Literacy: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

You may also like...

64 Responses

  1. Mike E. says:

    I am very concerned about this as well. I am not exaggerating when I say I don’t think my 14-year-old grandson has ever read a full book. It breaks my heart. He reads. Everything he reads is online. Mostly he reads things about his favorite video game. He unfortunately is the product of a broken home in a blended family. First things first. I am taking him through a catechism. If anyone might be moved to pray for him and his little brother, I would so appreciate that.

  2. Duane Arnold says:

    Mike E.

    Will certainly pray. I volunteered as a literacy tutor for about a year in Detroit and again here in Indy almost 20 years ago. Both times were essentially pre-digital. When there was no alternative, you could make the case for reading at a high school/college level. My sense is that this is a more difficult argument to make today…

  3. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Very good article Duane.
    I have always been a big reader – my wife? – not so much, almost non existent. My kids are light to medium readers, but they do read.
    My grandkids are big readers and readers of actual bound books – even the 3 high schoolers bring books up here when away from their parents.

    I tell them if they develop the habit of a couple of books a month, in the future they will be ahead of 90% of their society.

  4. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks… I keep wondering how the lack of deep and broad knowledge will shape future church life. It is a worry…

  5. Jean says:


    I would like to be with you, because I also am an avid reader, however, I can’t join you entirely, because I believe that quality is far more important than quantity, and our current American culture is saturated by poor quality and pseudo experts and scholars in fields that run from theology to health science.

    This may not be your point, and I apologize if I have misread you, but I think a person would be far better off with the Bible and a single good liturgy than by reading 1000 commentaries from scholars who embrace aberrant or heterodox theology. In my conversations with Christians and others who have absorbed or assimilated false teaching it is exceedingly difficult for them to be freed of it.

    One Luther scholar said of Luther:

    “Luther says that the sole purpose of all his writings and particularly his exegetical works is to lead back into the Scripture, to get every Christian and every teacher to base his faith on the bare Scripture, on the ‘nuda’ Scriptura, minus any ‘gloss,’ the good glosses no less than the false interpretations. Luther therefore, as is well known, frequently uttered the wish that all his books might perish in order that Christians might base their faith on the ‘nuda’ Scriptura, without any interpretation; every interpretation is less clear than Scripture, and every interpretation must be examined in the clearer light of Scripture. ‘No clearer book has been written on earth than Holy Scripture. Among all other books it is like the sun among all lights.’ ”

    – Francis Pieper

  6. josh hamrick says:

    Early on in seminary, I realized the pastors that I admired were all voracious readers. That was kind of the only thing they all had in common. Just stacks of books at all time. Probably made as much of an impression on me as any of my classes.

  7. Duane Arnold says:


    I’m not sure we are that far apart. I think being widely read is important and, of course, you should look for high quality materials – even if they challenge us. The problem is that literacy rates are so problematic, many cannot even access more basic written resources. BTW, in one survey I saw the statement that if you write at an 11th grade+ level, you will only be comprehensible to 3% of American adults…

  8. Duane Arnold says:


    All my heroes were always surrounded by stack of books…

  9. Jean says:

    “BTW, in one survey I saw the statement that if you write at an 11th grade+ level, you will only be comprehensible to 3% of American adults…”

    Totally agree!

    So, not only are people not reading, but they have not developed a facility for profitable reading.

  10. Duane Arnold says:


    When I took my very first Greek class 40+ years ago, we were asked to diagram a simple English sentence. 80% of the class knew how to do this. A friend of mine who still teaches told me that only 10% could do the same today. The first few weeks of the Greek class is spent teaching 4 year college graduates basic English grammar.

  11. filbertz says:

    as a teacher of junior high students, the literacy challenge is very much in my wheelhouse. Of course there are many factors to consider and boogeymen to blame, but the bottom line is example, as has been cited by some comments so far. Reading and writing is every bit as much caught as taught. I’m of the opinion that much of our inability to listen and speak to each other in civil discourse is due to the fact that we don’t interact with ideas in print anymore–whether in newsprint or in books. Most of what people consume is in tweets, FB posts, or online threads. There is little room for thought development, evidence, nuance, or thorough presentation of alternatives. This poverty of thought will lead to other forms of poverty as well.

  12. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    One thing I have been trying to retrain myself in 2020 is first turning to my reference books and not just google. I find that I become mentally lazy and do not give time for reflection on what my research is trying to accomplish. The books take longer and your thought process stays in place – even while trying to choose which book to pull of the shelf.

    When I moved and scaled down I knew I could not bring my 2,000 book library. I justified cutting down by 2/3rds as, “well, I can find it all on line.” I missed those books – even the bad ones.

  13. Duane Arnold says:


    “This poverty of thought will lead to other forms of poverty as well.”

    Well said… and I believe that it will also impoverish Christian education and formation.

  14. Duane Arnold says:


    “The books take longer and your thought process stays in place …”

    Also, you “find” other things that you did not even know that you were looking for as you comb through the book(s).

  15. Em says:

    If one has an I Q challenge, if their ability to analyze the author’s thesis is not good, can they still benefit from being voracious readers? Or are they at risk of being misled. And how does one know? 🙆

  16. Michael says:


    I have lots of commentaries from various tribes.
    All are beneficial in some way.

  17. Michael says:

    Duane has nailed my deepest frustration with our current society,
    When I care about something…whether it be theology, cats, music, or an issue, I find books and I read them
    Then I find the books those authors read and read them too.
    When I think I understand, then I speak…only to be rebuked by someone who found an article online…
    Trey will not read.
    He finds a video…

  18. Michael says:


    If someone can read and then form an opinion, they don’t have an IQ problem…

  19. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – you read books about cats? You read other books that the cat authors read?

  20. Michael says:


    I like cats.
    People send me books about cats…I read comic books, too.

  21. Michael says:

    Explaining further…
    I’m about to start a 2 volume 1500 page work about the history of universal thought in the church.
    It will wear me out.
    So, I’ll read other stuff as a refreshment while I’m reading it…I’ve got a book on the Texas music scene I’ll read in honor of Jerry Jeff Walker, I’ve got an audiobook on the story Duane wrote last week, a Batman anthology, and lots of Anglican divines and prayer books.
    I like prayer books, too.

  22. Mike E. says:

    “Trey will not read. He finds a video…” I’m afraid this boat has floated already folks. Kids today use YouTube to learn how to do things. Younger adults use Podcasts. Many of us here are older folks. It may be our time is passing. There is some really good content out there. For example, check out the Bible Project. They have a huge selections of animated videos that are mostly excellent in theology. I think what we as the church need to do is maybe….accept that this is what God has allowed. But at the same time, reading is SO important. Kinda frustrating. It’s as though we’re in the middle of a bridge…on one side are the old ways, and on the other side the new ways. We have to find a way to bridge the divide. Meet in the middle? Of course the folks at the Bible Prodect have advanced academic degrees in theology so…they’ve read a few books.

  23. Em says:

    Michael, the question is, have they formed their OWN opinion or has the author brainwashed them (God’s Book excluded)

  24. Michael says:


    Hopefully, they’re reading more than one book…

  25. Duane Arnold says:


    I think there are two issues at play here…

    1. There are those who cannot read with comprehension. This is all about literacy, that is, the actual ability to read a text with understanding. This is a familial and educational issue.

    2. There are those who think that because an article or blog is read online, they have gained some sort of expertise. Generally speaking, the comprehension here is a fraction of an inch deep and a mile wide. It is knowledge without nuance or context, whether historical or literary. This is a literacy issue that is largely of one’s own making. That is, it is a choice.

  26. Michael says:

    Mike E,
    I think you assessed this well…

  27. Michael says:



  28. Duane Arnold says:

    Mike E.

    “We have to find a way to bridge the divide.”

    That may be the challenge of the age, especially as we are dealing with at least two issues of literacy as I mentioned above … and there may be more issues not yet raised…

  29. Em says:

    Trouble is, i think, that most of today’s young people do not seem to be able to think, to analyze what they read…. Dunno, but seems that way as i compare my home schooled grandchildren with the three that went through Washington state public schools….. again… dunno 🙆

  30. Owen says:

    Good write up ,Duane. I think the value of literacy in our society really can’t be understated. One of my pet peeves for the past, oh I don’t know, at least 10 years now, has been seeing the decline in quality of advertising, mostly on signs, letterboards, etc…. Simple spelling and grammatical errors that simply wouldn’t have existed a few years ago. I can see myself being the old codger who stops his car, enters the store that posted the offending sign, and informing the manager that he/she is contributing to the decline of society…..;)

    I wish I had more time to read, I manage about one book a month in this busy family household. Currently making my way through one of Packer’s books, while my 10 year old and I do almost nightly readings of one of her favourite adventure series.

    My teenage son would rather read than do just about anything else. He’s got more books in his room than just about anything else, and only a few are comics. His room consists of a bed, dresser, and multiple bookshelves.

    I have had to do most of my reading electronically, mainly because my arthritic hands have a hard time holding a book up, or open.

    Mike E – Youtube has actually been a great source for repair videos for me, it’s quite helpful to watch someone else talk me through the steps . But it often takes a few tries to find someone competent to learn from.

  31. Owen says:


    I would be interested in hearing your experiences with the three that went through the WA state schools, as opposed to the homeschooled children.
    We have some experience with both sides – we have homeschooled for years, but early on we had two in public schools (briefly in WA state as well).

  32. Nancy Holmes says:

    I am a book lover!! When I think of this verse, I smile about three times around my head…

    “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”
    John 21:25 KJV

  33. Owen says:


    That verse always makes me want to go on a hunt, to see if there are, somewhere, more books about things Jesus did….

  34. josh hamrick says:

    My kids, 12 and 17, are big readers as are my wife and I.

    I have a decent little library of physical books here at the house, and about the same number on software. When doing any kind of study that needs to be put into a presentation of some sort, software versions are a HUGE help. You can copy and paste and it makes the reference for you. That part is wonderful. When I’m just reading for myself, I want paper.

    The biggest thing I miss about seminary was the library. They had a great library on campus, but then a seemingly limitless online catalog. Like any e-book imaginable at your finger tips. I’ve though about paying for a class per semester just to access the library.

  35. Bride of Christ says:

    I taught in the California public schools for over 30 years and I taught both of my children how to read when they were three! The eldest started kindergarten reading at the 6 th grade level and caused quite a stir at her school. I love reading and I loved teaching children how to read . The last 15 years that I taught I taught only reading to children who were struggling to learn how to read. It was challenging but nothing made me happier than seeing the smiles on my students’ faces when all the skills I taught them combined, everything “clicked”, and suddenly they were not only reading, but really enjoying to read! One of my two daughters now has a masters degree in library, media, and information technology, and the other graduated with an English degree from UCLA and writes financial reports and press releases for a very large international company. I took my kids to the library every week and we always came home with stacks and stacks of books to pour over at our leisure. I still tutor friends’ children in reading for free.

  36. Em says:

    Back in the 1940s we learned to read by being taught phonetically – early readers made it easy to sound out a word…

    Owen, honest history (as honest as history can be) was taught by my teacher daughter to her children. They knew that more than 640,000 Union soldiers died in the Civil War and the idea of reparations today seemed incongruous. The public schooled grandchildren had no idea.
    Math is a very logical discipline, but my public schooled grandchildren had no exposure to the logic…. their mathematician grand father hated “new math.”
    Class discussion? Better not question the party line…
    But i must say the public schoolers graduated H.S. as master manipulators and liars. Like the old song says a child has to be carefully taught to hate – carefully, carefully taught….
    And they are good, sincere kids now trying to unlearn those biases now. …
    Praying – needless to say

  37. Owen says:


    Sounds like a lot of the same reasons we homeschool now…… some of the curriculum up here that’s touted as normal is pretty scary.
    Yep, don’t get me started on new math, either….it defies logic sometimes. I understand trying to teach new ways to look at and attack the same problems, but I think they forget that the way math has been taught and used for decades has served us quite well.

    We do have some very interesting “class” discussions here at home – they ask a lot of good questions!

    Our oldest (married off now) was homeschooled for her first 5 or 6 years, but ended up going to public school later. We saw and had many discussions and prayer over the influences involved.

  38. Gabby says:

    Thank you for writing this, Duane. It just made me think about the concept of empathy, of perspective-taking, and how that might connect to lack of literacy. When I think back over my own life and how reading has shaped me, I realize how much reading encouraged me to see things from another point of view. It created space to put myself in another’s shoes as I heard his or her story. I know correlation does not mean causation (they drill that into our heads in psychology research!), but I wonder if there is a relationship between the decrease in reading ability and the decrease in empathy for others…

    Also, as an encouragement to those worried about the next generation, there are some of us who love reading, love the feeling of a book in our hands! Don’t lose hope in us yet 🙂

  39. Bride of Christ says:

    Em, Owen, Home school is great if you can afford it and someone can afford to stay home all day to homeschool the kids. Most can’t . That’s why Trump is pushing so hard to reopen the closed schools in the midst of a pandemic, and it’s why I volunteer my services for free to needy children. My kids turned out better than I ever dreamed it imagined they would ; both daughters are happily married to successful Christian men who admire their characters and their many accomplishments. Both my kids were in public schools their entire school years and both of them received academic merit scholarships from U. C. Universitues upon graduation from high school . The universities recognized their fine characters and academic achievements as well as their contributions to their communities through Girl Scouting, their public high school Christian Club, and our local church. I couldn’t be prouder of them and I am proud if the thousands of struggling readers who learned how to read in my public school classroom! They are the future!

  40. Em says:

    B of C, my youngest graduated high school in 1985 and here in western Washington we were beginning to see hints of what the grandchildren were going to face….
    I graduated high school – Glendale CA in 1954 and most of my graduating class went on to college and university… I just don’t see kids getting the education now that i got
    God keep

  41. I went digital about 11 years ago. When I previously lived alone, I accumulated too many books and became cluttered. The school still encourages physical books which is good. I had a kids’ account on my tablets but they default to YouTube (I had disabled Netflix).

    My son asked me tonight about something and I said it was a good thing to look up. “Yeah! I can watch the Infographics Show to…” No, I cut him off. That’s bare facts and mostly entertainment. You can look up source material on websites.

    He reluctantly agreed.

    It’s definitely a video generation. I finally put a password on the home desktop because D8 can’t control herself from YouTube.

    S10, being an Aspie, will read for long periods (and he’s 2-3 grades ahead), if I can get him focused. I tell him that when I was his age, I was reading Time-Life books on natural science such that when I took classes later in high school, I knew a lot of material and it was easy. He listens, but he doesn’t really get it….

  42. Steve says:

    If you read and follow a blog like this and read each and every comment, it is probably the equivalent of reading several books a week especially if you read all the linked posts in the linkathon. The problem for me though is that it’s not structured reading that you would get in a formal setting.

  43. jtk says:

    Perhaps it helps to add, nearly every doctor is frustrated by tons of their patients correcting their assessments or encouragements to get vaccinations by patients’ WedMD or other internet searches.

  44. Duane Arnold says:


    I’m friends with my GP. The stories he tells me are astounding…

  45. Jean says:


    One thing I notice, and while I can understanding it to a certain extent from private citizens (as a function of post-modern epistemology) but am horrified by it when it is expressed from government leaders (remember the promotion of hydroxychloroquine), is that what people accept as “truth” is what they personally experience, or learn of by anecdote, or which is generally accepted in their personal culture niche.

    In these conditions, different groups can interpret the same event using materially different sets of assumptions and truths. For example, an objective lie can be interpreted as “he doesn’t speak like a traditional politician.”

    One thing implicit in post modern thinking is that people believe that truth and knowledge assertions are used by people in power to oppress you. This seems to be playing out very much in the debates over the value and effectiveness of pandemic mitigation tools, like masks. I also see it in attacks on institutions of formal education, such as public schools and even seminaries.

  46. Duane Arnold says:


    The “personalizing” of knowledge is, I believe, part of the death of expertise. Literacy, however, plays into this. Most matters are complex and require comprehension of facts, history, language, etc. at a certain level. If that is lacking, I’m reduced to anecdotal evidence or personal experience or a one sentence explanation from the internet. When that happens, expertise or advanced knowledge is regarded as “the enemy” or being possessed by “an elite”. It is a societal problem.

  47. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    But what test do we use to assure ourselves that the “experts” aren’t “personalizing” knowledge or using post modern thinking that sways their outcomes.

    Look at the pandemic – Fauci first claimed that the virus did not spread from animals to humans. Now we know that this was truth to him at the time of his statement – but we know it was not true-truth and that he used his personal experience (the word used above) to make a determination – fail.
    Fauci also said that facemasks were not beneficial – again his truth at the time that was not truth – but it did fit his “experience” and his “personalized knowledge” — how much of this (not the actual science, but the conclusions) were based on his post modern thought?

    In other words isn’t everyone guilty of this – trying to get along with the best information you have, running it through your personalized thought process and using it accordingly – even if it ends up being wrong?

    I do know some who claim to be free of this – but I also think that is just their post modern thought process.

  48. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    let me just add that some like Fauci’s post modern, personal experience thought process may in the end be more accurate than many others – but it still runs through the same system.

  49. Duane Arnold says:

    I think part of it is “best available evidence”… but even this requires comprehension and fact based evidence is usually complex…

  50. Jean says:

    Duane, the epistemology of empirical science says that conclusions are contingent, based on the results of empirical studies, which are never closed to the entry of further data and study.

  51. Duane Arnold says:


    Indeed, it is not a closed process…

  52. MLD. On 12/31/19 this was an unknown virus. I would be expected that some early expectations would prove false. By April, we had a pretty good handle on how the virus behaves. By late year, we will have a better idea of antibody persistence. In five years we can answer if autoimmune issues are caused by covid infection.

  53. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Nathan – not my point. Fauci did the best he could, with the information he had at the time – whether true or not, he ran it through his own personalized experiences and may have used post modern thinking to come to his conclusions —- just like w all do – and what seemed to have been talked about earlier as a negative thought process.

    I just asked what a question “But what test do we use to assure ourselves that the “experts” aren’t “personalizing” knowledge or using post modern thinking that sways their outcomes?” — obviously no one has a test they use – it usually comes down to whether we like the guy or not.

  54. If your dealing with Quantum Physics, or things related to Relativity, then certainly counter intuitive think is required. Outside that, I think an average person has the ability to mentally apply themselves to learning new facts. Plus, God has given us discernment. Some more, some less.

    What seems different here is the percentage of people throwing up their hands and saying, what are we to believe. Or, making references to “science” as if it is some kind of mysterious Oracle. This is what I find confusing and maddening.

    BTW. Curious on the take of Daniel 6.

  55. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Nathan – “What seems different here is the percentage of people throwing up their hands and saying, what are we to believe?” — the interaction is probably based on the same reasoning we use when we go to another doctor for a 2nd opinion. 🙂

    What in particular about Daniel 6?

  56. Im rethinking my understanding of Dan and have been for awhile. The Disp teachings of childhood feel very empty and discombobulated. Dan 6 ferls like one of those instances. My question becane, why is it there.

  57. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Maatytthan, I am out and will answer in detail later – but Dan 6 is about Jesus and the resurrection.
    The law of the Medes and Persians play a huge part.

  58. Muff Potter says:

    Anyway, back to Dr. Arnold’s post and the topic of literacy.
    Chris Hedges wrote an excellent book that’s well worth the read:

    — Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle —

  59. Duane Arnold says:

    Muff Potter

    Not sure how I missed that one, but I just ordered it! I was familiar with Hedges’ other book, ‘American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America’…

  60. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Nathan –
    let me try to be concise. If you need more information, and I am glad to have a discussion, I would invite you to email me – (anyone here can email me.) – this thread may not be the place.
    The law of the Medes and the Persians that cannot be revoked in Daniel 6 is explained better in Esther – see Esther 3:8-9; 3:13-14; 7:3-4; 8:7-8 and 8:11-13 – What we see here is that King Ahasuerus gets stuck in his own law as did Darius in Daniel – so what can be done? The law cannot be changed or rescinded – the cure was a counter law, Esther 8:11-13.
    This is the same as God’s law, literally written in stone and cannot be changed – God is stuck (in my language) just as Ahasuerus and Darius – so he makes a counter edict – Jesus on the cross. Jesus on the cross does battle so to speak with the original law. Remember, Jesus did not come to abolish the law.
    So again, to keep it short (and these paragraphs don’t do my explanation justice) that is the gist of why Daniel 6 is in the Bible. The lion’s den? A death sentence for a man accused of breaking the king’s law, tossed in the den (a tomb), good as dead – but raised from his own tomb. As I say, if you want further discussion, email me.

  61. Duane Arnold says:

    Darius is ahistorical… just saying…

  62. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Everyone knows that. As I teach through Daniel for a 4th time in 4 church venues I teach of the many variant interpretive views, including the Jewish late dates and fables that were used in the 2nd century BC as a rallying cry to the Jews to fend off the Romans.
    Much writing that Darius was Cyrus.

  63. Thanks MLD. I’ll email too.

  1. October 29, 2020

    […] Please do a slow read through Duane W.H. Arnold’s post: […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Phoenix Preacher

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading