[Spelling Reform Anthology §21.1 p275]
[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Summer 1976, p1]
[Also on this page: SSS Conference proceedings.]

Guest column: Illiteracy: a shortcut to crime.


The writer is a circuit court judge in Pinellas County.

On a recent weekend of court duty I made some startling observations and primitive conclusions. Of 24 persons charged with crimes from tape to attempted murder, right on down to drunk driving, one was female, one was black and one was a white male over 25. All the rest, 21 of them, were white males under 25.

In the courtroom exchange of advice and questions, there is a time when each defendant is invited to read some basic documents, such as an affidavit that he is insolvent, if that be true. Each is asked of his background, including the extent of his education. On this particular weekend, 21 of 24 had this coincidence of characteristics: White, male, under 25, had not finished high school, could not adequately read and write, and was charged with a serious crime.

THERE ARE many causes of reading problems, some anatomical, some environmental and some are a combination. Improvement is possible in all of them.

But the frustration of being unable to read adequately and write is as universally deep and dismal and desperate as the depths of devildom.

To the bound and gagged non-reader, work applications are as mind-boggling as the cockpit of a jet airliner and today the reading of instructions and the writing of applications are necessary to survival.

It is unique torture for a man to have a good native intellect, and know that he has, and to know further that he is doing a good job, and be ready for promotion when his supervisor offers him advancement and says, "Send me a memo" or "Give me the usual weekly reports." Every waking moment he hides self-magnified ineptitude from everyone. Pressure seeks escape. Escape equals shortcut.

SHORTCUT EQUALS crime. No money - shortcut - steal. The taunt of a human impediment - short-cut - lash out with violence. Inferiority - shortcut - rape, or anything. It is called vicarious compensation; one sense is lost, the others are strengthened. A child who cannot read a road sign will be able to tell you that he has been on this road before because his powers of observation have been substituted for his powers to read. When he has to cope with in adult world his responses have already been patterned, impressed, stamped - the vehicle for crime - shortcut.

In Pinellas County the remedial reading program is high in quality, disastrously inadequate in quantity.

Young criminals sit in jail while their victims are in the hospital. Teachers recognize the problem, but have neither the time nor training to deal with so many. The problem is not with the individual teacher, it is with the program. More raw education is accomplished from level zero to 70 than from 70 to 100. Eighty per cent of the new criminals I see would not be there if they had graduated from high school and could read and write adequately.

Jail is no deterrent to the illiterate. Once when giving a young man a five-year sentence he smiled and said, "I thought you were going to give me 10." What he really meant was "I hoped you were going to give me 10." In jail he is in a more comfortable environment since he can better cope with the others who are there.

When society offers no fulfillment and when jail offers no threat, the nation is at internal war.

In every jail, penitentiary and road camp, there should be a representative of a school system to simply test and then educate each inmate in basic reading and writing skills. The inept will fear the school worse than they fear the jail. Those who are incarcerated anyhow and learn and leave, go forth with a rather brighter new outlook than is furnished by a baggy suit, a bus ticket and the skill to make license plates.

Other things can wait. The governor, the Legislature and the school board cannot permit society to remain deaf, dumb - and robbed blind.


[Spelling Reform Anthology §2.13 p39]
[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Summer 1976, p5]
[See Conference items.]

Proceedings of the 1975 Conference of the Simplified Spelling Society.

The papers presented at the 1975 Conference in London will be published this summer under the title, 'Reading and Spelling,' Proceedings of the 1975 Conference. This limited edition will contain nearly 200 pages and will cost £4.00 ($10.00 USA) postpaid. Send in your payment now to be assured of getting a copy. The advance sales will determine how many will be printed.

The contents will be as follows:
Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt, by David Seton.
Writing in Japanese, by Prof. F. J. Daniels.
Ancient & Modern African Syllabaries, by Geo. O'Halloran.
Sounds & Symbols in Spanish, by A. R. G. Burrows.
Problems of Spelling in German by Rolf Landolt.
The History of English Spelling, by Dr. D. Scragg.
Speed-Writing Shorthand, by Bryan Edwards.
Possibilities of a Useful Pasigraphy, by Prof. T. Hofmann.
Visual Methods in Teaching Reading, by George O'Halloran.
Phonic Methods in Teaching Reading, Beatrix Tudor-Hart.
Chomsky, the English Orthography & Reading, Prof. John Downing.
Spelling, Psychology & Colour Story Reading, Ken Jones.
Regularised English & the Teaching of Reading, Prof. Axel Wijk.
Direct Methods in Teaching Eng. as a For. Lang., Dr. J. Osanyinbi.
A Cross Cultural Study of Eng. Lang. Competence, Dr. J. Osanyinbi.
Illiteracy: Is Eng. Spelling a Factor?, by Marjorie Chaplin.
Sensubul English Spelling, by Hugh Jamieson of the Simplified Spelling Society.
Essential Requirements for Reformed Spelling, by Dr. W. Gassner.
The Spel, by Patrick Burke.
Torskript, by Vic. Paulsen.
A Future Orthography Balancing Sound & Sense, by D. Masson.
Towards a Spelling Reform, by Prof. A. Mazurkiewicz.
Spelling & Parliament, by W. Reed.
Light at the End of the Tunnel, by Ed. Rondthaler.
Assistance to Spelling via Pronunciation, by R. Cropper.
There will be much of interest to all those interested in the English language, particularly to those who teach it either to native speakers or to foreign learners. Teachers of reading will find much to broaden their views. There are sections showing the origins of writing and how it is done in other languages nowadays so that we may learn by comparison. Modern methods of teaching reading occupy a large part of the volume, which should be useful to both lecturers and students in Teachers Colleges, as well as to teachers and parents. Some space is also devoted to spelling reform. There is also the final report on the largest experiment ever done anywhere in Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

This book has something for almost everybody. It will broaden the horizons of all connected with the teaching of reading - especially those who wish to understand more about the difficulties their learners face.

I appeal to you for any help you may be able to give by ordering the book in advance or by helping us to get more sales for it. We are anxious that our first major publication should go into teachers colleges and public libraries where it will be accessible to all.

Geo. O'Halloran, London, England.

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