Tag Archives: literacy

Eager to Learn or Not – Part 3/10

After the NCLB act became law while President G. W. Bush was still in the White House, teachers had to be both teacher, parent and responsible for the student to learn, while most of the nation seemed to believe a modern fable that every child is equal and has a right by law to be happy all the time.

However, the Constitution of the United States, which offers protection for American citizens from the tyranny of government, uses the word “equal” only eight times.

Only once does the word “equal” refer to common citizens when the Constitution says the people have equal protection of the laws.

The other seven times the word “equal” deals with the process of government and has nothing to do with people outside of the federal or state systems.

In fact, studies prove that teachers are teaching while there is plenty of evidence that some students are not learning what is being taught.

If you don’t remember what your teachers taught you about the meaning of the US Constitution (Whose fault is that?), then I suggest you visit the U.S. Constitution online and search for the word “equal” and read each section where the word is used in any of its forms.

If you want to know where “equal” was used differently than the U.S. Constitution, you will have to discover that from the Declaration of Independence, which is not the law of the United States.

Instead, the Declaration of Independence was a document signed by America’s Founding Fathers and sent to the king of England as a notice that thirteen colonies in North America (except Canada) were willing to fight to be free of the British Empire.

Once the thirteen colonies earned their freedom from the British Empire, the Declaration of Independence, became history and has never been (before and after the revolution) the law that guides the US government.

Continued on July 13, 2011 in Eager to Learn or Not – Part 4 or return to Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Eager to Learn or Not – Part 2/10

After listening to the piece about the Atlanta school scandal, I concluded that the enemies of public education (that by coincidence support the school choice voucher movement that would add billions of taxpayer dollars to the profit margins of private corporations) were at it again.

After all, the next presidential election of 2012 is starting to gather steam and the alleged failure of public education will be a topic of discussion with accusations being hurled about as if they were grenades in the hands of terrorists.

The pressure that caused these teachers and administrators in Atlanta’s public schools to cheat was due to the impossible demands set by No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which requires America’s teachers to teach as if all students are equal and eager to learn, which many are not.

An old English proverb says, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”  This idiom means that if a teacher teaches he or she cannot force the student to learn regardless of a law written in Washington D.C. by a bunch of ignorant, elected fools.

For a child to learn, he or she must come to school motivated and ready to learn, and this is often not the case, which is the reason behind the fact that not all students are equal.

There is an equation/formula that shows what it takes for a student to learn.

This formula is as simple as 1 (teacher) + 1 (student) + 1 (parent) = 3.

1. The teacher teaches

2. The students listen/pay attention, follow directions, ask questions, study, read and learn

3, parents support both teachers and students so learning takes place

 If one or two elements of that equation are missing, the education process suffers.

Continued on July 12, 2011 in Eager to Learn or Not – Part 3 or return to Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.


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Debating about the “Educated Elite” – Part 2/2

The discover what being a member of the “educated elite” means we must consider a combination of income and education. Before doing this, we should understand the definition of “elite”—

1. a group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class, enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status

2. the most powerful, rich, gifted, or educated members of a group, community, etc

3. a group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status

There is no way that students in the Part 1 video, that have not completed college or might never graduate, belong to the “educated elite”.

If you click on this link at Wikipedia, you will discover that the “educated elite” are those that graduated from college with at least a BA and are earning at or above the medium for their educational level.

The higher the earnings linked to education, the higher the elite status. The median household income in the US is $45,016 annually while households with less than a 9th grade education earn less than $19,000 compared to the median income of a Bachelor’s degree at $68,728 climbing to $100,000 annually for a household income from Professional degrees, which represents the real “educated elite”.

Since we have no way of knowing that any of those people on that video filmed at CSU Fresno (in Part 1) belong to the real “educated elite”, it is wrong to infer colleges are not doing their job.

At first I thought I wouldn’t have signed the ban. Now that I’ve had a few hours to think, I changed my mind and would sign knowing that due to the Constitution and the guarantee of free speech in America that Limbaugh and Beck would not be banned as they might be in Cuba, the USSR or China.

The reason I’d sign is a way to protest how these two and others like them have taken advantage of free speech in the US to twist the facts to deceive the uneducated or the functional illiterate. which is a much larger number than the “educated elite”.

Functional illiteracy in the United States is growing at a rate of over 2 million new inductees per year into its ranks… Statistics show that functional illiterates in this country:

  1. Constitute 70% of the prisoners in state and federal prisons
  2. That 85% of juvenile offenders are classified as functionally or marginally illiterate
  3. That 43% of those with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty
  4. Over 42 million American adults can’t read
  5. Another 50 million read at fourth or fifth grade levels
  6. The total number of functionally illiterate adults increases by approximately 2.25 million persons every single year

My “old” conservative friend inferred that the people signing that ban we see in the Part 1 video were examples of America’s “educated elite”.  Really?  That’s quite a stretch after considering all the facts.  One fact for sure, although Rush Limbaugh earns much more than most of the educated elite, he doesn’t belong to that group since he never graduated from college.

Return to Debating about the “Educated Elite” – Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Education, media, politics


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Education’s Accountability Dilemma

In a recent March 2011, 60 Minute segment, Katie Couric reported on an experimental New York City charter school founded on the idea that paying teachers $125,000 annually would attract the best people for the job and make a difference.

The principal’s name was Zeke Venderhoek. The students were mostly African American and Hispanic and almost all came from poor families. The teachers often put in 80 to 90 hour weeks.

When the fifth graders from Venderhoek’s charter school took the New York State Math and Reading Exam, the results revealed that on average the public schools in the district scored better than the charter school.

At the conclusion of 60 Minutes, Venderhoek said one year wasn’t enough to show improvement.


Wait a minute!

I taught in public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005) in a barrio with multi-generation, Latino street gangs, and often worked 60 to 100 hour weeks. From my classroom doorway, I witnessed a drive by shooting one year. Another year, in the evening when I was working late, a student was gunned down outside my room next to the school gate as he was leaving the campus.

However, over the years, district records revealed that my students often outperformed all other student in the district at the same grade level on standardized tests with improved writing skills. District administration said the records showed this to be true year after year and I did not teach in a charter school.

In the early 1980s, one African-American mother with a seventh grade, twelve-year-old daughter came to me. The mother was upset because the previous year’s standardized test scores said her daughter was reading several years behind grade level.

I told the mother the only way that would change was for her to turn off the TV and spend time with her daughter every evening and on weekends making sure her daughter did the homework, studied for tests and quizzes and read at least one hour or more every night seven days a week with a discussion before bedtime about what had been read. If there were questions, call me.

By the end of the year, that student’s literacy level had improved five years. That mother made the difference, and my mother did the same thing for me when I was in grade school. Without my mother’s effort at home, I would not be able to read today.

Why couldn’t Venderhoek’s Charter School show similar results?

The answer may be found from a 2009 Stanford University Charter School study that discovered only 17% of almost 5,000 nationwide charter school delivered on the promise that they would succeed where public schools often failed.

Seventeen percent is a FAILING grade and many of these charter schools had smaller class sizes, longer school years and days with stricter behavior codes with school uniforms.

In fact, students that did not perform could be sent back to the public schools, which is something private school may also do.

When will the country wake up and hold parents and students responsible to turn off the TV, shut down the Internet, study, do homework and read? Teachers cannot do it alone.

Discover why Some Teachers Should Earn Combat Pay


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


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Measuring the Success or Failure of Public Education in the United States through Literacy – (Viewed as Single Page)

There are many ways to measure the success or failure of public education in the United States, and one way is to compare functional Illiteracy in the United States to similar English speaking countries and Mexico, because culture plays an important role in children’s attitude toward education and literacy.

It’s arguable that the four MOST similar countries/cultures in the world, when compared to the United States, are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, because they share an Anglo Saxon heritage, culture, and the same language. In addition, almost 80% of the U.S. population is white alone (in 2013, 77.7% were white), and the more than 13% who are African American, who have been in the U.S. for several generations, due to slavery, are no longer linked to an African cultural heritage. If you doubt that, consider that 78% of African Americans are Protestants and 5% are Catholics and—forced—immigration from Africa stopped and/or slowed drastically after the Civil War in 1865. What this means is that African Americans with roots that reach back 150 years or more are culturally American. If interested in this topic, I suggest you read a study out of Yale: African vs. African-American: a shared complexion does not guarantee racial solidarity

The United Nations defines illiteracy as the inability to read and write a simple sentence in any language, and it’s arguable that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn—if not the most difficult—if it is your second language. To understand this, I suggest you read 10 Reasons Why English is a Hard Language

The BBC asked, How many hours does it take to be fluent in English?

Huan Japes, deputy chief executive of English UK, a trade body for language colleges, says a rule of thumb is 360 hours—120 hours for each of three stages—to get to the standard the government expects benefit claimants to reach. …

Dr Elaine Boyd, head of English language at Trinity College London, says, “If someone is really highly motivated, they can learn really quickly. It’s common for children under the age of 11 to be very immersed and be fluent in about six months.” …

Philida Schellekens, a language consultant, says that when she researched English language learning in Australia a decade ago the figure of 1,765 hours was used. That could mean four years of classes. It signifies the standard needed to do a clerical job in an office.

In English Spelling Confuses Everyone, Professor Julius Nyikos, a linguistics expert born and raised in Hungary, learned numerous languages in his elementary school, high school, and university training. He came to the US in 1949 and, after a few years of studying English, was able to continue his profession as a linguist that he began in Europe. He spent many years as a professor at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania studying the languages of the world. In his scholarly article for the 1987 Linguistics Association of Canada and the United States Forum, titled “A Linguistic Perspective of Functional Illiteracy,” he made the statement, “It would be both ludicrous and tragic if it took lawsuits to jolt us into the realization that neither the teachers, nor the schools should be faulted as much as our orthography [spelling], which is incomparably more intricate than that of any other language (emphasis added). If English is not the absolute worst alphabetic spelling in the world, it is certainly among the most illogical, inconsistent, and confusing. This is due to the developmental history of the present.”

Literacy is the ability to read and write. In modern context, the word means reading and writing in a level adequate for written communication and generally a level that enables one to successfully function at certain levels of a society.

The standards of what level constitutes “literacy” vary between societies.

In the United States alone, one in seven persons (i.e., over 40 million people) can barely read a job offer or utility bill, which arguably makes them functionally illiterate in a developed country such as the US.

In 2003 the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), conducted by the US Department of Education, found that fourteen percent of American adults scored at this “below basic” level in prose literacy. More than half of these persons did not have a high-school diploma or GED. Thirty-nine percent of persons at this level were Hispanic; twenty percent were Black; and thirty-seven percent were White.

Now, to compare the five countries listed in the post to the United States.

First – Mexico: The OECD reports that 7.2 years is the average years of schooling of adults in Mexico.

Second – Canada: In 2012, Indicators of Well-being in Canada reported that 22% of adult Canadians had less than a high school education in addition to 16.5% reading at Level 1 or Below Level 1. Canada has five literacy levels. Canada’s Below Level 1 and Level 1 are equal to Below Basic in the United States. 83.9% of Canadians read at levels 2, 3, and 4/5. If Canada measures literacy the same as the United Kingdom, then 48.5% are ranked at Level 2 and below and are functionally illiterate.

Third – United KingdomThe Telegraph reported that one in five Brits is functionally illiterate—that’s 20% that read below level 2, the common definition of functional illiteracy, and the OECD reports that the UK is ranked 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy out of 24 countries.

Fourth – Australia: Uses the same five level literacy skill level rating system as the UK and Canada, and in 2006, almost 46.4% of adults read at Level 2 or below and were functionally illiterate.

Fifth – New Zealand: The distribution of literacy skills within the New Zealand population is similar to that of Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Analysis of New Zealand Data from the International Adult Literacy Survey reports that 45% of adult New Zealanders were in Levels 1 and 2 for prose literacy. 5731 and 5495

Sixth – United States: 14% or 30 million were ranked below basic on the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), and 49% of adults who ranked below basic had less than/some high school but did not graduate from high school or earn a GED/high school equivalency. The United States has four literacy levels compared to five for the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 87 percent of American’s read at basic or above.  65 percent read Intermediate and above. As reported by the OECD, one in six adults (16.6%) in the United States scored below level 2, in literacy.

In Conclusion, in case you are wondering why I included Mexico in this comparison, the PEW Research Hispanic Trends Project reports that “The number of Hispanic students in the U.S. public schools nearly doubled from 1990 to 2006, accounting for 60% of the total growth in public school enrollments over that period. There are now approximately 10-million Hispanic students in the nation’s public kindergartens and its elementary and high schools; they make up about one-in-five public school students in the United States. Most if not all of these students come from the poorest population in Mexico, and they bring with them the same attitudes toward education that they held before they came to the United States.

Ranking functional literacy in English speaking countries and Mexico

1st Place: In the United Kingdom, 80% read at Level 3 or above.

What explains the UK having such a low functional illiteracy rate? The reports that the “UK publishes more books per capita than any other country.” Does this translate into the UK being a more literate society? If this is the reason, it might be a cultural difference between the other major English speaking countries with similar cultural heritages.

2nd Place:  In the United States, 65% read Intermediate Level or above.

3rd Place: In New Zealand, 55% of adults read at level 3 or above

4th Place: In Australia, 53.6% of adults read at level 3 or above

5th Place: In Canada, 51.5% of adults read at level 3 or above

6th Place: In Mexico, 64% of adults do not have a high school degree or its equivalent, and the The World Bank estimates that in 2012, 52.3-percent of Mexicans lived in poverty in their home country compared to 15-percent of the U.S. population who live in poverty—and 25.6% or about 12 million are Hispanic, and 35-percent or 6 million of the 16 million children who live in poverty in the U.S. were also Hispanic. In fact, over half of Mexican youth at age 15 are functionally illiterate and cannot solve simple equations or explain basic scientific phenomenon.

In addition, the New York Times reports that many of these children from Latin America are boys between ages 15 and 17 when they arrive in the United States, and they come from some of the poorest regions in those countries. Do you think these children arrived in the U.S. functionally literate in their own language?


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).


His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”


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Starting school at age seven—some claim—would be better [Viewed as Single Page]

The UK’s Telegraph reports, “Formal schooling should be delayed until the age of six or seven because early education is causing profound damage to children, an influential lobby of almost 130 experts warns.”

Why do I disagree with these so-called experts?

The last time fools [my opinion]—like these—sparked a revolution in raising children, it led to the average American parent boosting a false sense of self-esteem in his or her children raising a generation of narcissists and/or sociopaths as recent studies have pointed out.

The self-esteem hot-air bubble also led to inflating grades and dumbing down the curriculum in the public schools so children would feel better about themselves. [See New Study Reveals Most Children Unrepentant Sociopaths and We are raising a generation of deluded narcissists]

I’m sure some of these so-called experts will argue that in Finland children start school at age seven, and Finland has one of the most successful public school systems in the world.

But what you will probably not hear is that most parents in Finland start teaching their children a love of reading as early as age three—at home; are very supportive of education and teachers and that Finland’s teachers, who are in charge in the classroom, belong to a very strong teachers union.

Parents in Finland do not wait for teachers to do their job for them—a job made difficult for teachers in the United States where many children who have not been exposed to books at an early age have no love of reading when they enter the classroom for the first time [at any age].

Why can’t America just copy what Finland does in its public education system?

Because Finland’s population of 5.2 million is almost 100% white and 79% belong to the same religion, the Lutheran Church—and I’m sure that this has something to do with family values being similar and not as diverse as in the United States. [Note: In America there are more than 310 different religions and denominations and almost 30 million do not belong to any religion]

For a fair comparison of Finland to the United States [with a population of 316.7 million], we should turn to Wisconsin where the population is 88.2% white.

Why did I pick Wisconsin? Because its on-time high school graduation rate is 90.7% compared to the national average of 77.9%.

There are also other states that compare to Finland. For a few examples:

Vermont’s population is 95.4% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 89.6%.

Minnesota is 86.5% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 87.4%

North Dakota is 90.1% white, and it also has an on-time high school graduation rate of 87.4%

Iowa is 92.8% white and it has an on-time high school graduation rate of 85.7%

Now let’s look at the state with the lowest on-time high school graduation rate in America—Nevada has a white population of 77.1% [below the national average of 77.9%]. Hispanics/Latinos make up 27.3% of Nevada’s population and 8.9% are Black or African American.  And Nevada’s on-time high school graduation rate was 56.3%. Source: America’s Health

How about comparing the on-time high school graduation rate by race for the entire United States?

Comparing the on-time high school graduation rate by race for the entire United States shows a truth many may not want to admit.  And before you blame it on racism and discrimination consider that Asian-Americans are a minority with a history of brutal discrimination in the United States, but that discrimination has not held them back from achieving academic success.

The Asian-American on-time high school graduation rate was 93.5% in 2010 [Source:]
For Whites: 83%
Hispanics: 71.4%
Blacks: 66.1%

Next, a look at the Hispanic/Latino culture:

If we look closer it is easy to discover the cultural differences between the average family values of Hispanic and Blacks in America when it comes to literacy and education, and it has nothing to do with racism or discrimination.

Only parents can make sure that the TV is turned off and homework gets done.

 For example, Inside reports that Mexican youth have the highest dropout rate in New York City. “Mexicans are both the fastest growing and youngest major ethnic group in New York City, with nearly half under the age of 25. Yet only 37 percent of the city’s Mexican population, ages 16-24, are enrolled in school…”

Why the high dropout rate among Mexican students in NYC?  All we have to do is look at Mexico for a powerful example that demonstrates how the average family values an education in this culture. “High-school graduation rates therefore provide a good indication of whether a country is preparing its students to meet the minimum requirements of the job market. In Mexico, 36% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, much lower than the OECD average of 74%.” Source: oecd better life

Regarding Latin America and the Caribbean, says, “By the time these students reach the 6th grade, 20% will still be functionally illiterate. … Many factors contribute to the low literacy rates, but primarily disorganized schools and poorly trained teachers. … When children cannot read, it limits their ability to learn other subjects such as math or science and also impacts their ability to participate in society in the long run.”

If people are not taught to value education in their home countries before they immigrate to the United States, why should that attitude change after they arrive in America?

What factors in America’s Black community/subculture play an important role that makes it difficult to achieve functional literacy?

Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity [Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]:

Black: 35%
Hispanic: 33%
Other: 23%
White: 13%

Single Parent Households by race [Source: Kids]

Black: 67%
American Indian: 53%
Hispanic or Latino: 42%
White: 25%
Asian or Pacific Islander: 17%

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing says, “The powerful impact of poverty on literacy development has been well documented. Children of poverty, in addition to the obvious problems they face, have very little access to reading material ; they have fewer books in the home, inferior public libraries, inferior school libraries, and inferior classroom libraries, (e.g. Duke, 2000; Neuman and Celano, 2001). This means, of course, that they have fewer opportunities to read, and therefore make less progress in developing literacy.”

 “Children from broken families [meaning one-parent families. I understand from my research that the term broken families is not politically correct in the United States at this time] are nearly five times more likely to suffer damaging mental troubles than those whose parents stay together, Government research has found. It also showed that two parents are much better than one if children are to avoid slipping into emotional distress and anti-social behaviour. The findings say that children’s family backgrounds are as important—if not more so—than whether their home is poor, workless, has bad health, or has no one with any educational qualifications.” Source: Daily

America is a complex multicultural, multiracial country with the world’s third largest population behind China and India. Finland doesn’t compare.

 If you are still not convinced, then let’s look at literacy levels by race in the United States There are four literacy levels: below basic, basic, intermediate and proficient. We are going to compare Intermediate and proficient—the two highest literacy levels—by race.

Sixty-eight percent of whites read at the two higher literacy levels; 54% of Asians; 33% Blacks, and 27% Hispanics. Source: National Center for Education Statistics at

The National Association for the Education of Young Children [] says, “Children take their first critical steps toward learning to read and write very early in life. … But the ability to read and write does not develop naturally, without careful planning and instruction. Children need regular and active interactions with print. …

“The single most important activity for building these under- standings and skills essential for reading success appears to be reading aloud to children (Wells 1985; Bus, Van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini 1995). High-quality book reading occurs when children feel emotionally secure (Bus & Van Ijzendoorn 1995; Bus et al. 1997) and are active participants in reading (Whitehurst et al. 1994).”

In addition, says that parents and family members should read daily [in front of and with their children]; read to children and encourage them to read to you; encourage children to use and enjoy print for many purposes; continue to support children’s learning and interest by visiting the library and bookstores with them on a regular basis.

This latest nonsense that children should just have fun and play to age seven before starting school and then start learning to read is a recipe for a disaster of biblical proportions. Learning to love reading [and books] should be a fun activity that starts in the home at an early age as it does in Finland.

However, because the evidence suggests that too many American parents—especially among Blacks and Hispanics—do not make reading/literacy important at home; early education programs that start at a young age and focus on literacy must not be abandoned.

Another way to look at this issue is to study the family values of Black and Hispanic/Latino students who are successful in school and are reading at or above grade level. What is the difference between successful families and those who are not succeeding?

I’m sure we don’t need a study to answer that question.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran who taught in the public schools for thirty years.

His latest novel is the award winning Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”



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