A link to a short video on the John Jones Museum:
Sam Blumenfeld use to say that “you don’t need puppets popping out of trash cans to teach children to read.” He created “Alpha-Phonics” which has been used to teach thousands to read. Here is a link to testimonials to Sam’s most important work:
Since the creation of the Blumenfeld Archives, thousands of people have downloaded the “Alpha-Phonics” free of charge. Please consider donating to Camp Constitution so we can expand our program and reach out to more people. Donations can be made via our PayPal account accessed from our homepage:
There may not be a question more difficult to answer for Mark Meckler, President of Citizens for Self-Governance and spokesman for its Convention of States Project (COS), than this:
Since the federal government ignores the Constitution as now written, why would it obey an amended Constitution?
This is a fair question, considering COS has spent several years and millions of dollars from undisclosed sources1 on paid lobbyists and “senior advisors” who crisscross the country leaning on legislators to pass resolutions asking Congress to call an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ostensibly to limit the federal government.
All the while, at the local level, COS has been carrying out a massive public relations campaign claiming to be a grassroots movement with a “solution as big as the problem.”
But Meckler’s group has a solution that has nothing to do with the problem! Since the problem is a federal government that has overreached its powers by ignoring our Constitution, logic alone tells us that amending our Constitution, the very document being ignored, can’t possibly fix the problem.
On 7/6/17 (Part 2 at 37:00), Mark Meckler was heard on Red Eye Radio answering that question in an interesting and illogical way:
A caller asked: “Once the amendments are proposed and ratified, how are they actually implemented?”
In response, Meckler said, “… [the amendments] just automatically become part of the Constitution…part of the structure of governance in America…and that means that government then has to begin operating according to those amendments in the same way that they do with the rest of the Constitution.”
He continued, “And functionally, ultimately that means government will shrink, they will have the authority to do less. And if they fail to follow those amendments, then obviously, there is litigation that ensues up to the federal courts and ultimately up to the Supreme Court, if necessary.” (Emphasis added.)
But wait! COS has contended for years that the Constitution needs to be amended precisely because of decisions by activist judges who have undermined the original intent of the Constitution and allowed the federal government to usurp powers not delegated by our Constitution.
In other words, Meckler gives us a circular argument. He’s saying that COS will add more verbiage to the Constitution to counter activist judges; and then, when the federal government ignores the new wording, as they have in the past, there will be lawsuits to force the government to follow the original intent of the framers. And lawsuits generate still more decisions by activist judges!
It should be noted, too, that our Constitution already limits the federal government to its enumerated powers; and any changes such as a Balanced Budget Amendment, will expand the power of the federal government.
State governments already have the power to resist unconstitutional acts of the federal government – they simply need a backbone!
The last caller, only 10 minutes later, hit upon the circular argument and got a different response from Meckler:
Caller: “…What happens, if say, we call a “convention of states” [and] we get some great reform amendments made to the Constitution to undo a lot of damage that has been done by activist judges and left-wing congressional majorities and presidents. What happens if we have future…laws…that violate the new amendments…and… new activist judges on the Supreme Court that then give rubber stamp approval [to the unconstitutional laws]. …Is there a bullet-proof, really good way to stop the same process from cycling over and over again after we get new amendments [at a convention]?”
Meckler: “You know, I think that’s one of the best questions there is. And I’m going to give you the short and blunt answer which is NO!”
That’s right, Mark Meckler asserts there is no way to stop the federal government from ignoring amendments proposed by a convention that later become ratified! And the entire process places our current Constitution at risk—for what?!
Meckler elaborated philosophically: “There is no way to prevent the cycle from happening because the cycle is the cycle of human nature. In our history, you can go back to the Roman Empire and look at what happens… So, I think what happens is, you correct course, you put the ship on course, and eventually it will begin to be blown off course.
“History tells us it takes about 100 years for amendments to stop being effective…I think, for example, the first amendment about 100 years ago started to come under assault. So, it had been in place for well over 100 years; so, I expect the slide to happen.”
Let’s get this straight. The convention lobby is pouring massive resources into putting our Constitution at risk in convention because Mark Meckler is trying to steer the ship back on course, somehow predicting that in 100 years our children’s descendants will need to go through the same process, subjecting our Constitution to risk once again (assuming it survives the second federal convention he is trying so hard to invoke?) Why haven’t he, his lobbyists or “senior advisors” brought this up at legislative hearings?
Why not work on enforcing the Constitution we have, instead of rewriting 2,000 annotated pages of Supreme Court decisions, and very probably the entire Constitution? Why not encourage our State Legislators to stand up against and refuse to comply with unconstitutional federal dictates now—that’s what they are supposed to do, according to our Framers.
Article V was meant to correct defects in the Constitution, and this explains why it is not a solution for reining in an overreaching federal government.
If the main COS proponent thinks his “Solution” is a temporary “fix”; and his method of implementing Amendments resulting from an Article V convention is no different than the system that created the problem in the first place, one must wonder…
What is the real reason COS is being bankrolled to advance an Article V convention whose Delegates, as direct Representatives of the People, would have the inherent Right “to alter or to abolish” our “Form of Government”? (Declaration of Independence, paragraph 2). While we are unable to determine all the sources of the funding for Meckler’s group; the ultimate source of much of the funding for the push for an Article V convention is the mega billionaire Koch Brothers of Texas.
Judi Caler lives in California and is Article V Issues Director for Eagle Forum of CA. She is passionate about holding our public servants accountable to their oath to support the U.S. Constitution.
A link to a short video on the John Jones Museum:
Sam Blumfeld was an advocate for teaching cursive first. He believed that teaching printing or block first was a prescription for poor handwriting. Here is link to his writing tutor: http://blumenfeld.campconstitution.net/Writing/index.htm
Dyslexia: The Disease You Get in School
By Me Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Dyslexia is an exotic word, concocted from the Greek dys, meaning ill or bad,
and lexia, meaning words. It was invented to describe a condition that affects
many normal and intellectual youngsters who, for some reason that seems to baffle
most educators, parents, and physicians, can’t learn to read.
The difference between a dyslexic and a functional illiterate is purely social.
Dyslexics are usually adolescents from middle-class or professional families
whose parents assume that their child’s reading difficulty is more of a medical or
psychological problem than an educational one. The child is too smart to be that
The functional illiterate is simply someone who has kept his reading problem
to himself and goes through life pretending he can read, avoiding situations which
involve reading, choosing, jobs which do not reveal his reading disability. He assumes
he’s dumb, not sick or mentally disturbed.
However, in the last ten years, with the growth of federally funded Special Education
and the proliferation of early testing, more and more children with reading
difficulties are being labeled “learning disabled,” or LD, in the first grade or even
kindergarten. These children are being “diagnosed” as suffering from minimal
brain damage, minimal brain dysfunction, neurological impairment, perceptual
impairment, attention deficit syndrome, or dyslexia.
What are the symptoms of dyslexia? The Academic American Encyclopedia
(Vol. 6, page 320) gives us as good a summary of the disease as we shall find
anywhere. It says:
“Dyslexia refers to an impaired ability to read or comprehend what one reads,
caused by congenital disability or acquired brain damage. Dyslexia is independent
of any speech defect and ranges from a minor to a total inability to read.”
“Specialist used the term specific dyslexia to refer to inability to read in a person
of normal or high general intelligence whose learning is not impaired by socioecnomic
deprivation, emotional disturbance, or brain damage. Psychologists disagree
about whether specific dyslexia is a clearly identifiable syndrome. Those
who think it is clearly identifiable note that it persists into adulthood despite conventional
instruction; tends to run in families; and occurs more frequently in
males. It is also associated with a specific kid of difficulty in identifying words
and letters, which dyslexics tend to reverse or invert (reading p or q, or example
or on for no). Competing theories exist about the causes and nature of dyslexia.
Although there is disagreement among “experts” over the causes of dyslexia,
there is general agreement that the most effective “cure” is remedial programs that
Dr. Orton’s Findings
But it is somewhat puzzling that there should be so much disagreement over
the cause of dyslexia, when, as early as 1929, a leading physician attributed its
cause to a new look-say, whole word, or sight method of teaching reading that
was being introduced in the schools of America. In February 1929, there appeared
in the Journal of Educational Psychology an article entitled “The ‘Sight Reading’
Method of Teaching Reading as a Source of Reading Disability.” written by Dr.
Samuel T. Orton, a neurologist at Iowa State University.
Dr. Orton, a brain specialist who dealt with children’s language disorders, had
been seeing a lot of children with reading problems at his clinic. In diagnosing the
children’s problems at his clinic he came to the conclusion that their reading disability
was being caused by this new instruction method. He decided to bring
these findings to the attention of the educators, and he did so in as diplomatic a
way as was possible. He wrote:
“I wish to emphasize at the beginning that the strictures which I have to offer here
do not apply to the use of the sight method of teaching reading as a whole but
only to its effects on a restricted group of children for whom, as I think we can
show, this technique is not only not adapted but often proves an actual obstacle to
reading progress, and moreover I believe that this group is one of considerable
size and because here faulty teaching methods may not only prevent the acquisition
of academic education by children of average capacity but may also give rise
to far reaching damage to their emotional life.”
This warning to the educators was quite explicit: this method of teaching will
harm a large number of children.
D. Orton expected the educators to respond to his findings. They did – negatively.
In fact, they accelerated the introduction and promoted of the new teaching
methods throughout the primary schools of America. And it dido’t take very long
before America began to have a reading problem.
The Disease Spreads
Although Dr. Orton went to become the world’s leading authority on “dyslexia,”
and in effect created on of the most effective remediation techniques, the OrtonGillingham
method, his 1929 article is nowhere referred to in the literature on the
I came across it quite by accident while doing research for my book, The New
Illiterates, which was published in 1973. But why the experts on dyslexia have not
found it, I don’t know. In any case, dyslexia was virtually unknown in this country
until the 1940s when, suddenly millions of American children were coming
down with the disease. Life magazine reported in April 1944:
“Millions of children in the U.S. suffer from dyslexia which is the medical
term for reading difficulties. It is responsible for about 70% of the school failures
in the 60 to 12-year-age group, and handicaps about 15% of all grade-school children.
Dyslexia may stem from a variety of physical ailments or combination of
them – glandular imbalance, heart disease, eye or ear trouble – or form a deepseated
psychological disturbance that ‘blocks’ a child’s ability to learn.
The article then described the treatment for dyslexia giving a young girl at
Chicago’s Dyslexia Institute on the campus of Northwest University: “thyroid
treatments, removal of tonsils and adenoids, exercise to strengthen her eye muscles.
Other patients needed dental work, nose, throat or ear treatment, or a thorough
airing out of troublesome home situations that throw a sensitive child off the
track of normality.”
Enter Dr. Flesch
In 1955, Dr. Rudolf Flesch published his famous book, Why Johnny Can’t
Read, in which he revealed to parents the true cause of the reading problem. He
“The teaching of reading – all over the United States, in all schools, and in all
textbooks – is totally wrong and flies in the face of all logic and conunon sense.”
And then he explained how in the early 1930s the professor of education
changed the way reading is taught in American schools. They threw out traditional
alphabetic-phonics method, which is the proper way to teach a child to read
an alphabetic writing system, and put in a new look-say, whole-word, or sight
method that teaches children to read an alphabetic writing system, and they put I a
new look-say, whole-word, or sight method that teaches children to read English
as if it were Chinese, an ideographic writing system. Flesch contended that when
you impose an ideographic teaching method on an alphabetic writing system you
cause reading disability.
Dr. Orton had said as much in 1929, but in 1955 Flesch could cite millions of
reading-disabled children as substantiation of what he was saying. Naturally, the
educators rejected Flesch’s contentions.
Most people, of course, don’t know the difference between an alphabetic system
and an ideographic one. But one must know the difference in order to understand
how and why look-say can cause dyslexia.
Ours is an alphabetic writing system, which means that we use an alphabet.
What is an alphabet? It is a set of graphic symbols – we call them “letters” – that
stand for the irreducible speech sounds of the language. In other words, alphabet
letters are not meaningless configurations. They actually stand for something.
Each letter represents a specific sound, and in some cases more than one sound.
All alphabets are the same in that regard. The Russian, Greek, and Hebrew alphabets
all stand for sounds of their respective languages, and the English alphabet
stands for the sounds of the English language.
How does one teach a child or anyone else to read an alphabetic writing system?
For hundreds of years it was done very simpJy in three steps. First, the child
was taught to recognize the letters of the alphabet; second, the child was taught
the sounds the letters stood for; and third, the child was then given words and sentences
How was the child taught the letter sounds? Usually it was done in the simplest
mechanical way possible. For example, the child was taught the consonant sounds
and then drilled on the consonant-vowel combinations arranged in colwnn form,
such as ba, be, bi, bo, bu; da, de, di, do, du etc. the purpose of the drill was to enable
the child to develop as quickly and easily as possible an automatic association
between letter and sound. Developing that association is at the heart of learning
to read an alphabetic writing system.
Pictographs and Ideographs
The first alphabet was invented about 2,000 B.C. Prior to that invention, the
earliest form of writing we know of is pictograph – the pictures represented objects
and actions. You didn’t have to go to school to learn to read pictographs, for
the symbols looked like the things they represented.
However, as civilization became more complex, the scribes had to begin drawing
pictures of things that did not lend themselves to easy depiction. For example,
how would you draw pictures of such concepts as good, bad, dream, reality, persuasion,
confidence, memory, intent, liberty, justice, etc? You can’t. So the
scribes drew symbols, none of which looked like the concept they represented.
Thousands and thousands of such symbols – called idiographs – were created.
And now you had to go to school and be taught what all these symbols meant.
The result was that literacy was limited to a small class of scholars, scribes and
priests. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics is an ideographic writing system, and so
is modern Chinese. The Chinese use 50,000 ideographs, of which 5,000 must be
mastered if an individual is to be able to read a Chinese newspaper. Thus, ideographic
writing is cumbersome, difficult, and time-consuming to master.
However, somewhere around 2,000 RC. someone in the area of ancient Phoenicia
(today’s southern Lebanon and northern Israel) made a remarkable discovery. He
discovered that all the human language, everything we say, is actually composed
of a small number of irreducible speech sounds arranged in end.less combinations.
It occurred to him that by creating a set of symbols to stand for the irreducible
speech sounds of the language, he could create a new form of writing based on
actual transcription of the spoken word. And so alphabetic writing was invented.
Advantages of tbe Alpbabet
And now for the first time an had an accurate, precise means of transcribing
the spoken word directly into written form, and an equally precise means of translating
the written word back into its spoken form. It was the most revolutionary
invention in all history. It did away with hieroglyphic and ideographic writing and
accelerated the speed of intellectual deVelopment. It also made learning to read
simple and available to the population as a whole.
The invention of the alphabet also had great spiritual significance for mankind.
It permitted the word of God to be put down on paper accurately and precisely in
the form of the Scripture. It made the word of God accessible to the human race.
Clearly, alphabetic writing had enormous advantages over ideographs: I it permitted
greatly increased speeds and accuracy in communications, it was easy to master,
and it facilitated a tremendous expansion in vocabulary, permitting the human
mind to develop ideas hitherto inconceivable.
In the light of all these advantages, it seems strange that professors of education
in the 1930s would decide to teach American children to read Enghsh as if it
were an ideographic writing system. How could you possibly teach children to
read that way? To a logical mind the whole idea seems not only absurd but insane.
Yet, that is what the professors did.
Their idea was that it was better for children to look at whole words as pictures
and have them associate them directly with objects, actions and ideas rather than
have them learn to associate the letters with sounds. And so they eliminated step
two in the three-step alphabetic learning process and had the children go directly
from step one to step three; sometimes they would even skipped step one and
started out with whole words.
Essentially, the method works as follows: the child is given a sight vocabulary
to memorize. He is taught to look and say the word without knowing that the letters
stand for sounds. As far as the pupil is concerned, the letters are a bunch of
arbitrary squiggles arranged in some arbitrary, haphazard order. His task is to see
a picture in the configuration of the whole word – to make the word horse look
like a horse.
Of course, the word horse does not look like a horse. So how does a child remember
that the word is horse? Anyway he can. There isn’t a professor of education
anywhere in the world who can tell you how a child learns a sight vocabulary.
The only research we know of that addresses that question was done by Josephine
H. Bowden at the elementary school of the University of Chicago around
1912. A description of the studies was given by Prof. Walter F. Dearborn in 1914
In the first study of pupils, who had no instruction in reading, were
taught by a word method without the use of phonics and the problem was
to determine by what means children actually recognized and differentiated
words when left to their own devices. The following quotation indicates
the methods employed by the experimenter: “First, incidents; for example,
one day when the child was given the cards to read from, it was
observed that she read with equal ease whether the card was right side up
or upside down. This incident suggested a test which was later given. Second,
comments of the child; for example, when she was asked to find in
context the word ‘shoes,’ she said that ‘dress’ looked so much like ‘shoes’
that she was afraid she would make a mistake. Third, questioning; for example,
she had trouble to distinguish between ‘sing’ and ‘song.’ When she
had mastered the words she was asked how she knew which was which.
Her reply was, ‘by the looks.’ When questioned further she put her finger
on the ‘i’ and the ‘0.’ These three types of evidence correspond to introspection
with an adult. The fourth type of evidence is comparison of the
words learned with the words not learned as to the parts of speech, geometric
form, internal form, and length. Fifth, misreadings; for example,
‘dogs’ was read ‘twigs,’ and ‘feathers,’ ‘fur.’ Sixth, mutilations; for example
‘dogs’ was printed ‘digs,’ lilac’ was printed ‘laJci.”’
Some of the conclusions may be cited, first as regards the kinds of
words most easily learned on the basis of the word form. Four out of six
children learned more ‘linear’ words, i&., words like “acorns,” “saw,” in
which there were no high letters, than of any other group. In but one case
were the “superlinear” words more easily recognized
Misreadings or the mistaking of one word for another occurred most frequently
in these early stages, first when the words were of the same length
(which again converts Messmer’s ftndings); secondly, when words had
common letters, the “g” and “0” of “igloo” caused it to be read as “dogs”;
thirdly, when the initial letters of words were the same; and fourthly, when
the final letters were the same. Words were recognized upside down
nearly as easily as right side up, but [ only] two children noticing any difference.
The word seems to be recognized as a whole, and as the author
notes, recognized upside down just as the child would recognize a toy upside
down. The general conclusion of the study may be quoted:
“The comments and the questions, as well as misreadings, seem to
show that children learn to read words by the trial and error method. It
may be the length of the word, the initial letter, the final letter, a characteristic
letter, the position of the word in the sentence, or even the blackness
of the type that serves as the cue. . .. There is no evidence that the child
works out a system by which he learns to recognize words. That he does
not work out phonics for himself comes out quite clearly in the transposition
test. Furthennore, only once did a child divide a word even into its
syllables. There is some evidence that conscious of letters, except in the
case of “E,” who so analyzed the word “six.” Sometimes, when the child
seems to have made a letter analysis, he failed to recognize the word a
second time, and in some cases did not learn it at all.”
And so it was obvious to the professors as far back as 1914 that the sight method
was a totally horrendous, inefficient and illogical way to teach a child to read.
And despite Dr. Orton’s warning in 1929 that the method would hann many children,
they proceeded to put their new reading programs in all the schools of
Of Course, they beefed up their sight vocabulary approach with a battery of
“word recognition strategies.” They provided configuration clues – putting sight
words in frames; picture clues – loading the page with illustrations depicting the
words; context clues – inane stories in which the word could be easily guessed on
the basis of context; and phonetic clues – teaching initial and final consonant
sounds to reduce some ridiculousness of some of the guessing.
It is important to note that teaching phonetic clues is not the same as teaching intensive,
systematic phonics. The latter helps the child develop an automatic association
of letters and sounds and teaches blending. The fonner simply teaches isolated
consonant sounds with no connection to the rest of the syllable.
That this method of teaching can cause symptoms of dyslexia is not difficult to
surmise. What are the symptoms? Dr. Harold N. Levinson, founder of the Medical
Dyslexic Treatment Center in Lake Success, New York, and author of Smart But
Feeling Dumb which he dedicated to “40 million dyslexic Americans,” lists the
symptoms as follows: (1) memory instability for letters, words, or numbers; (2) a
tendency to skip over or scramble letters, words, and sentences; (3) poor, slow,
fatiguing reading ability prone to compensatory head tilting, near-far focusing,
and finger pointing; (4) reversal of letters such as Q, g, words such as saw and
was, and numbers such as 6 and 9 or 16 and 61.
Most of these symptoms sound like the very mistakes made by those children
back in 1912 who were trying to learn a sight vocabulary. Some of those children
even read words upside down!
But it is obvious that if you are told to look at words as a picture, you may look
at it from right to left as easily as from left to right You will reverse letters because
they look alike and you have not been drilled to know them by sound as
well as by sight. You will be a poor speller because the sequence of letters seems
completely arbitrary, with no rime or reason. Of course, to a phonetic reader the
sequence of letters is most important because it follows the same sequence in
which the sounds are uttered.
Other symptoms include transposing letters in a word, for example, abroad for
aboard, left for felt, how for who; confusing words with others of similar configuration,
such as, through, though, thought, or quit, quite, quiet, guessing at unknown
Dr. Kenneth L. Goodman, America’s top professor of reading, calls reading a
“psycho linguistic guessing game.” And that’s exactly what it is for most American
children in today’s primary schools. The result is an explosion in Special Education,
which has become the growth industry for educators so worried about
falling enrollment. The primary schools create the learning disabilities, and the
federal government is funding a new industry to deal with them. In the 1976-77
school year there were 976,000 learning disabled students in Special Education.
In 1983-84 there were 1,806,000. Dyslexia is booming!
Obviously, the prevalent teaching method causes dyslexia. I have visited many
American cities on my lecture tours and have seen for myself the look-say basal
reading programs being used in today’s primary classrooms all across the country.
You can imagine my feelings when I know that the minds of millions of American
children are being pennanently crippled, their futures handicapped, their selfesteem
destroyed by educators who should have known better. This criminal malpractice
is going on right now in your community. And yet there is little one can
do about it. The professors of education won’t listen – after all, they write the
textbooks. The book publishers publish what the educators want and what the
textbooks committees adopt. The classroom teachers, as a whole, now no other
way to teach; the professional organizations promote look-say; the principals,
administrators, and superintendents leave the teaching of reading to the “experts.”
Circumventing the System
But there is some hope. There are a growing number of private and church
schools that are teaching children to read by alphabetic, systematic, intensive
phonics. Also, the borne-school movement has largely adopted phonics as the technique
to teach reading. And here and there one finds a teacher in public schools
who uses an alphabetic-phonics approach or even a school district that has
adopted a phonics-oriented basal.
However, for the nation as a whole, there is little hope that the vast majority of
schools will change their teaching methods in the foreseeable future – unless a
group of well informed top business leaders make the teaching of reading a top
priority issue and force the educators to change their ways. But considering how
poorly informed our business leaders are and how difficult it is to reach them, let
alone brief them on this rather complex subject, there is little likelihood that they
will act effectively on behalf of the children entrapped in the public schools.
(The quotation from Dr. Dearborn is from The Psychological Researches of James
McKeen Cattell: A Review by Some of His Pupils, Archives ofPsyschology, No.
30, 1914, pp. 40-41.)
Editors Note: Here is a link to a PDF version of this article on the Blumenfeld Archives:
Sam Blumenfeld was involved in many organizations. He was one of the co-founders of the Jewish Society of Americanists founded in April 1966. We believe that Camp Constitution is the only place where you can find the newsletters of the organization. Here is the link:
Editors note: This article fron the early 1980s, was originally typed and contains some typos which we were not able to correct. A link to a PDF version: http://blumenfeld.campconstitution.net/Transcripts/The%20Wonderful%20World%20Of%20Charity.pdf
By Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Laissez-faire — or a reasonable facsimile thereof — is alive
and well in the wonderful world of nonprofit organizations better
known in America as philanthropy. Anyone can start a charity around
some worthy medical, educational or cultural cause, get a mailing
list, send out a quarter of a million letters pleading for money,
and then wait for the checks to roll in. This is one of the great
freedoms Americans can still joyfully exercise, a freedom that some
people would like to curtail.
And that’s why your mailbox on some days is literally crammed
with letters from such organizations as the American Civil Liberties
Union Foundation, the Sierra Club, American Leprosy Missions, The
Salvation Army, the Cousteau Society, Planned Parenthood, the Epilepsy
Foundation of America, Alternatives to Abortion International,
Animal Protection Institute of America, Sacred Heart Auto League,
Leukemia Society of America, etc.
Would you believe that the cumulative list of tax-exempt
organizarions compiled by the Internal Revenue Service has over
250,000 entries? And that doesn’t tell the whole story, for under
one umbrella organization . may be hundreds of branches or chapters
that are j ust as tax exempt as the parent group . . Would you believe
that Americans give to charity at a rate of over $100 million a day?
Would you believe that America’s total giving — $47.74 billion In
1980 — is more than the national budgets of all but uine of the
160 nations listed in the World Almanac? (Brazil’s national budget
in 1979 was $18.83; Canada’s, $44.75 billion.)
The simple truth is that Americans are the most generous people
on earth. They give about $180 per capita each year to charity,
whereas Canadians give only about $35, and Englishmen a mere $20.
Large-scale philanthropy is a peculiarly American phenomenon for a
number of very good reasons: (1) Americans in ‘ general rely less on
government to get things done than do people in other nations;
(2) Americans, because of their wealth, are grateful for their good
fortune and are thus easily persuaded by religious conviction or a
sense of altruism to help the less fortunate and contrbute to worthy
causes; (3) the tax-exempt status of the nonprofit organization has
made it economically attractive to conduct certain medical, cultural,
educational and scentific enterprises in the nonprofit format;
(4) fund-raising has been developed into a very highly skilled
profession, with the result that more people are being persuaded to
give to more causes than ever before.
become the favorite
Contrary to the popular belief that foundations are the big
givers in America, the fact is that individuals contribute over
80 percent of the total given to charity. In 1980 that came to
And that is why direct-mail solicitations have
way to reach potential donors. They go to
inqividuals in their homes where the letters can be read in an easy
chair in close proximity to a personal checkbook. The appeal letter,
skillfully written by a w|ll-paid professional, is intended to
enlist the reader’s interest and symp}thy to the extent that he
or she will write out a check immediately, slip it in the prepaid
reply envelope, and mail it in the morning. An appeal letter that
is set aside for future answering seldom gets ansv?~reu because the
appeals that arrive in the next day’s mail may command greater
interest and sympathy.
Although begging for alms is probably as old as the human race,
soliciting contributions by mail is a relatively new phenomenon
which, in the computer age, has become a highly sophisticated business.
Legend has it that direct-mail fund-raising was started in Italy
in 1835 by Saint Vincent Pallotti, an advisor to the Pope, wh0 sent
letters to potential donors appealing for money to support his
works of mercy. Undoubtedly Father Pallotti wrote some very persuasive
letters, for he opened a whole new world of charitable enterprise.
Today some direct-mail specialists charge as much as $5,000
to write a good, hard-hitting letter for a client — who might be
a magazine publisher, a sales house, or a charity. In 1978 about
34 billion form letters were sent through the mail by businesses and
organizations trying to drum up mail-order response. Their
success accounted for about 12 percent of all retail sales,
addqng up to $83 billion in gross revenues.
That’s a lot ofBut it all starts with a mailing list. You just don’t send
out letters to everyone in the phone book. You try to get a list
of people most likely to respond to your appeal. Richard Viguerie,
the direct-mail king for conservative. causes, built his thriving
empire on a list of contributors to the Goldwater campaign of 1964.
Hqving those names and addresses was literally like having money
n the bank. These were people interested in any number of
conservative causes. The result was the birth of numeyous sinqle
issue organizations that began laying the groundwork for a conservative
Likewise, ln 1972 the liberals put together their own mailing
list from contributors to the McGovern campaign. This list, compiled
by direct-mail specialist Morris Dees, had a half million names to
begin with. If you were on this list, you no doubt have received
since then several hundreds of solicitations from liberal causes.
And, of course, organizations will exchange or buy lists to expand
their reach. One contributor who gave $15 to the Kent State Fund
soon began receiving solicitations from the followers of Karen
Silkwood, the Union of Concerned Scientists (nuclear power) and
the Greenpeace Foundation (baby seals). There is a very lively
traffic in lists, with brokers offering whole catalogues of specialized
lists for rent — doctors, lawyers, teachers, salesmen, home-owners,
boat-owners, farmers, pilots, ministers, etc. Some lists are
computer-coded so that they can be broken down by sex, level of
,donation, ethnic derivation of surname, and zip code, which makes
it pretty easy for an organization or business to direct its
campaign to a very specific group of people.
Renting a list is not cheap. The cost will run between $15
and $60 per thousand names. But that’s only the beginning. There’s
also postage, paper, and printing to pay for — not to mention the
overhead of an office. On the average, the overall cost for a mailing
of 100,000 pieces is about $20,000, or 20 cen¡3 apiece. A resronse
of 2 perc¢nt is considered highly successful. If those 2,000
respondees contribute an average of about $15 each, your income
will be about $30,000, leaving your organization about $10,000 to
spend on the cause.
Actually, in its first year no new charity is expected to raise
much more money than is needed to simply get it off the ground.
The payoff comes after the first year when contributors renew their
donations and the organization developes a loyal following of
interested people and a specialized mailing list of its own.
Because there is now so much competition in direc£-mail.
solicitations, fund-raisers are using all sorts of gimmicks to get
people to respond. Public affairs groups may enclose opinion
polls or postage stamps. Religious charities often enclose plastic
key chains and medallions. Health agencies tend to favor seals.
Other gimmicks include sweepstake tickets, greeting cards, ball-point
pens, return address labels, and bright new pennies. The hope
is that these “gifts” will induce the receiver to send some money
back in the return envelope. The gimmicks often work, for no one
likes to feel that he or she is taking something for nothing,
particularly from a charity. Naturally all of this gimmickry
increases the cost of fund-raising.
There is a great deal of debate over what constitutes fair
operating costs for a chartable organization. Some charities are
accused of spending too much money on raising money and not enough
on the charity itself. That was the case with the Sister Kenny
Foundation which in the years 1952-9 collected $30,674,000 from
the public to help rehabilitate victims of infantile paralysis.
Of that money, 53%, or $16,260,000, went for “overhead” and fundraising
costs. Thus, less than half the money collected was
actually used for therapeutic purposes.
Was this a result of fraud, greed, or plain poor management?
In this case it turned out to be a matter of greed, and the promoters
involved one of whom was a well-known operator in the charity
business were found guilty of mail fraud and conspiracy and were
sent to jail.
But the truth of the matter is that charitable organizations,
subject to the strong pressures of a highly competitive marketplace,
have become more and more like businesses, p la gue d wit the same
economic problems, expected to perform with the same efficiency.
Yet, as we all know, businesses can fail. They can lose money as
well as make it, and the same holds true for the charitable organization,
One ought not to automatically suspect fraud if a charity can’t
quite make it.
In a field of activity as large, diverse, and open as fund-raising
there are bound to be some sharp operators and some shady dealings
and practices. However, most of the people who start charitable
organizatlons are motivated by the desire to serve some worthy causes.
The hired help, however, may not be so altruistically motivated.
The professionals who run the biggest charities are paid salaries
comparable to their peers in government and industry. For example,
five officers of Disabled American Veterans are paid about $49,000
and the top executive officer earns nearly $63,000. Were these
same services performed by a government agency at taxpayer expense
the saiaries would be the same but the staff would, no doubt, be
twice as large.
As for the lower echelon workers, they are no more self-sacrificial
than their counterparts in business or government. Some have been
known to even strike for higher wages. That was the case in the
mid 1970’s when 120 staff members of New York’s Association for the
Help of Retarded Children walked off their jobs and did not return
until they had received $800 in annual increases over their pay
which ranged from $5,100 to $10,000.
How can you as a consumer know which of the charities are worth
contributing to? Most contributors give to causes that interest them.
If the cause is a vital one, they rarely worry about how efficient
the organization championing it is. But if you do want to find out
something about a specific nonprofit organization, there are two
information agencies that can help you: the National Information
Bureau (419 Park Ave., South, New York, N. Y. 10016) and the
Philanthropic Advisory Service of the Council of Better Business
Bureaus (1150 Seventeenth St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036). The
NIB keeps tabs on the finances and activities of almost 400 national
charities. The NIB rates charitiEs according to how well they
measure up to the eight standards which the agency feels every wellintentioned,
well-run chaity should meet:
(1) An active and responsible governing body with effective
administrative control, serving without compensation and holding
[2) A legitimate purpose with no avoidable duplication of
the work of other sound organizations.
(3) Reasonable management efficiency with adequate material
and personnel resources to carry on its stated program together with
reasonable dministration nd fund-raising expense.
(4) Consultation and cooperation with established agencies in
the same and related fields.
(5) Ethical methods of publicity, promoton and fund solicitation.
(6) No payment of commissions for fund raising, no mailing of
unordered tickets or mercharldise with a request for money in return,
no general telephone solicitation of the public and no use of
icentitled government employees to solicit the public.
(7) An annual audit employing the Uniform Accounting Standards
and prepared by an independent certified public accountant, showing
all support/revenue and expenses in reasonable detail. A combined
audit of the national office and affiliates is required.
(8) A detailed annual budget consistent with the Uniform
The NIB publishes a rating list, updated each month, of some
365 national charities entitled the “Wise Giving Guide,” available
free on request. In-depth individual reports are also available,
with a limit of three per request.
Th2 Council of Better Business Burearus maintains files on
about 7,0 00 national nonprofit organizations that solicit public
support. It publishes a rating list of the 360 or so most active
ones. Detailed reports on any charities monitored by CBBB are
available on request. The rating list can be had for $1.
¥he NIB and the CBBB do not always agree in their evaluations
of particular organizations. But both watchdog groups have
reservations about the following charities: American Brotherhood
for the Blind, AMVETS National Service Foundation, Christian
Appalachian Project, Cousteau Society, David Livingstone Missionary
Found¦tion, Disabled American Veterans, Guiding Eyes for the Blind,
Help Hospitalized Veterans, Korean Relief, Paralyzed Veterans of
America, Salesian Missions, Seeing Eye, Southern Poverty Law Center,
Southwest In§ian Foundation, and World Ch¨ngers.
The ratings may not ma©e much sense to those who contribute to
organizations because of the causes they espouse rather than because
they meet a set of standards devised by some self-appointed watchdogs.
For example, I found that several of my favorite organizations did
not get the approval of the NIB, while others which I didn’t like at
all made the approval list. I hate to think that the NIB’s rating
system is biased. But one thing is certain: you can’t base your
glvlng decisions solely on their criteria and findings. All of which
means that even the work of a watchdog agency must be monitored for
its own inherent prejudices. There is more to a charity or a nonprofit
organization thar. the frequency of its board meetings and
the cost of its fund-raising.
There have been attempts in some states to legislate limits
on fund-raising costs. In Florida the limit is 25 percent of the
funds raised; in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the limit is
35 percent; and in New York and New Jersey it is 50 percent. Clearly
it is impossible to come up with a figure that means anything.
It’s like trying to legislate limits on how much a businessman may
put into a ne business before he turns a profit. Start up costs
for nonprofit organizations are subject to just about as many
variables, pre ictable and unpredictable, as those for businesses.
All tax-exempt organizations — except churches _.- are required
by the IRS to file annual financial reports. These reports really
tell us as much as we have to know about how a particular nonprofit
organization is handling its money. In addition, these reports are
thoroughly analyzed by the NIB and the CBBB. Therefore, if any
contributor has doubts or reservations about any charity, he can
always get plenty of information about it. Nonprofit organizations
will send you their annual reports on request.
But because church-affiliated charities are not required to
submit annual financial reports to the IRS — remember separation
of church and state — it is far more difficult for the contributor
to find out how that charity is handling its funds. We assume that th
priests, ministers, and rabbis who administer these charities are
_.L.L’-‘ …… …………. ,1
kept honest by the higher laws of their respective religions. But
even men of the cloth are susceptible to temptation. In fact, a
recent scandal involving a well-known Catholic charity reminds us
that Original Sin has not gone the way of the Latin mass.
Foy years the Pall ottine Fathers of Baltimore, a venerable
Roman Catholic missionary order with 2200 priests and brothers in
’23 countries, had been soliciting contributions by mail. In fact,
the order was founded in 1835 by Saint Vincent Pallotti, the father
of direct-mail fund-raising. From that modest beginning grew a
mammoth direct-mail charity which is now run from a warehouse in
Bltimore with computerized mailing lists, automatic typewriters and
high-speed envelope stuffers.
From June 1974 through December 1975 the order sent out 150
million appeals, some of which contained ball-point pens, calendars,
prayer cards, and sweepstakes tickets. The response during that
period added up to $20 million of which less than 3 percent ever
reached the charitable missions. The bulk was used to pay for the
mailings, including a postage bill of $2 million a year.
This alone was dismal pnough, but when a federal probe into a
Maryland bank revealed that the Pallottine Fathers had loaned the
bnnk $87,000, the state attorney general began an investigation
that finally led to the indictment and conviction in 1978 of the
charity’s fund-raising director, the Very Rev. Guido John Carcich.
It turned out that millions of the charity’s funds had been
invest8d in real estate and business ventures, including a portable
classroom manufacturing company owned by the nephew of the Pallottjne
CharityFathers’ accountant. An investigation into that company resulted in
the indictment of Maryland’s school construction chief. Another
Pallottine loan of $54,000 helped pay for Maryland Governor Marvin
Mandel’s 1974 divorce; and $52,000 was used for the purchase of a
house for Father Carcich’s niece.
When all the faces were finally known, Father Carcich pleaded
guilty to diverting $2.2 million of the charity’s funds into 28
secret bank accounts. Under a plea-bargaining arrangement, Father
Carcich was placed on probation for 18 months Qnd ordered to work
for one year in the Maryland penal system “ministering to the needs
of prisoners.” Meanwhile, the order was stripped of its fiscal
autonomy by senior officials of the Catholic Church who also imposed
a moratorium on future Pallottine financial dealings pending a
review of its fund-raising methods and philosophy.
It would be wrong to conclude from the Pallottine case that
the charity world is riddled with crooks and charlatans. There
about as much fraud in the nonprofit sector as one is likely to
find in government or business, perhps even less these days because
of the inordinate publicity charity frauds get. Cal Bakal, author
1Sof USA, states that from $500 million to $1.5 billion is
estimated to wind up with chaity charlatans. That’s about 2 percent
of the total $47.74 billion contributed to all charitable organizations.
One can philosophize that it’s part of the cost we must bear if we
are to enjoy the freedom to organize and raise money for any cause
that grabs hold of us.
Some social critics have suggested that we create a federal
agency to regulate and police charitable organizations. But instantly
you would have to exclude religious organizations from such government
regulation because of our long-standing tradition of separation of
church and state. In 1980 religion received $22.15 billion in
contributions, or 46.3 percent of all charitable giving. Thus, -almost
half of all charitable acIivity would be exempt from government
On the other hand, government regulation would merely create
another expensive federal bureaucracy which would generate tons of
needless paperwork and red tape. It would place a damper on nonprofit
entrepreneurship, it would inhibit the starting of new organizations
and solidify the dominance of the establishment charit)es. Federal
regulations would increase the cost of fund-raising without improving
the quality of services rendered. They might reduce the chance
of fraud, but they would not solve the problems of human error and
mismanagement. But worsJ of all, they might also kill the vitality
of the nonprofit sector which depends so heavily on personal motivation
and the freedom to act forcefully in its behalf. Bureaucracy is no
substitute for individual initiative and dedication.
Charity – 16
entrepreneurship, it would inhibit the starting of new organizations
and solidify the dominance of the establishment charities. Federal
rºgulations would increase the cost of fund-raising without improving
the q»ality of services rendered. They might reduce the chance
of fraud, but they would not solve the problems of human error and
mismanagement. But worst of all, they might also kill the vitality
of the nonprofit sector which depends so heavily on pe¼sonal motivation
and the freedom to act forcefully in its behalf. Bureaucracy is no
substitute for individual initiative and dedication.
Meanwhile, fund-raisers are worried about the future. They
don’t know if Reagan’s new tax policies will help or hurt charitable
giving. But one thing is certain: people will continue to give as
long as there are good causes to support and enough persuasive
fund-raisers to do the asking. One 27-year-old sheet metal worker who
pledged $20 to a policeman’s benefit association in response to a
phone solicita’tion summed up the feelings of a lot of contributors
when asked why he gave :
“It’s hard for me to say no when someone wants my help ,
when they come right out and ask me. I want people to like me. I feel
that I have failed or fallen short in some way when I refuse to help
people. I’d rather pay the $20 than feel bad about it for several days
because I didn’t pay it½ Twenty dollars isn’t very much . . . I can
handle that much.”
But not every donor is a soft touch. Here’s what a 50-year-old
sports store owner replied when asked by Paul Schneiter, author of
The Art of why he gave a motor boat and three canoes wortil
Charity – 17
$6,500 to a parochial high school: “I ‘m basically stingy about
donating, except where the church is concerned. I believe in
their programs. • Another reason I gave is because I would rather
control where my money goes than simply turn it over to the Internal
But perhaps the 52-year-old owner of a grocery store who
gave $2,500 to a boys’ club hit the nail on the head when he said:
“When the boys’ club president and two of the boys visited me and
asked for the money, I just didn’t want to refuse • • . . They. made
me feel important, and I just couldn’t let them down .. .. You
know, after you make some big purchase you feel blue about it for
days afterward, wondering if you did the right thing. But after
I gave that $2,500, it wasn’t that way. It was just a great feeling}
and the feeling comes back every time I think about it.n
For many Americans? giving to charity is a sure way to
experience that great feeling — whether it be in giving fifty cen·ts
to a down-and-outer, SIOO to a Jerry Lewis telethon for Muscular
Distrophy, or S105 million to a university. Yes, that much money,
in Coca Cola stock, was given to Emory University in 1980 by the
Emily & Ernest Woodruff Fund, ,the largest single gift in the history
of philanthropy_ It ·s assumed that great feelings — in some cases
approaching delir.ium was had by all. Of such stuff are ·the
dreams of fund-raisers made.’
Camp Constitution’s 2017 family camp came to a close Sunday. The camp enjoyed its largest attendance since the camp started in 2009. Instructors included Professor Willie Soon, one of the world’s top climate realists, Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, and Alex Newman, author and writer for “World Net Daily.” Attendees celebrated Indpendence Day in style by having Mrs. Catherirne White conduct a class entitled “The Lives of the Signers, and a class by historian Rich Howell on the basis for our indpendence Campers were entertained by Mike Piazza and his High Flying Frisbee Dogs, and a magic show by the camp’s webmaster, Eric Conover. In the evening, campers enjoyed a fireworks display.
Super campers were Madeleine Girard of Manchester, NH, and Jordan Britt of Northeast, PA. The local paper “The Monadnock Ledger” send a reporter to camp on Monday and he wrote a good article: http://www.ledgertranscript.com/Camp-Constitution-in-Rindge-11201932
Classes and camp activities were videotaped and will be available on the camp’s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/my_videos?o=U