by Fudia Muhammad
In his monumental book, A Torchlight for America, The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan explained that what we deem to be education in America is contrary to the true purpose of education. He writes, “Education is supposed to be the proper cultivation of the gifts and talents of the individual through the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge satisfies our natural thirst for gaining that which will make us one with our Maker. So true education cultivates – mind, body and spirit – by bringing us closer to fulfilling our purpose for being, which is to reflect Allah (God). The second purpose for education, after self-cultivation, is to teach us how to give proper service to self, family, community, nation and then to the world” (p. 47)
We are taught that everything that Allah (God) created has an aim and purpose – and anything without aim and purpose is considered nothing. We are born into the world with an innate aim and purpose that drives us to know more about ourselves; and as a result know more about God. True education will allow us to justify our existence by understanding the aim and purpose for our being. Conventional education is deeply flawed because it focuses on superimposing external information, masked as preeminent knowledge and wisdom, which allows us to be better suited for this world; not the Kingdom of God.
The word ‘education’ comes from the Latin word, ‘educere,’ which means, “to bring out what is within.” The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said that children today are born with the intelligence for their era of time in history; so every generation is genetically capable of solving the problems of its time. Therefore, our children are more advanced than we are; however, we can unknowingly limit them based on our own limitations – forcing them to ingest outdated information and data. We must bring out what God has already put in. Student Minister Ava Muhammad, National Spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, stated that at the age of three, our children are more intelligent than we are at the age of thirty. They are more intelligent, but we know more – there is a difference. This gives us the awesome responsibility of helping them to utilize their intelligence.
In the book, Closing the Gap: Inner Views of the Heart, Mind & Soul of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Minister gives the following response to a question by Brother Jabril Muhammad concerning education: “The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said to me, ‘As in geometry, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So, it is in education.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you start the course where you intend to finish. You’ll be surprised how quickly the children are able to grasp the end of the course. And you are wasting valuable time leading up to something that they could grasp if you had the mind to teach.’ He said that, ‘At six years old, we should know what we want to do with our life’ ”(p. 393-394). The concept of ‘starting where you intend to finish,’ is applicable at every level of education – primary school through graduate school. But if understood, it can also be applied at the genesis of learning –infancy.
If we ask younger children what they want to become when they grow up, what do they typically say? They want to become a firefighter, a police officer, a doctor, or a teacher. Why do they choose these types of professions? Could it be that they have experienced or witnessed the end of the course – someone in their life or on television who is already working in that field makes it look appealing? They have no idea how much time is spent studying or training; how much money it costs to acquire the requisite skills or education; how much they need to grasp about physics, geography, chemistry or psychology. There is probably no tangible evidence that verifies that this child in fact wants to become a doctor, but they say it anyway because they have a visual of where they intend to finish. That’s powerful!
The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad said, “You can have a university under a tree, as long as you are teaching subjects pertaining to the universe.” He said that children can learn as soon as we are able to teach them. We are taught to begin teaching our children while they are yet in the womb. So it is puzzling that so many of us take a twelve-month break from teaching our babies after they are born. We wait until they are one, two or three-years-old before we expose them to the fundamentals of literacy and arithmetic. Some parents even wait to send them to Kindergarten and leave it up to the teacher. If the baby can learn while in the womb – and he can – then the baby can certainly learn at six-weeks-old or at three months old.
In order to bring out what is within, our children must have basic training and fundamental tools; one of which is literacy. So how can we apply the concept of ‘starting the course where you intend to finish,’ with our infants while having literacy at the forefront? We must begin with the end in mind. For example, babies (infants) learn primarily through rote learning, which is memorization. Memorization is accomplished by repetition. We know that ultimately we want understanding; but there is great value in memorizing as an early learner. The method of rote learning is used primarily to learn alphabets, numbers, colors, and basic shapes. Later, we continue to use it to learn our multiplication facts and sight words (particularly those that do not conform to phonetic rules). But our babies can begin learning their alphabets, numbers, colors, shapes, body parts, action words, names of people, and more when they are just a couple of months old! They will not be able to show us what they have learned until a little later; but all the while, if we remain consistent, their brain will record and memorize everything. In time, they will be able to speak or physically demonstrate what they know.
So if the goal is reading; then we should start with reading whole-words. Purchase or create large flashcards (wait until later for screen time). Remember, they are born ready to learn. If we wait until they are four or five, then we have to start with phonemic awareness and phonics. But, if we teach them in infancy, then we can use the whole-word method. Show them the card and simultaneously say the alphabet or the word. The print should be neat and large; and our pronunciation should be clear. Their brains are like sponges at this age, so take full advantage and stimulate their brain activity during this rapid season of growth. Gradually increase to more words and stay consistent; even if it is only for 15-minutes a day. It is most effective to do short 5-minute intervals several times a day. The same can be done with learning action words, names of people, body parts, etc.
As the baby gets older, he will be able to express what he knows even before he can speak – by using gestures and other indicators. When we ask for a letter or word, he will grab the card. When he sees the word, ‘stomach,’ he will touch his stomach. When he sees the word ‘clap,’ he will clap. When he sees the name, ‘Farrakhan,’ he will go to his picture. By the time they are ready to speak, they will already know how to read. It sounds counterintuitive, but having this foundation will make the introduction of phonics and decoding easier. And more important, the mechanics of learning will not be a struggle because it is not a foreign concept, having done it since infancy.
Remember, the first revelation and instructions given to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was to read. “Read in the name of thy Lord who creates – Creates man from a clot, Read and thy Lord is most Generous, Who taught by the pen, Taught man what he knew not” (Holy Qur’an 96: 1-5). The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said that our life depends on our willingness to read. With so much that needs to be accomplished, let’s not waste time. Start the course where you intend to finish. We can give our children an amazing head-start and help them to cross that finish line in record time!
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)