Three cultural changes during the last half-century have combined to lessen this ability in a great majority of people.
After World War II, general education standards were lowered. New systems of education ignored such fundamentals as reading, writing and grammar. School systems adopted a permissive attitude toward education with the inevitable consequence that students learned less and less. The decline was progressive and hastened after 1950 when television became dominant in child care. Mothers plunked their children in front of the TV and let them fixate their attention, the continuous inflow of images serving as both leash and babysitter. The onset of the drug scourge in the 1960s further served to dull the minds of the TV generation.
These three factors have produced generations of people who are bombarded with a large amount of information which they do not comprehend and who have been placed in the role of mere spectators. They are, as a result, out of communication with life.
Key to Life Course is a major breakthrough in the field of communication. Step by step, it strips away the reasons why a person cannot clearly comprehend what he reads, writes and hears and why others cannot comprehend him.
This has led to lawlessness, inflation, lowered production and many other societal problems, not to mention the individual frustration and unhappiness of wasted potential and wasted years. People ill-equipped for living in a highly technological society get trampled by those who are better equipped; and even the very bright are eventually impeded by those underfoot. Educators in the better private universities routinely find students who cannot read with comprehension, regardless of how well they scored on standardized admission tests.
L. Ron Hubbard recognized these phenomena in the 1950s, as we have seen in the last chapter, and by 1964 he developed the technology of how to study. However, in the late 1970s he saw that even this technology now required a more fundamental handling owing to the general cultural decline. He found that many people, even college educated, were unable to easily assimilate data, including his study technology.
"Functional illiteracy" describes the circumstance wherein an individual appears able to make his way in life, yet is actually so deficient in reading and writing that, for all but menial purposes, he is illiterate. A growing number of students have been little more than baby-sat in the school system for twelve years, then turned loose with almost no chance of contributing to society and with every chance that society will have to support them. The term, functional illiteracy, really means simply, "illiteracy" and is a condemnation of an educational system which, entrusted with educating our young people, fails them miserably and fails the rest of us as well.
Over 25 million Americans are illiterate, according to government figures. Another 45 million, at least, are only marginally capable of leading productive lives. These two categories amount to nearly 49 percent of all adult Americans and underscore the general decline in literacy.
Not everyone suffers from this condition. But it does exist in varying degrees in nearly everyone. For example, in the sentence, "Its as good as gold," most people cannot define the word "as." Yet, "as" is a word used every day. This doesnt classify one as illiterate but it does serve to show that anyones comprehension could be increased.
If one truly comprehended what he read and heard and if he were able to make himself comprehended by others, all of life would open to him. But to the degree he cannot express himself and make others understand him, and to the degree he cannot understand what others are communicating, life is closed off to him.
In solving the problem of a world out of communication, L. Ron Hubbard developed a thorough handling that not only brings an illiterate up to literacy but increases the ability of anyone to comprehend and to be comprehended.
The handling he devised is called the Hubbard Key to Life Course.
In developing the Key to Life, there was a particular problem that cried out for a solution. On a wider sphere, this is a conundrum that has been faced, but not resolved, by every educator in history: How does one teach someone to understand and use the language without assuming that the person under instruction already knows at least some of what one is trying to teach him? How, for example, does one teach the meaning of a word without assuming the person already knows how to read the words being used to teach him? How does one teach the language without assuming the person already knows some of it?
For example, if one opens a dictionary to look up the definition of a word, one can encounter other words that are not understood. If one opens up a book on grammar, one is immediately hit with terminology that is not explained until later. Yet, when one encounters a misunderstood word, he ceases to understand and does not fully grasp or become aware of what follows. Understanding ceases on going past a misunderstood word. This datum is the single most important factor in the whole field of education. How, then, can one teach the language, its construction, its words and its use without laying the person open to misunderstood words?
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