HOW TO GIVE YOUR CHILD A PRICELESS EDUCATIONAL ADVANTAGE AT HOME, FREE, by Helen K. Billings, Ft. Lauderdale: Billings Foundation, 1976, 66 pp., $3.00 (pb).
Madame Montessori was once asked by a mother of a ten-month-old boy when she should begin the child's education. "Eleven months ago," she said. We are beginning to realize that babies hear parents before birth, helping to attune their minds to parental lingo.
When the schools promise that they can "give" anybody an education, they are mistaken. Probably 98 percent of education is determined by what the mother, father, and family turned on years before. A baby's intellectual set is reached by age one and a half, when he begins to turn outward from mother. Experts can tell by age three whether or not the child will ever get a reasonably good formal education. He has learned a foreign language (his mother's) by two, and can pick up several others at the same time. Eighty percent of his intellectual attainment is reached by age six, and so on.
It is for these people that Dr. Billings has written. She is Director of Education for the Montessori Institute of America, was recently knighted by the Knights of Malta for her work with children, and spoke to the international association of religions in India on educating for peace, among other things.
The book is a remarkable development in trying to reach parents. Thinkers in the field of child growth have been talking along these lines for years, but the word hasn't been getting out to the rest of us. Dr. O.K. Moore gave his 2½-year-old daughter an electric typewriter, and she was teaching herself to read and write by three. Instead of proposing, however, that children be given electric typewriters (small fingers can't throw the ballistic stroke needed for a manual unit), he devised a $30,000 unit that talks back to the children. Perhaps their learning is more fun, but that puts the development out of normal reach!
The book, at $3.00, is simple, direct, written for the mother more than any other. It tells the family how to make the child physically strong, emotionally secure, intellectually curious, and socially responsive and responsible—using success as a motivator, achievement as the enforcer.
Years back, I lived in Fullerton, California, and in running for school board made some studies that pointed up the doctor's views. There were two public schools, one where the professional and upper-middle-class children went, the other across the tracks, mostly latin, some black and white, but above average for them. The state of California tests for IQ or its equivalent several times in a student's career. In the privileged school, in first grade, before the schools ever got in any licks, the children were a year ahead of the national average, while those in the other school were half a year behind. By sixth grade, after five years of relatively expensive "education," the advantaged kids were only half a year ahead of the national mob, and the others were up to average. The latter had gone ahead five and a half years in five, while the youngsters with all the edge had gone ahead only four and a half years in the same time. Many of us knew that the teachers in the "other" school were dedicated, taught there because they wanted to, and observed that the youngsters went ahead together with a spirit of growth and achievement.
Then arrogant holders of doctors degrees in obfuscation attacked, forcing the school board (I didn't make it, thank heaven!) to bus the minority youngsters to other schools. You can imagine the effect on the smaller group of very young children, whose reading level was a year and a half behind that of the majority of their classmates! It was disastrous for those who were uprooted. They were treated as stupid, even incompetent, when what they needed was a situation in which they could succeed and grow.
Which gets us back to the book. We won't be able to change the public school situation much from where we are, but we can arm hundreds, thousands, and even millions of new parents with the knowledge that their child can have equal educational opportunity, but only if the family supplies it from birth. I suggest buying the books in bulk. (3550 Galt Ocean Dr., Ft. Lauderdale, FL) and working through La Leche Leagues, natural childbirth groups, and service clubs to see that every new mother gets a copy of the book. If millions are used, by the way, the price will drop sharply. Remembering that half the adults who've been slaves of the schools for years are functionally illiterate, see if you can't get Helen Billings to supply tapes to be made available in hospitals so that nonreaders can at least listen and get a glimmering of the tremendous truths of education for their children. At least in your home town, see that everyone is aware of this elemental fact, and begin to undermine the idea that education is imposed or given by subsidized empire builders.
The book itself is completely free from the larger implications I've imposed in this review. It is simple and enchanting in the superb understanding of the immense power of learning in the newest baby. Bucky Fuller says that "every child is born a genius," but it is soon beaten out of him by his family. If you want freedom, you can't get it by cutting down on government empires. You have to remove the victims on whom the empires are built. You have to give every new baby the key to a superb education, in which he can discern the elements of freedom himself. It is a big task to supply so many books to so wide a market. But liberty has to be fought and paid for. This is a lot cheaper than trying to cut out billions in educational funds leaving no alternatives.
Thomas S. Booz is an entrepreneur and libertarian activist, residing in Plantation, Florida.