Liberty Counsel, has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Boston against the City of Boston for its unconstitutional denial of issuing a permit to Camp Constitution for the raising of the Christian Flag on City Hall Plaza. Here is the link to Liberty Counsel’s news release:
Sam Blumenfeld wrote this the letter to the “Boston Globe” back in 1995 but it could have been written yesterday.
Hysteria on the Left
Chip Berlet’s op-ed piece, “Armed and dangerous,” which appeared in the Globe
on January 6, is not only incredibly inept journalism but reminiscent of the kind of
unfounded “guilt by association” charges attributed to the late Senator Joseph
Nothing that the deranged John Salvi has done, said or written indicates that he
was influenced by any of the well-known organizations mentioned by Berlet, such as
The John Birch Society, Concerned Women for America, or the National Right to Life
Committee. In fact, Salvi ‘s rambling letter, published in the Globe on January 6,
reveals a deplorable ignorance of the aims and precepts of these well established
organizations. I defy Mr Berlet to find one word in the publications of these
organizations that in any way encourages or condones the actions of those who would
kill the providers of abortion. Salvi has only added to the tragedy of abortion, not
As for the meeting held at Burlington High School last November, I was invited to
speak on the subject of education, which I did. I was not told in advance that one of
the exhibitors would be Den’s Gun Shop. But considering the fact that the right to own
and bear arms, protected by the Second Amendment, has been under unrelenting
attack by the liberals, I could understand the rationale of having a gun shop exhibit at
the meeting. But to suggest by the craftiest of innuendos that people browsing at the
gun shop table while pro-life leader Dr. Mildred Jefferson was speaking in another
room indicates that she or the browsers or the exhibitor caused or condoned what
John Salvi did is just about the sleaziest and most reprehensible piece of writing I
have yet read by the promoters of hysteria on the left.
People on both the left and the right have had to deal with those deranged
individuals who feel compelled to perpetrate acts of terror and horror. One does not
blame liberal black leadership for the actions of the black man who shot up the
passengers in the Long Island commuter train. We all understand that there is no way
to control solo individuals bent on committing mayhem.
But the concern of those of us on the right is the government’s potential for
committing mayhem. Even Chip Berlet admitted to me that he deplored the way the
U.S. government handled the Waco atrocity. And it is that atrocity, not abortion, that
has galvanized gun owners into such defensive responses as the militia movement
But perhaps the worst of Berlet’s accusations is where he says that “There is a
growing right-wing social movement that uses theological arguments to encourage
direct confrontation of its targets and tolerates discussion of armed resistance.”
I have been involved in the so-called right-wing movement since 1965 and not once
have I heard of such theological arguments. In fact, I’ve heard just the opposite. Dr. R.
J. Rushdoony, leader of the Christian Reconstruction movement, has strongly
denounced demonstrations at abortion clinics let alone the murder of abortion
providers. He believes, as most Christians do, that only the moral regeneration of the
American people will put an end to legalized abortion.
For Berlet to needlessly alarm the readers of the Globe into believing that
conservative organizations have entered a new, sinister phase of armed confrontation
with the left is not only to grossly misinform this newspaper’s readers but to libel those
of us on the right who have spent the last 25 years writing, lecturing and educating
Americans about the vital issues our society faces.
I also question the judgment of the editor who decided to use such an obviously
provocative illustration and title for a smear article that strongly suggests that we on the
right are moving toward Salvi-type terrorism . I know that the Globe is a staunchly
liberal newspaper, but I never thought it would stoop to such unadulterated, Nazi-like
propaganda. Back in 1938, a young Jew assassinated the German ambassador in
Paris. The Nazi propaganda machine blamed the Jews of Germany for the act of one
deranged youth . The result was Kristallnacht during which Jewish synagogues and
stores were burned and destroyed throughout Germany. The irony is that Chip Berlet,
who thinks he’s defending liberalism, is unaware of how much like Goebbels he has
become. Tragically, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.
Samuel L. Blumenfeld
January 6, 1995
Last year at Camp Constitution’s annual family camp, historian Rich Howell gave an excellent class on the signing of the U.S. Constitution Tuesday evening July 4, 2017. Camp Constitution wishes all Americans a Happy Independence Day.
Hal Shurtleff, director of Camp Constitution, and host of its radio show, recently interviewed Producer/ Director James Jaeger. Mr. Jaeger has produced a number of documentaries including “Fiat Nation, and “Cultural Marxism. Hal and James discusses Jame’s latest production, the soon to be released “Good Guys with Guns.”
You might ask, what have Pavlov’s dogs got to do with educating American children?
More than you think. In fact, when you have finished reading this article you will know
more about the perversion of American education than you ever thought possible.
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the Russian experimental psychologist, was born in 1849 in the
town of Rayazan. His father was a priest. At age seven he sustained a severe blow to
his skull when he fell from a balustrade and hit his head on a tile floor. The injury
delayed his education until age 11. Although raised in the Eastern Orthodox tradition he
was attracted to the study of science, and in 1870 entered St. Petersburg University. In
1875 he got his degree in Natural Sciences. He then went on to study medicine, after
which he entered the Veterinary Institute where he stayed for ten years doing research
After a visit to Germany where he studied at the laboratories of Rudolf Heidenhain in
Breslau and Karl Ludwig in Leipzig, he returned to Russia and decided to focus his
attention on the study of glandular secretions-saliva and gastric juices. He selected the
dog as his experimental animal and devised surgical techniques which made it possible
to establish “permanent fistulas (tubes)” in connection with the principal organs of
digestion (salivary glands, stomach, liver, pancreas, parts of the intestine).
His experiments were difficult to carry out while keeping the dog not only alive but
healthy. It took the sacrifice of thirty dogs before he could get the surgical procedure
right. How did Pavlov get his dogs? He relates: “At that time dogs were collected with
the help of street thieves, who used to steal those with collars as well as those without.
No doubt we shared the onus of the sin with the thieves.”
In 1895, Pavlov was appointed to a chair in physiology at the Military Medical Academy
in St. Petersburg, and in 1904 was awarded the Nobel Prize. Pavlov had discovered that
in every case, glandular secretion was determined by one or more reflex actions.
Actually, Pavlov recognized that there are two types of reflexes: unconditioned and
conditioned. An unconditioned reflex is an innate response to stimuli that occurs
naturally without any learning involved. For example, when you are driving a car and
enter a dark tunnel in daylight, your eyes automatically adjust to the change in light.
However, a conditioned reflex is a learned response, as when you see a red light, you
automatically put your foot on the brake. You have acquired an automatic response to
stimuli-a conditioned or learned reflex, a habit.
Being a materialist, Pavlov came to believe that science had to free itself from religious
dogma concerning the soul. The soul had no place in science, and the mind was simply
the monitor and transmitter of signal-stimuli from the external world on the one hand
and the organism’s responses on the other. Pavlov disliked any talk of “freedom of
choice.” To him such talk was an offence against scientific rigor.
Although the Communists took control of Russia in 1917, Pavlov was able to continue
his work unhindered in what became the State Institute of Experimental Psychology
supported by government funding. Since Pavlov was both a Darwinist and a behaviorist,
there was no ideological conflict between him and the Marxist-Leninist new
In 1920, Pavlov and his colleagues embarked on a long-term experimental investigation.
The aim of the experiments was to learn how to artificially create human
disorganization. In his book, The Nature of Human Conflicts, published in 1932, Dr. A. L.
Luria gives us a full account of the experiments and what they revealed. It was
translated by W. Horsley Gantt, an American psychologist who had spent the years
1924-1929 working in Pavlov’s laboratory. In his Preface, Luria wrote:
The chief problems of the author were an objective and materialistic description
of the mechanisms lying at the basis of the disorganization of human behavior
and an experimental approach to the laws of its regulation.
Why would these Soviet psychologists spend so much time and effort trying to find out
how to deliberately drive people crazy? The answer is simple. The Soviet Union
believed itself to be the leader in a world revolution to convert everyone to
communism, which required the conquest of all its capitalist enemies. And this was to
be done not by military invasion but by psychological warfare under the guise of
objective science. Luria wrote in 1935:
The power of our knowledge over the nervous system will, of course, appear to
much greater advantage if we learn not only to injure the nervous system but
also to restore it at will. It will then have been proved that we have mastered
the processes and are controlling them …. In many cases we are not only causing
disease, but are eliminating it with great exactitude, one might say, to order.
Luria described quite explicitly the key to creating behavioral disorganization:
Pavlov obtained very definite affective “breaks,” an acute disorganization of
behavior, each time that the conditioned reflexes collided, when the animal was
unable to react to two mutually exclusive tendencies, or was incapable of
adequately responding to any imperative problem.
In short, what he described is exactly the way our schools deliberately create dyslexia,
an acute form of behavioral disorganization. The child is taught to look at print as a
string of little pictures, whole configurations, memorized in sight-vocabulary exercises.
As a result he develops a whole-word conditioned reflex. At the same time he is taught
something about the letters standing for sounds, a phonetic way of looking at words,
which is impossible to do if you are looking at the words as little pictures. Many
children simply cannot react to two “mutually exclusive tendencies,” and thus become
reading disabled, or dyslexic.
It is obvious that Pavlov’s laboratory was used by the Soviet state to devise scientific
methods of waging psychological warfare in a manner that would enlist behavioral
scientists worldwide. Of course, if you were a dedicated Marxist, you considered this
scientific activity to be to the ultimate benefit of mankind.
They also experimented on creating another form of behavioral disorganization which
today we recognize as Attention Deficit Disorder. Luria writes (p. 385):
The experiment is done very easily: we violate the rules of our usual laboratory
procedure for the study of the reactive processes; instead of isolating the subject
from everything which might distract his attention, we do just the oppositewhile
performing the experiment we converse with him, give him a book to read,
and at intervals interrupt him by the auditory signal requiring the motor
Such a functional exclusion of the higher cortical mechanisms from participation
of the simple reaction evokes a return to the primitive, diffuse type of reactive
processes and a sharp lowering of the “functional barrier.”
In other words, when you prevent the child from using his intellect where it is needed
without distraction, he reverts to a more primitive behavior, which is a symptom of
Apparently, there were many behavioral psychologists at that time working on the same
problems. In his book, Luria draws special attention to the work of Kurt Lewin in
Germany. He writes:
K. Lewin, in our opinion, has been one of the most prominent psychologists to
elucidate this question of the artificial production of affect and of the
experimental disorganisation of behavior . … Here the fundamental conception of
Lewin is very close to ours.
Who is Kurt Lewin? He is the same Kurt Lewin who came to the United States in 1933,
founded the Research Center for Group Dynamics at M.I.T. (which later moved to the
University of Michigan) and invented “sensitivity training.” Shortly before his death in
1947, Lewin founded the National Training Laboratory which established its campus at
Bethel, Maine, under the sponsorship of the National Education Association. There
teachers were, and still are, instructed in the techniques of sensitivity training and how
to become effective agents of change.
Lewin’s emphasis on collectivist group behavior to replace individualistic behavior was
very much in harmony with what socialist John Dewey had advocated for the new
progressive-education curriculum. Although Dewey’s work at his Laboratory School at
the University of Chicago took place at the turn of the last century, his work was known
by Lenin’s wife, who got the communist government to reform Russian schools
according to the Dewey model.
However, the Dewey-Soviet experiment came to an abrupt halt in August 1932 when
the Central Committee of the Communist Party abandoned the laboratory method and
ordered a return to a structured curriculum. The communist leaders wanted the schools
to produce engineers, not semi-literate basket weavers.
But in America, where capitalism and individualism still reigned, the Progressive
educational leadership had no intention of going back to the structured pro-capitalisticindividualistic
curriculum. And anyone who visits an American elementary school today
will see the continued implementation of the Dewey-Lewin concept of education. And
with that concept have come all of the problems we now associate with the public
Countless articles have appeared in the major media over the last three decades critical
of American education. The litany of problems is always spelled out: poor academic
performance, high dropout rates, student violence, low teacher morale, outmoded
buildings, etc. And the solutions offered are always the same: more tax money for
education, smaller class size, higher teacher pay, new buildings, and a modernized
curriculum with more computers and high-tech paraphernalia. Nobody has bothered to
read Luria’s book. But because most of the reporters are young and have no idea how education was
conducted back in the days before the Progressives took over-when children actually
learned to read and there were no school massacres-they are incapable of asking the
right questions. But those of us who went to school in those halcyon days and are still
around to talk about them are generally ignored. The world belongs to the young, and
their fashionable lack of knowledge, their proud and belligerent ignorance, is considered
of greater value than the experience of the older generation.
But those of us who were witnesses to the past and have spent our lives monitoring the
decline of American education know what happened. It all started at the turn of the last
century when the Progressives took control of the education system and gradually
imposed their new collectivist philosophy on the curriculum.
The first thing they did was reform the teaching of reading by throwing out the true and
tried phonics method and imposing a whole-word method that would teach children to
read English as if it were Chinese, which would ultimately lead to the general decline of
literacy in our country.
Then they changed the classroom configuration. They got rid of the desks bolted to the
floor in rows that suited academic attention and concentration and introduced
moveable desks and open classrooms that produced educational chaos. And as
academic performance declined and attention deficit disorder increased they
introduced psychotropic drugs to help the students concentrate.”
Why were these crucial changes made? They were made so that the Progressives could
shape future generations of American children to become collectivists instead of
individualists. The Progressives were socialists. They were members of the Protestant
academic elite who no longer believed in the religion of their fathers. Their new religion
was science, which explained the material world; evolution, which explained the origin
of living matter; and psychology, which explained human behavior and offered scientific
ways to control it. They believed that evil was caused by ignorance, poverty, and social
injustice, and that a collectivist society could eliminate all of that.
The guiding light and chief philosopher behind the Progressive Education movement
was John Dewey whose seminal essay, “The Primary-Education Fetich,” published in
1898, provided the blueprint for the new educational agenda. In that article he
advocated shifting primary education away from concentrating on individual literacy to
placing the emphasis on socialization through group activities. He wrote:
The plea for the predominance of learning to read in early school life because of
the great importance attaching to literature seems to me a perversion.
And because his view would be considered so radical by parents and teachers, he wrote:
Change must come gradually. To force it unduly would compromise its final
success by favoring a violent reaction. What is needed in the first place, is that
there should be a full and frank statement of conviction with regard to the
matter from physiologists and psychologists and from those school
administrators who are conscious of the evils of the present regime.
In other words, deceiving parents would become an important and implicit part of the
plan for radical reform. And psychologists, of whom Dewey was one, would play an
important role in creating this elaborate deception. Dewey then wrote:
There are already in existence a considerable number of educational
“experiment stations,” which represent the outposts of educational progress. If
these schools can be adequately supported for a number of years they will
perform a great vicarious service.
Indeed, Dewey himself conducted such an experimental school at the University of
Chicago, and the book he wrote about that experiment, The School and Society, became
the bible of Progressive Education and the basis of 20th century school reform.
And so, the major work of reform would not be done by educators, but by psychologists,
who found in education a lucrative source of support for their profession. The new
behavioral psychology was born in the laboratories of Professor Wilhelm Wundt at the
University of Leipzig. His two American students, G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924) and James
McKeen Cattell (1860-1944), came back to America anxious to apply scientific
psychology to American education. Hall became a professor of psychology at Johns
Hopkins University where he taught the new psychology to John Dewey. He later
founded Clark University. Cattell introduced mental testing in education as part of the
new scientific racism called Eugenics. He later founded the Psychological Corporation.
But it was Edward L. Thorndike (1874-1949) who, after studying psychology under
William James at Harvard, went on to become the chief implementer of behavioral
psychology in American education. At Harvard he had studied the learning behavior of
chickens by using the reinforcement technique, which he later decided should be used
to teach children. His aim was not to disorganize the behavior of the chickens but to
simply train them to respond to his benign stimulus.
After his book, Anima/Intelligence was published in 1898, he became a leading light at
Teacher’s College, Columbia University. His much celebrated stimulus-response (SR)
technique of teaching children, based on animal training, now dominates American
education. He wrote in 1928:
Our experiments on learning in the lower animals have probably contributed
more to knowledge of education per hour or per unit of intellect spent, than
experiments on children …. The best way with children may often be, in the
pompous words of an animal trainer, “to arrange everything in connection with
the trick so that the animal will be compelled by the laws of his own nature to
But it was John B. Watson, the most arrogant behaviorist of them all, who revealed the
true contempt that he and his fellow behaviorists had toward their fellow human
beings. In his book, Behaviorism, published in 1924, he wrote:
Human beings do not want to class themselves with other animals. They are
willing to admit that they are animals but “something else in addition.” It is this
“something else” that causes the trouble. In this “something else” is bound up
everything that is classed as religion, the life hereafter, morals, love of children,
parents, country, and the like. The raw fact that you, as a psychologist, if you are
to remain scientific, must describe the behavior of man in no other terms than
those you would use describing the behavior of the ox you slaughter, drove and
stili drives many timid souls away from behaviorism.
In other words, behavioral psychology was not for the timid. He further wrote:
The interest of the behaviorist in man’s doings is more than the interest of the
spectator-he wants to control man’s reactions, as physical scientists want to
control and manipulate other natural phenomena. It is the business of
behavioristic psychology to be able to predict and control human activity.
And so one can see that what Pavlov and his assistants were doing in Moscow was not
too different from what Thorndike was doing at Teacher’s College and what Watson was
teaching his students. In fact, Pavlov acknowledged his intellectual indebtedness to
But even as Dewey had cautioned that change must come slowly, it didn’t take long
before an increasing number of discerning Americans began to realize what was
happening. In fact, by 1955 the reading problem had become so bad that Rudolf was
compelled to write his famous book, Why Johnny Can’t Read. In it he wrote:
The teaching of reading-all over the United States, in all the schools, in all the
textbooks-is totally wrong and flies in the face of all logic and common sense.
As for how the educators were able to perpetuate such “error” without effective
reaction from conservative teachers, he explained:
It’s a foolproof system all right. Every grade-school teacher in the country has to
go to a teacher’s college or school of education; every teachers’ college gives at
least one course on how to teach reading; every course on how to teach reading
is based on a textbook; every one of those textbooks is written by one of the
high priests of the word method. In the old days it was impossible to keep a
good teacher from following her own common sense and practical knowledge;
today the phonetic system of teaching reading is kept out of our schools as
effectively as if we had a dictatorship with an all-powerful Ministry of Education.
And if you think anything has changed much since 1955, try getting a good intensive
phonics program into your local school. As an author of a very effective intensive
phonics reading program used successfully by thousands of homeschooling parents, I
have tried to get the program adopted by local schools, only to be told, thanks but no
There is indeed a Ministry of Education in America, and it is called the National Society
for the Study of Education. It was founded in 1901 by John Dewey and colleagues who
were interested in psycho-education and the application of science to educational
issues. The Society pUblishes an annual two-volume Yearbook filled with discussions of
educational interests. By the way, you won’t find the yearbooks in your local library.
You’ll have to go to a university library to find them.
The NSSE describes itself as “an organization of education scholars, professional
educators, and policy makers dedicated to the improvement of education research,
policy and practice.” On its board of directors is a former president of the NEA, Mary
Hatwood Futrell. The membership list in the 1969 Yeabook is 94 pages long, and you’ve
probably never heard of the organization. The subject for their 2008 Yearbook is “Why
Do We Educate?” It’s a question the educators seem to be totally confused about.
But some of them are not confused at all. One of them is Professor Anthony G.
Oettinger of Harvard University, Professor of Information Resources Policy, and a
member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He said the following at a conference of
communications executives in 1982:
The present “traditional” concept of literacy has to do with the ability to read
and write. But the real question that confronts us today is: How do we help
citizens function well in their society? How can they acquire the skills necessary
to solve their problems?
Do we, for example, really want to teach people to do a lot of sums or write in “a
fine round hand” when they have a five-dollar hand-held calculator or a word
processor to work with? Or, do we really have to have everybody literatewriting
and reading in the traditional sense-when we have the means through
our technology to achieve a new flowering of oral communication?
What is speech recognition and speech synthesis all about if it does not lead to
ways of reducing the burden on the individual of the imposed notions of literacy
that were a product of nineteenth century economics and technology? …
It is the traditional idea that says certain forms of communication, such as comic
books, are “bad.” But in the modern context of functionalism they may not be
all that bad.
I doubt that there are any parents in America who send their children to school to learn
to read comic books. If anything, they want their children to be taught to read and
write in the traditional manner. They don’t consider learning to read as a burden
imposed on the individual. Rather, if taught properly, learning to read can be a joyful
experience for children eager to explore the wonderful world of the written word as we
all recently witnessed in the amazing popularity of the Harry Potter books.
Literacy, by the way, is not the product of 19th century forces. It is the product of the
16th century Reformation in which the need to be able to read the Bible became the
imperative for universal literacy. In a Christian civilization everybody has to be literate.
But of course Professor Oettinger thinks differently. He believes that literacy is only for
the ruling cognitive elite.
liDo we really have to have everybody literate?” he asks. Well, if not, then who decides
who is to be literate and who not? Wasn’t the idea of universal literacy behind the idea
of compulsory schooling? I don’t think Professor Oettinger wants to do away with
compulsory school attendance. The cognitive elite must retain its means of controlling
the masses so that they can truly turn them into docile illiterates.
And what’s the solution for parents? If they want to get their children out of Professor
Oettinger’s clutches, they’ll have to homeschool them or enroll them in private and
parochial schools where literacy is not a burden but a liberating force for good.
As for the NSSE’s question, Why do we educate? The answer is quite simple. We
educate to pass on to the future generation the knowledge, wisdom, and values of the
previous generation. It’s a concept we find in Deuteronomy 6. But we can expect that
the NSSE will come up with something enormously complicated that will guarantee the
perpetuation of the present problems.
(The Sam Blumenfeld Archives is a free resource. Please visit and subscribe http://campconstitution.net/sam-blumenfeld-archive/
Last week was a busy and productive week for Camp Constitution.
Monday: We presented 1,200 copies of the U.S. Constitution to the Manchester, NH School Committee.
Wednesday, a presentation in Waldoboro, NH and a trip to “Cabin in the Woods” camp ground to do a video promoting our September weekend camp.
Thursday, A float in the Dedham, MA Flag Day Parade.
Friday, an in-studio interview with Karen Testerman in Nashua, NH.
Saturday, an info table and speaking engagement at the 5th Annual Flag Day 2nd Amendment Rally which we videotaped as well.
A special thanks to Dr. Punyamurtula Kishore, James Blier, Jeanette Wheeler, Richard H. Girard, Emily Shurtleff, Campers David, Sarah, and Angelica, Tom Moor, Kathleen LaBonte LoFaro, Dave Kopacz and Karen Testerman.
The article linked below was a review of a book entitled “The Graves of Academe” by Richard Mitchell which Sam wrote in 1982
Sam Blumenfeld would write to mayors of America’s big cities and governors offering his services to introduce phonics in their government schools free of charge. He occasionally would get a “thank you but no than you” letter, but usually, he received no response. Here are a few examples:
S A M U E L L. B L U M E N F E L D
161 Great Road Littleton, MA 01460 781-354-2040
January 7, 2011
Hon. Cory A. Booker
Mayor of Newark
920 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Dear Mayor Booker:
I recently became aware of your efforts to improve education in the city of Newark and
of Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to help you in that endeavor. As a writer of over ten
books on education, I’ve been aware of the problems that beset American public schools
for over forty years and have worked strenuously to find ways to improve the
performance of our children. But the greatest obstacle I have found is the educational
establishment that refuses to make the necessary changes that would guarantee academic
success for all students.
I first became aware of the reading problem back in the 1960s when I was an editor at
Grosset & Dunlap in New York. I was invited to become a member of the Reading
Reform Foundation’s National Advisory Council. It was then that I became aware of the
war among educators between advocates of phonics and advocates of look-say, the
whole-world or sight method that teaches children to read English as if it were Chinese.
I did an investigation of the reading problem and came to the conclusion that the sight
method could cause reading disability and dyslexia among many children. I put all of
this in my book, The New Illiterates, published in 1973. The Establishment response to
my findings was zero.
Determined to provide parents with a way of saving their children from such educational
malpractice, I created a simple, inexpensive, easy-to-use intensive phonics reading
program–Alpha-Phonics–that any parent could use to teach their children to read at
home. It has now been used very successfully by thousands of homeschooling parents
for over twenty years and has produced wonderfully literate children.
In your press release about Newark’s Education Opportunity, it states that “In 2008-2009,
only 40 percent of students could read and write at grade level by the end of the third
grade, only 54 percent of high school students graduated and just 38 percent enrolled in
I can show you how to get all of the children in Newark’s schools to become proficient
readers, dramatically increase the rate of graduation, and increase the percentage of
students enrolling in college.
I recently received a testimonial from a teacher in Florida who has been using
Alpha-Phonics for the last ten years, and he has literally performed miracles with some of
the worst readers in his classes. I can state without any equivocation, that I can produce
a miracle in Newark if permitted by you to do so. I am enclosing this teacher’s
remarkable testimony of the power of this program.
The “miracle” that Alpha-Phonics performs is really no miracle at all. It is simply the
sensible and proper use of a primary program that puts the emphasis on the development
of the right side of the brain, the language faculty. Today’s schools force children to use
their right brains to perform the functions of the left brain, thereby actually deforming the
children’s brains. This phenomenon can be seen by extensive brain scans conducted by
neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, author of Reading in the Brain. In other words,
common teaching practices in our schools are actually deforming the brains of our
children. And that is why the children act out, knowing that something harmful, which
they can’t understand, is being done to them.
All children are born with a dominant language faculty in their left brains. When the
continued natural development of this faculty is thwarted by faulty teaching methods, you
get educational problems. You get ADD and ADHD. I would like to show you how it is
possible to reverse this process and get kids back into a positive learning mode. I propose
a pilot project whereby I am given the worst elementary school in Newark and allowed to
demonstrate how it can become the best school in the city in about eight months.
Although I have lived in New England since 1965, I know Newark well. My sister lived
there with her husband and children, and as a teenager I spent many pleasant summer
weeks on leafy Elwood Place. I know that Newark today is not what it once was: the
safest, most pleasant place to live in America. But I am more than willing to do
whatever I can to assist you in making Newark’s schools the best in the nation.
I hope you will take me up on my offer. This is an opportunity that Newark can’t afford
Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Cc: Governor Chris Christie, Mark Zuckerberg: Startup Education
S A M U E L L. B L U M E N F E L D
161 Great Road Littleton, MA 01460 781-354-2040
February 12, 2011
Hon. Cory A. Booker
Mayor of Newark
920 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Dear Mayor Booker:
I hope you have had a chance to consider my proposal of January 7th to take the worst
elementary school in Newark and transform it into the best school in the city. Here is an
outline of the plan to accomplish that academic miracle..
But first, I want to convince you why it should be done. Each year over a million black
children enter our public education system eager to learn, yet at the end of the process at
least half are functionally illiterate. You and your administration can stop that process of
failure, provided the will is there to do so.
Second, this country will not be able to compete with the Koreans, Chinese, Japanese,
and Indians who are all learning to read and speak English by methods greatly superior to
the ones being used in our schools to teach American children to read, write, and speak
their own language.
Forty years of experience as a writer and educator have gone into the plan I am
proposing. I hope you will be willing to give the “Newark Experiment,” as I call it, the
backing it will need from the Mayor’s office, the highest level of Newark’s government.
This is how the plan will be implemented:
1. Preliminary Conference: As Plan Designer I would like to confer with you and Dr.
Clifford B. Janey, the Superintendent of Schools, and others in your administration on the
need to implement the Newark Experiment. Agreement is needed so that the plan can be
implemented willingly by all concerned.
2. Selection of School: The selection of the elementary school for this pilot project
should be made on the basis of test scores. This should not be difficult to do since each
school has published its test scores. Let us select that school with the lowest test scores.
3. School Visit: I would like to visit that school and become acquainted with the
Principal and faculty, as well as the students. I would want to examine the materials
presently being used to teach the children their basics. It would be essential to bring on
board the faculty of the school and for me to explain why they should be willing to take
part in this historic experiment which will have its ramifications throughout the country.
Their enthusiastic cooperation would guarantee success.
4. Teacher Training: The summer would be used to train the faculty in the essentials of
the plan. A team of trainers would be brought to Newark to share their experiences and
practices in using Alpha-Phonics. Obviously, the faculty will have many questions
which the training team will be able to answer.
5. Budget Authorization: The Superintendent of Schools should authorize the purchase
of the necessary books for the experiment: Alpha-Phonics, the Little Readers, Flash
Cards, lined notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, etc. A budget can be provided outlining
the necessary expenditures. Compensation for Dr. Blumenfeld and the trainers, who will
be coming from Texas and Florida, should be included in the budget.
6. Parental Input: In September 2011, parents will be informed of the experiment in
their children’s school. Their cooperation is needed to make sure that their children do
their homework, which will help their children succeed.
7. School Testing: At the beginning of the school year, all third- to sixth-grade
students in the school should be tested with the Oral Reading Assessment Test in order to
create a Literacy Profile of the school. In that way, those students in need of strong
remedial programs will be identified. For example, in the third grade you will find some
students reading at a sixth grade level and others reading at a first grade level. In the
sixth grade you will find students reading at a second grade level and others reading
above their grade level. Testing the students will give the faculty the information they
need about each student’s reading level.
8. The Curriculum: All first and second graders will be taught to read and write with
Alpha-Phonics. We expect 100% success. Everyone in the rest of the school will be
brought up to grade level in reading and writing. Basic arithmetic will also be taught to
all students. We expect 100% success, with extra tutoring for those who are having a
more difficult time reaching the desired goal. Other subjects should include Local
Geography and History, Elementary Science, English Grammar, and other subjects
determined by the Superintendent of Schools. These students will be able to thrive in
high school and go on to college.
9. Final Testing: By June 2012, the entire school should be tested to see the results of
the experiment. By then the school will be the best in the city and able to celebrate its
achievement. Care should be taken to make sure that the school does not revert to its
past practices that made it the worst school in the city. The new curriculum should
become a permanent part of the school.
10, Final Report: The success of the program should be made public by way of a press
release and a news conference and the issuance of a Final Report. The city of Newark
should proudly proclaim its success in transforming its worst school into its best school
through a unique program that can be duplicated in any city in the country. The Report
should be sent to the nation’s leading media and the Mayor and Superintendent should be
available for interviews.
As you can see, Mayor Booker, this is an exciting plan that will bring credit to Newark
and your administration. Your willingness to try something that has not been tried
anywhere before will be seen as proof that the public schools can be reformed to do what
they were created to do: produce a literate, intelligent population. The plan is eminently
doable. All it requires is the will to carry it out. The Newark Experiment can become a
model for the entire country to emulate. It will prove that educational success is possible
in core-city environments.
But what it really requires is thinking out of the box. That is the real key to success.
I look forward to your response.
Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Cc: Governor Chris Christie, Mark Zuckerberg
A link to a PDF of the above: http://blumenfeld.campconstitution.net/Other/Newark%20Mayor%20Booker-Alpha%20Phonics.pdf
Camp Constitution honors the memory of the men and women who died in service to their country.
From This Day in History:
By proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, the first major Memorial Day observance is held to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Known to some as “Decoration Day,” mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.
The 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances that had taken place in various locations in the three years since the end of the Civil War. In fact, several cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois. In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo–which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866–because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.
By the late 19th century, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day, and after World War I, observers began to honor the dead of all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. It is customary for the president or vice president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. More than 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually. Several Southern states continue to set aside a special day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day.
(This was a speech Sam gave at an event in Saint Louis in the early 1990s)
Every September about 4 million six-year-olds enter the public schools of America
where they expect to be taught to read. Every child wants to learn to read and these
bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youngsters eagerly enter their classrooms with great
Now these children feel very intelligent. After all they taught themselves to speak
their own language, without going to a school, without the help of a teacher, so that by
the time they enter that first-gradeclassroom, they’ve developed a speaking
vocabulary in the thousands of words. That is not only an extraordinary achievement,
it borders on the miraculous.
But, of course, we are all the products of the miraculous. And perhaps the greatest
proof of the miracles of creation is the fact that we alone of all the species learn to
speak. Why? The Bible makes it very clear. In the Gospel According to St. John we
read : “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God created language, and the Word is God’s power in action. After all, what do we
read in Genesis? “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” It was done
by the Word, not by an electrician, not by a physical act.
God gave man the power of speech, because he made us in His image. And
speech has given man tremendous power. But what were the first instructions God
gave Adam? We read in Genesis: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into
the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man,
saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest
thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Well, we all know the sad story of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. They were kicked
out of the Garden of Eden into the cold, cruel world to fend for themselves. But God
did not take back the gift of speech. He knew they would need it more than anything
else if they were to survive as human beings. And that is why every child is born with
that gift, to remind us of where we came from and who made us
The tragedy is that the public schools are not permitted to tell the children any of
this. And so the children enter their schools with great expectations, hardly suspecting
that a group of professors of education have conspired to make it certain that those
expectations will be dashed to pieces. But for centuries, those expectations were
fulfilled, whether the school was in a log cabin or a red brick building. The children
were trained in academic skills that would serve them well for the rest of their lives.
The traditional primary school curriculum, the teaching of the three R’s, has a very
long, successful history. In fact, we have an excellent record of how primary education
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was conducted in ancient Rome.
In a little book entitled The Education of Children at Rome by George Clarke,
published in 1896, we read:
“In the elementary school .. . instruction was confined to reading, writing, and
arithmetic…. For the methods employed in teaching reading and writing we are
dependent chiefly on Quintilian, who treats the subject at considerable length and with
his usual good jUdgment, in the first chapter of his book.
“In teaching to read the first step was to obtain familiarity with the forms and sounds
of the letters ….Tiles, on which alphabets or verses were scratched before baking,
were used in the youngest classes. Horace speaks of children being coaxed to learn
their letters by tid-bits of pastry….
“The letters having been thoroughly learned, the next step was to master their
various combinations into syllables . . .. (I]t would seem that it was usual to give pupils
successive combinations such a ba, be, bi, etc., ca, ce, ci, etc., to spell and repeat until
they had memorized them , and then to proceed to more difficult ones. Every possible
combination had to be thoroughly mastered .. . before the child was permitted to read
words… . ‘Much trust must not too readily be placed in the first act of memorizing;
constant and long-continued repetition will be necessary. In reading there must not be
too much haste about connecting syllables into words, or about reading fast, until the
pupil can form the combinations of letters in syllables without stumbling or hesitation,
or at any rate without having to stop to think about it. Then he may begin to form words
from syllables and continuous sentences from words.
“‘It is incredible how much delay is caused in reading by undue haste. It gives rise
to heSitation, interruptions, and repetitions when pupils attempt more than they are
equal to, and when, going wrong, they lose confidence even in what they already
know. Reading should first of all be sure, then continuous; it must for a long time be
slow, until by practice speed and accuracy are acquired. ‘”
That’s how intensive, systematic phonics was taught in ancient Rome. In fact, it was
taught the same way in the United States until the mid-19th Century when educators
began tampering with the basic method that had worked so well for 4,000 years.
That’s the proper way to teach children to read an alphabetic writing system .
Nobody knows exactly when or where the alphabet was invented. Scholars think it
was invented by the Phoenicians around 2000 B.C. Prior to the invention of the
alphabet human beings at first used pictographs which later evolved into ideographs.
A pictograph is a graphic symbol that looks like the thing it represents. You don’t
have to go to school to learn to read pictographs. We use them today on road signs or
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in airports. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the little figures on rest-room doors. One
figure wears a skirt, the other wears pants. But now that so many wear pants, it can be
confusing. In other words, even simple pictographs can be ambiguous.
As civilization became more complex the scribes had to depict things that did not
lend themselves to depiction. It’s easy enough to draw a picture of a tree or an animal.
But how do you draw pictures of abstract ideas? How do you draw pictures of good
and evil, right and wrong, never and forever? You can’t. So the scribes drew little
symbols that did not look like the ideas they represented. We call these symbols
ideographs. And now you did have to go to school to learn what all of these symbols
Modern Chinese is an ideographic writing system composed of 50,000 of these little
symbols, none of which look like the things they represent. It’s a terribly complex
system to learn, particularly for westerners.
However, somewhere around 4000 B.C. someone made a remarkable discovery.
Someone discovered that all of human language is composed of a small number of
irreducible speech sounds. And that person decided that instead of using a writing
system composed of thousands and thousands of symbols none of which looked like
the things they represented, and took years to learn and were easily forgotten, why not
create a set of symbols to represent the irreducible speech sounds of the language
and we would have a very simple writing system that required memorizing a very small
number of symbols that stood for sounds. And so the first alphabet was invented.
As I said, all of human speech is composed of a small number of irreducible speech
sounds. How many irreducible sounds do you think there are in English? No, not 26.
That’s the number of letters in our alphabet. The answer is 44. Yes, we have 44
sounds represented by only 26 letters, and that’s why some of our letters stand for ·
more than one sound, and some sounds are represented by more than one letter.
For example, the letter “a” stands for more than one sound. It stands for long “a” as
in April or apron; it stands for the short “a” as in cat or bat; it stands for the “ah” sound
as in father and car; and its stands for the “au” sound as in all and fall. Out “th” sound
is represented by t-h, the “sh” sound is represented by s-h, and the “ch” sound is
represented by c-h. And that is why it is important to teach children our alphabetiC
system in a logical, systematic way, starting with the simplest regular spelling forms
and progressing to the more difficult forms.
The invention of the alphabet was indeed revolutionary. It swept away ideographs
from the Western world and sparked the greatest intellectual advance in history. But
there is something else that is very important to know about the alphabet. As soon as
it was invented, the Scripture began to appear. Why then? Because man had to wait
until he had an accurate, precise means of transcribing the spoken word before the
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word of God could be written down.
Again, the importance of the Word. Alphabetic writing is a direct transcription of the
spoken word, and accuracy is the hallmark of alphabetic writing.
The purveyors of whole language are in open rebellion against the concept of the
alphabet. In the first place, they do not believe in accuracy in reading. In an article
entitled “Reading Method Lets Pupils Guess,” in the Washington Post of Nov. 26, 1986,
the reporter wrote:
“The most controversial aspect of whole language is the de-emphasis on accuracy.
. . . American Reading Council President Julia Palmer, an advocate of the approach,
said it is acceptable if a young child reads the word house for home, or substitutes the
word pony for horse. ‘It’s not very serious because she understands the meaning,’
said Palmer. ‘Accuracy is not the name of the game.'”
But even in ancient Rome they knew that accuracy is indeed the name of the game.
Whole language teachers make no distinction between an ideographic writing system
and an alphabetic one. In a recently published book entitled, Whole Language:
What’s the Difference?, the authors write:
“Oral language, written language, sign language — each of these is a system of
linguistic convention for creating meanings. That means none is ‘the basis’ for the
other: none is a secondary representation of the other.” (page 9)
Of course, they are wrong. Alphabetic writing, as distinguished from ideographic
writing, is a graphic representation of the spoken language. That’s what made it so
different from ideographic writing. That’s what made it so much easier to learn. Its
accuracy was a tremendous enhancement to intellectual development, permitting the
unlimited development of new words in every field of human endeavor.
But one can only grasp the true lunacy of whole language theory when we read the
book’s definition of reading:
“From a whole language perspective, reading (and language use in general) is a
process of generating hypotheses in a meaning-making transaction in a
sociohistorical context. As a transactional process, reading is not a matter of ‘getting
the meaning’ from text, as if that meaning were in the text waiting to be decoded by the
reader. Rather, reading is a matter of readers using the cues print provide and the
knowledge they bring with them (of language subsystems, of the world) to construct a
unique interpretation. Moreover, that interpretation is situated: readers’ creations (not
retrievals) of meaning with the text vary, depending on their purposes for reading and
the expectations of others in the reading event. This view of reading implies that there
is no single ‘correct’ meaning for a given text, only plausible meanings. This view is in
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direct contrast to the model of reading underlying most reading instruction and
evaluations.” (page 19)
No wonder the kids are confused! Incidentally, I wonder how many writers would
concur with this definition of reading. Writers generally take great pains to convey a
particular message. The last thing they want is for the reader to “create” a meaning
which is not there. The book elaborates on its definition. The authors write:
“Whole language represents a major shift in thinking about the reading process.
Rather than viewing reading as ‘getting the words,’ whole language educators view
reading as essentially a process of creating meanings …. Meaning is created through
a transaction with whole, meaningful texts (i.e., texts of any length that were written
with the intent to communicate meaning.) It is a transaction, not an extraction of the
meaning from the print, in the sense that the reader-created meanings are a fusion of
what the reader brings and what the text offers . … In a transactional model, words do
not have static meanings. Rather, they have meaning potentials and the capacity to
communicate multiple meanings.” (page 32)
If that isn’t pedagogical insanity I don’t know what is. The insane have a tough time
living in the real world. They live in a world of fantasy, much like our whole language
educators. They tell us that there is no objective meaning to anything you read. The
reader creates the meaning. If that’s the case, what’s the point in reading what others
write? Why not simply stare at the page and say anything you want? Or why stare at
the page at all?
Which brings us to the subject at hand: how to get your local school board to adopt
phonics. I imagine that any sane member of a school board, who took the time to read
what whole-language theorists say about whole language, would be convinced to
switch to phonics. Better still, send the member a tape of this lecture which can be
listened to with little effort while driving a car.
There is no reason why American children should be subjected to this educational
lunacy. They want to be taught to read. They don’t want to be turned into learning
disabled, intellectual cripples, programmed for a life of academic failure.
How can we save them?
School boards do respond to parental pressure, so you must do all you can to alert
and inform parents of what is happening in their children’s school. This can be done
by distributing literature about the harmful effects of whole language. I’ve written
several newsletters on this subject which you might consider using. Also, you should
let the school board know that there are many good phonics programs available on
the market: the Spalding program , Sing, Spell, Read and Write, and my own reading
program , ALPHA-PHONICS, which is presently being used by thousands of
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homeschoolers with great success. It’s inexpensive, simple to use, and all in one
Also, look into the possibility of presenting your case to the school board at a public
meeting. Do this after you’ve sent each board member the same literature you are
distributing to the parents. If you can get to talk to each member individually, that
would be even better. Call them on the phone and see if they are amenable to a oneon-one
Also, I would talk to the teachers. I don’t know of a teacher who doesn’t to do a
good job. They want the children to learn. But be diplomatic. Teachers like to
consider themselves the experts in these matters. Some will be very strongly
committed to whole language, but ask them to read the literature and respond to it.
You may be able to get them to think twice about their teaching theories.
But you may also find some teachers willing to listen and learn. My publisher, Peter
Watt, will be happy to supply you with a sheaf of letters from parents who have
successfully taught their children to read with Alpha-Phonics. There is nothing more
convincing than good stories of success.
Also, I strongly advise you to develop good relations with the local media: the
newspaper, local radio talk-show, and TV news and public service departments. Do all
you can to get the media on your side. It should be easy to convince the editor of the
newspaper that the future prosperity of his medium depends on schools turning out
good readers. If young people can’t read, that editor may soon be out of a job.
Are there districts where parents have succeeded in getting phonics into their
schools? Yes. In eight elementary schools in Houston, a phonics program, which had
been removed to make way for whole language, was reinstated. The schools had
been using Chapter 1 funds to pay for a heavily structured phonics program which the
children loved. But the Houston school district decided to cut off the funds and force
the schools to adopt a whole-language approach. The result was dismal.
However, after much pressure from parents, teachers and principals, the funding for
the phonics program was reinstated in the eight schools. Unfortunately, the other 162
elementary schools in the district are continuing to use whole language.
It is also important for the school board to know that there are many serious cri~iCS
of whole language among professors of education. Professors Pat Groff of San Diego
State University and Jeanne Chall of Harvard University easily come. to mind. In fact,
the January 8, 1992 issue of Education Week reports on recent studies that cast doubt
on whole language as a reading teaching technique. The studies were ma?e In
Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. and published in the December 1991 Issue of the
Journal of Educational Psychology. It may be worth your while to get copies of these
studies and hand them to your school board for review and comment.
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You would think that it would be easy enough to convince school board members
that intensive phonics is preferable to whole language in teaching children to read.
After all, intensive phonics has a track record of success going back thousands of
years, while whole language is based entirely on theory, not practice.
With the desperate literacy problem this nation now has, it certainly is no time for
experiments in a field where we know what works. Children get only one chance to be
six years old, one chance to be taught to read in the first grade. They ought not to be
experimented on. Nor should the school board want the children to be experimented
on. But if the school board permits this experimentation to take place, it should be
willing to present to the parents the results of the experiment.
Of course, if the children read inaccurately and make up meanings of their own, the
whole language educators can claim success. And if that is also the school board’s
idea of success, then you may have no choice but to take your own children out of the
school and urge your friends and neighbors to do likewise.
But we must assume that your school board is made up of rational, well-meaning,
and decent human beings. We’ve all heard stories of school boards’ utter disdain for
parents. But, who knows? Yours may be different. It’s at least worth a try. Certainly
the children deserve the effort, even if it’s not successful. After all, their welfare, their
future is at stake.
A link to this article in PDF: http://blumenfeld.campconstitution.net/Articles/How%20to%20Get%20Your%20Local%20School%20Board%20to%20Adopt%20Phonics.pdf