Knowledge at an early age can make difference

Published 1:44 am Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Little Billy’s mother pictured her son as a leader of men, gloriously wrapped in the finery of a five-star general; leading the charge to slay his enemies; and marching in review before the president to receive his Medal of Honor and in the process receiving the everlasting adulation of a grateful nation. She could just see his intelligent eyes framed by a slight frown as he examined the intricate details of a nuclear powered vehicle that would hurdle through space and discover worlds yet unknown to mankind. In her mind’s eye, he would be able to humble any man who dared to challenge him, but would be as tender as the smallest lamb; she could see him staring down the chairman of the board because he would know where of he spoke. He would be a computer whiz, a sports hero and an honorable, dutiful son. That’s how she pictured him. Then she set out to cripple him. Oh, she didn’t mean to cripple him. But she did. The law of unintended consequences reared its ugly head.

Even as the nurse laid the newborn little package in her arms she started cooing and talking baby talk — which would continue off and on throughout most of his life. As he grew and began to repeat words in the only language he could speak, she and her family would gleefully feed back to him his jumbled mutterings of misunderstanding. Every mispronunciation was repeated to him ad nauseam and the little fellow was still repeating them by the time he was in kindergarten. Even the teachers there did not — sometimes could not — correct him because the parents were sure, “he’ll grow out of it.”

You’re damned right he’ll grow out of it, but when? In the meantime grammar, pronunciation and syntax are lost until one has unlearned “baby talk”.

“No big deal,” you say. Well, if he had been taught the correct pronunciation; creating sentences and learning syntax, by the time he was in kindergarten he would be reading and understanding at today’s junior high school level and with discipline, be prepared for whatever life has to offer as he entered his teens.

No they did not mean to waste three — five — 10 years of his life — after all they all loved him — doted on him — but they crippled him. The unintended consequence of baby talk was years of unlearning before real learning could take place.

While this piece is written with tongue firmly in cheek, my old grandmother used to say look for the truth in humor. Knowledge is power and the earlier one is acquainted, with and starts to accumulate knowledge, the sooner he/she will understand this old world and his/her place in it.

Jim Bundy