Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Baby Einstein Controversy

So now Baby Einstein is the worst thing ever. Parents have been "tricked." Tricked, I tell ya! Do I detect a whiff of eau de lawyer in the air?


We have very much enjoyed Baby Einstein at our house. Why? Two reasons: The little ones like it and they are very low on what I refer to as the Parent Annoyance Scale. (For reference, Dora the Explorer, for all its puported educational value, is a solid 10 on the PAS.) They are great in the car on long trips or in the middle of the night when people are inexplicably awake or for when Mommy absolutely needs to answer an important phone call or make dinner.

In all those years of viewing, we never once imagined that we were creating little geniuses with a simple push of a Play Button. To the best of my knowledge, the Baby Einstein Company never claimed that these videos would make kids smarter (please correct me if I have my facts wrong), but even if they did, anyone with any reasonable amount of intelligence should be able to spot the ridiculousness of such an argument. They're videos for crying out loud! Any parent who actually believes that these videos are some kind of subliminal genius education is delusional. (And if I may be permitted a slightly off-topic rant--and I may, this being my blog--this is the same thing as believing that simply sending your child to school means it will be educated.)

For parents and researchers to claim that there Julie Clark and/or the Disney Company have been knowingly pushing "snake oil" on poor unwitting ("unwitting" being the operative word) parents is utterly dishonest.

From what I know of Julie Clark, she created these videos because she wanted her own kids to look at real art and hear classical music instead of the usual children's drivel. Guess what? Actual art and good music are more interesting to children and adults alike.

And the other point I know she's always tried to make is that parents are supposed to watch these shows with their children. According to the "trickery" article referenced above:
". . . the youngest babies seem to learn language best from people."
According to the Baby Einstein website:
"The Baby Einstein Company believes, and the child development experts with whom we have consulted agreed, that parent-child interaction is one of the most critical elements to the development of a healthy and happy baby during the first three years of life."
Am I missing something? How is this snake oil? I guess it must be the use of the name "Einstein" which I must confess I never thought about in terms of marketing claims until this very moment. Still. I can call my cat "Einstein"--doesn't make it a genius.

Also, I think this is another case where popular media latches on to a catchy idea and then runs it so often and so hard that eventually non-thinking people accept what the media says at face value. That's what happened with the Mozart Effect in the first place (global warming, too). Now they're trying to do the Baby Einstein company in.

Not too long ago, the "Mozart Effect" was debunked. But I guess someone realized that Mozart, being dead (and when he was alive, quite penniless) couldn't be sued for damages. The Disney Company has a few more assets though.

Here's a thought: Parents, do your own thinking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing you think repetition of the word "tricked", use of the word "ya" and inclusion of a french phrase in your opening sentences add weight to your point of view.

It took me about 5 minutes of viewing to understand that the videos had been made by an imbecile and that stupid parents everywhere had been duped by the word "einstein" in the brand name. That is before I was even aware of there being a controversy. Needless to say I ceased to cripple my daughter's mind with the image-drivel.