Many liberals have, out of good intentions, been goaded into supporting leftist ideas to uplift the poor. The results have been the exact opposite. Not only have their efforts been unhelpful but have instead deepened the divide and created a permanent underclass.
A great many incarcerated criminals have one thing in common: They can’t read. Illiteracy is the best predictor of not just crime but also poverty and other social ills. The detrimental effects of not being able to read at a functional level are so enormous that if society could fix this one single problem, nearly all other issues would disappear. Literacy is the closest thing society has ever had to a magic wand for social troubles.
The Phonic Alphabet
The Chinese have a higher IQ on average than Europeans. Despite this, the literacy rate in China has been much lower than in the West for a long time. The reason? The Chinese lacked a phonic alphabet and had to learn to read by recognizing one whole word at a time.
Since this task is more mentally challenging, reading remained a secret art among the high-IQ Mandarin bureaucrat class. In Europe, by contrast, one of the greatest inventions in human history – the alphabet – allowed people of lesser ability to read. Therefore, literacy was surprisingly widespread in ancient Europe.
The introduction of Indian-Arab numerals during the renaissance had a similar effect on numeracy in Europe. By lowering the cognitive skills required, more people mastered math.
Whole Word Reading
By the 19th century, the U.S. literacy rate was greater than 90%, far higher than today. What went wrong? Why are people today less able to read than 150 years ago? The answer is the whole word method.
Academics from ivory tower league universities too clever for their own good thought that this great invention of the phonic alphabet was boring. In their infinite wisdom, they threw out 4000 years of proven success and decided that it had all been a mistake. Much better to learn like their fellow Mandarins in China.
There is an ideological component worth pondering: The alphabet is individualistic and freedom-oriented, relying on the efficacy and independence of each citizen. The Chinese writing system is centrally planned, designed for an empire and a small totalitarian bureaucrat class. The Chinese symbols are meant to elevate the cognitive elite above the rest by making it so hard to read that only the select few would master it, making it easier to maintain power.
We cannot read the minds of American academics, but if they wanted to increase the difference between the haves and the have-nots, introducing whole word reading would be the perfect strategy to do so. If there ever was something that deserved to be called systemic oppression, whole word reading fits the bill.
The science is overwhelming and unambiguous: The lower your cognitive abilities are, the more you benefit from phonics. The most intelligent people have sufficient brainpower to re-discover phonics on their own from whole word reading. For everyone else, it makes reading harder.
And if you belong to the lowest quarter in cognitive ability, the whole word method nearly guarantees illiteracy. By contrast, phonics closes the gap in reading ability between the smartest and the dullest.
Since leftists say that they genuinely want to reduce inequality in society, they are loudly demanding phonics in every school, right? Wrong!
Would you be surprised to find out that ideological leftists, and many liberals, are staunch opponents of phonics? Despite the preponderance of scientific evidence for the detrimental effects of whole word reading, they still push it.
The result is what we would expect: disastrously low literacy rates and systemic disenfranchisement of large segments of the U.S. population. Whether it is done due to ideological bone-headedness or by malice does not matter. The left has created a permanent underclass.
The problem is easy to solve, and the solution is well-tested. Instead of doing the obvious, namely to shift back to phonics, the left is now pushing the idea that being able to read is white supremacy. Problem solved.