even former university students were found deficient, and unable to comprehend the potboilers read for amusement. (Thus, the telltale LRH note regarding a student who lost his grip on a western adventure after having read “mounted his roan” for “roamed around the mountains.”) Moreover, the deficiency was ingrained, so that students had eventually come to believe – and this again from a telling LRH note – “Isn’t that the way everybody reads?”

     Subsequent research told more. Fifty percent of the American population cannot read an eighth grade text. The attendant American drop-out rate is five times that of Japan and ten times that of Russia. The fiscal cost of such a crisis to United States industry amounts to twenty billion dollars a year, and so it was not for nothing that a United States Department of Labor warned of “devastating consequences” owing to illiteracy within the American work force. Meanwhile, a random selection of thirty American school teachers found not one able to fully comprehend standard classroom texts (including a thirty-first tested, who had actually authored sections of the text). Finally, and here we come to the core of the problem, still another LRH study had revealed reading and communication skills to be substantially lower than even students themselves had imagined. That is – and this point is crucial – one might presume he reads and communicates with clarity when, in fact, he does not. Hence, the altogether chilling LRH conclusion, “The possibility is that we have a whole civilization which is out of communication.”

The Key to Life Continued...

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