[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1992/1 pp16-18, later designated J12]
[Also on this page: BEtSS progress, BEtSS history.]
[Ayb Citron: see Journals, Newsletters, Anthology, Bulletins, and about BEtSS.]

Publicizing Reform.

In mid-1991, Better Education thru Simplified Spelling had its message on 10 billboards in the Detroit, Michigan area. The Detroit Free Press publisht the following article about this event.

E-Z Wordz Bilbordz urj that speling B simplified.

For ubowt the next thre munths, 10 bilbordz in metro Detroit r urjing us tu start spellng liek this.

"Let's change: Have to hav, though to tho, through to thru" the signs say.

Abraham Citron, a retired Wayne State University professor and founder of Birmingham-based Better Education thru Simplified Spelling Inc., is leading the push to change English spelling.

"Our spelling can be described as ridiculous and outrageous and inefficient," Citron said Friday.

"Why should you spell have, H-A-V-E? You don't need the 'e'," Citron said. "We are making it more difficult to turn out good spellers, good writers and good readers."

The billboards began going up three weeks ago. Gannett Outdoor Co. of Michigan donated the space for 90 days on each sign.

Citron, 78, who once taught spelling to fifth-graders in Illinois, believes children would learn to spell faster with his phonetic program - spelling words the way they sound. Proper names would be left alone.

His group claims about 200 members in six counties, including some educators. They pay dues of $20 a year to support the cause. The group paid $69 to print the billboard posters but the space was donated free for 90 days by Gannett.

Citron began his quest for spelling reform in 1978 while teaching graduate students in education at Wayne State University. He said the students often complained about the difficulty of teaching spelling and reading.

"The more I began to look at it, the more I felt we could do a lot better with our students if we made our spelling more rational," he said. He spends about four hours a day trying to get corporations and government bodies, like the Department of Defense, to support his ideas. Many people won't listen.

"People now feel it's the way God expects us, to spell" Citron said.

Even some who are sympathetic with the cause doubt there ever will be substantial change in English spelling.

Philip Runkel, former superintendent of schools for the state, lent his name to the group, but said he no longer is involved.

'I like the concept, but it's a very difficult concept to sell" he said.

Jan Simms, who teaches spelling to third-graders at Hickory Grove Elementary School in Bloomfield Hills, said she liked the idea, but asked "where would the challenge be?"

"I can sort of understand where he's coming from," said Simms. "But there's really a history behind our words."

Citron said the roots of words would still be identifiable. He said that through gradual change, his group could have a big impact over 20 years.

Judy Hood, a language arts specialist for the Michigan Department of Education, doubts it.

"I can't see it happening within the six months or 20 years or a century, even."

BEtSS Progress Report, 1991.

Better Education thru Simplified Spelling.

One important action taken during the past year has been a more effective mobilization of our volunteer resources. Long-time president Charles F. (Chuk) Kleber was named chairman, with specific responsibility for fund-raising; Abraham F. (Ayb) Citron, former executive director, was elected president, with a charge to oversee BEtSS' programs, and public relations executive and BETSS board member Dutton Morehouse accepted the post of the executive director.

We believe the action plans being addressed by BEtSS today are the most realistic in the twelve-year history of this national nonprofit organization.

1. We wil soon hav two informational publications to send in response to inquires: A short brochure wil answer the basic questions about BEtSS and simplified spelling, and wil invite further questions.

A major booklet wil present "the case" for simplified spelling and educational reform in some detail and wil encourage recipients to become members of BEtSS.

You will receive a copy of each of these brochures as soon as they hav been printed. We encourage you to request additional copies for your own use in spreading the word that simplified spelling offers a sensible means of helping to achieve needed educational reform.

2. BETSS now has a 22-minute professionally-produced videotape which makes the case for simplified spelling graphically and persuasively. We wil be glad to loan you a copy for your review and use with business, educational, governmental and community organizations.

3. We are experimenting with methods for getting the BEtSS message in front of ever-broader audiences. Ten outdoor billboards, donated by the Gannett Outdoor Advertising company, wil appear shortly thruout the Detroit, Michigan area. We are looking forward to the opportunity to test the effectiveness of this communication tool and are considering broadening this effort to other major communities.

4. We are working to develop effective coalitions within the, business and educational communities. Spelling simplification as a primary means of educational reform is a highly cost-effective means of helping to improve workforce preparation, which has become a principal concern of American business and government.

5. We hav begun a professionally-directed public relations effort; we are embarking on a targeted membership campaign; we are working toward the publication of two books on simplified spelling; and, we are beginning to work to reach and influence government officials and elected representatives.

We hope you wil write letters to the editors of local and national newspapers and magazines, sharing your own feelings about spelling simplification and educational reform and suggesting that it be a part of the national agenda.

As we seek to broaden our base for funding solicitations, we welcome your suggestions of foundations, corporations and individuals who may be responsive to a request to become involved in our cause. In addition, we would appreciate receiving clippings as you may discover helpful articles that relate to spelling, workforce preparation, illiteracy and educational reform.

A Brief History of BEtSS.

Better Education thru Simplified Spelling was founded in 1978, by Abraham Citron. He is now retired from being a professor of Educational Administration at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. BEtSS' aim is to promote gradual, step-by-step simplification of English speuing. It expects this to take 20 to 30 years.

The Board of Directors is composed of 24 business and educational executives in Michigan including a university president and several advertising executives.

An International Advisory Board of over 100 consists of business, educational media, and other leaders from 27 states and 5 foren countries. These have included writers Isaac Asimov and S. I. Hayakawa, Professors Albert Mazurkievicz, John Downing, Valerie Yule, and also Fergus McBride of the U.K. Reading Association.

BETSS encourages business and other organizations to use "hav, tho, thru" in internal correspondence.

The, organization has emfasized getting articles in newspapers and magazines. These have ranged from the Michigan Reading Journal in 1981 to the Detroit Free Press article on the billboard project, reproduced in this issue of JSSS. In 1984, Abe Citron gave a presentation at the Sociological convention in Detroit, on "Spelling Reform as a Redistribution of Power. This was later publisht, in very condensed form in this Journal 1988 No. 1, page 33.

In 1985-6 BETSS officers met with several foundations, in Michigan and in New York City, including the ITA Foundation, to try to interest them in broadening their scope to include spelling reform within their funding guidelines.

Proposed Study Center.

Later they comnussioned a study of a possible major program. Results of this study were reported in their Fall 1988 newsletter, SOUND SPELLING, as follows:

The main recommendation of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation of Ypsilanti, Michigan in its Report to BEtSS, delivered in December, 1987, is that BEtSS create, establish, found and bring into existence a well-supported CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF SPELLING REFORM. This Center, as outlined in the Report, would hav three main functions. It would:

1. conduct research on key aspects of spelling reform hypotheses and models;

2. act as an international clearing house for information and research on English spelling reform;

3. publish and stimulate publication and dissemination of information (including research) on spelling reform.

In a special meeting in 18 January 1988, the BETSS Board of Directors accepted this recommendation of the High/Scope Report. Planning by both governing boards now assumes:

1. The Center wil be well funded.

2. The Center wil be placed as part of the operation of High/Scope, independent of BETSS.

3. BEtSS leadership and Board wil hav an important input on policy decisions of the Center. (Two members of the BEtSS Board, Dr. John Porter and William Dannemiller, are now members of the nine-member High/Scope Board.)

Following the recommendations of its President, Dr. David Weikart, the High/Scope Board has agreed to incorporate the principles of phonetic spelling reform into its well known and successful program of pre-school education.

In conversations between Dr. David Weikart and Charles Kleber, President of BEtSS, the first 12 months funds for the Center hav been tentatively placed at $800,000, with $600,000 allocated for founding expenses (personnel, research, space, equipment, etc.), and $200,000 as an endowment.

Neither Board has as yet dealt with the finances of founding such a Center, but both are convinced that the funding must be substantial. Dr. Weikart and Mr. Kleber hav discussed several specific strategies to secure the funding needed to create such a Center.

In the long history of English spelling reform, nothing like such a Center has ever existed. The leaders of both Boards hav confidence that the establishment of such a Center, together with the respected research it wil conduct, wil generate and focus national and international attention on the problem of cur spelling system at a level never before approached. They believe that research results generated and disseminated by this Center, over the years, wil help prepare key institutions for spelling change.

Unfortunately, tho substantial grants have been applied for, funding for this has not yet been secured.

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