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A. Purpose and History of the National Literacy Program

Regarding the vast number of Americans who cannot read, or who cannot read well enough to be employable in a technological economy, the National Education Project has underway a national literacy program with four main purposes:

  1. To encourage colleges and universities across the country to offer three-credit, elective courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences that combine experience and theory at the same time and provide undergraduates with a more realistic education than they can get through courses that provide classroom theory alone.

    In a word, these courses are designed to inject experience into the search for Truth.

  2. To provide reliable and effective tutors on a massive scale to children throughout the country who must have this help if they are to master the basic literacy skills that are required for employment in a technological economy.

    As an indication of the remarkable effectiveness of the tutors from this Project, please see Results of the Tutoring for several actual evaluations written by classroom teachers.

  3. To instill in college undergraduates and in elementary school children a greater awareness of the importance of The United States Constitution, using the two copies of the U.S. Constitution autographed several years ago by the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

  4. To create a rebirth of learning across this country that will rival the Golden Age of Pericles.

In these courses, which are offered in departments such as Sociology, Economics, Philosophy, Management, and Elementary Education, undergraduates obtain real-world experience by working as tutors five hours each week of the semester in elementary schools that are selected for their ability to provide a graphic illustration of the academic discipline as it exists in the real world.

The undergraduates also are required to meet in weekly seminars with their supervising professor. In these seminars, the students' experience in the community is matched against the theories of the academic discipline.

In this way, the undergraduates get a mix of experience and theory at the same time, and a deeper and more profound understanding of the academic discipline than they can get in the college classroom alone. (This, of course, is not very new. Courses that combine experience and theory at the same time have been considered to be the highest form of learning in Western culture since the time of Galileo.)

Here is an example of how this course works: Undergraduates who register for this course in Economics would tutor in an inner-city elementary school where they would see poverty firsthand. It is then the role of the Economics professor in the weekly seminars to examine poverty in modern society, and to describe, for example, how the major theories and authors in the field of Economics attempt to explain the existence of poverty in the richest nation in history, and why it is that poverty, against our best efforts for so many years, continues to exist.

This was the reasoning behind the original program begun by Mr. Norman Manasa, who was an undergraduate at the University of Miami when he first conceived of this program in the fall of 1968. (Mr. Manasa is also the founder and Director of The National Education Project, Inc.) The program at the University of Miami, which registered its first undergraduates in the fall of 1969, remained in operation until 1973. During that time, over 1,000 undergraduates enrolled in these courses, which were offered by a number of academic departments, including the Department of Economics.

Academic credit served to acknowledge that the undergraduates were learning things about the various academic disciplines that they genuinely needed to know. In assessing the educational value that these courses had for the undergraduates, an Economics professor at the University of Miami wrote:

"The field experience brought a dimension to the [undergraduates'] education which would otherwise have been absent.

"The practical experience gave them insights into social realities which would have been nearly impossible to impart in a pure classroom environment, and this also made them think much more critically about many concepts which they had encountered on a purely intellectual level.

"Coming from an abstract discipline like Economics, I found this particularly gratifying." (Emphasis supplied.)

In addition to their educational merit, however, these courses also have the following benefits for undergraduates:

  1. These courses provide undergraduates with work experience in the real world, the sort of experience that will help them to make more knowledgeable and realistic decisions regarding a college major and subsequent career.

  2. It is this same work experience that will help the undergraduates to get a job upon graduation, since they will be able to show employers a clear record of achievement at something genuinely important; that is, teaching someone to read.

  3. And, not least, these courses permit undergraduates to learn the "old virtues" of duty, obligation, and compassion.

As a practical matter, virtually all of the nation's 10,000,000 college students, regardless of their major, are eligible to participate, since these courses are offered as "electives," and since undergraduates, generally, must take elective courses to get a degree.

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