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Baby Einstein

Disney has recently offered a refund for anyone who has purchased a Baby Einstein video in the last five years. The refund comes after it has been pointed out that the videos do not make babies any smarter than they would be otherwise. Well duh…

Since most people are under the false apprehension that Einstein failed math as a child then became the super physicist that we all know of, the whole marketing campaign under the Baby Einstein videos was akin to those late night get rich quick schemes. It promised a big reward for very little pay off. A couple of years ago I would have laughed and laughed having no idea what the videos were or why they were so popular. Since having little Gwendolyn though, I am aware of the videos and the television show, but still have no idea why they are so popular. Frankly, of all the children’s shows that Gwen and I have watched the baby Einsteins are on the lower end of tolerability. Gwen pays attention to it for about five minutes then goes back to either trying to chew on an electrical cord, kiss an electrical outlet, or dive headfirst off a couch/table.

Yo Gabba Gabba, still remains her favorite with reruns of the Twilight Show coming in at a distant second. The problem with the Baby Einstein series is that it is fundamentally misleading as I am sure the marketing people in charge wanted it to be perceived, yet common sense should indicate that sitting your child in front of a television screen offering no interaction isn’t going to do anything. Sure, it gets their attention but how is that going to make them smarter?

The same thing occurs with what I am now terming “the Mozart fallacy.” It has been shown that children who are exposed to classical music tend to be smarter than those who are not. This is a matter of public fact and knowledge. What the study that first discovered this did increase IQ in spatial intelligence but that it was only temporary. The effect wore off almost immediately. However the study was popularized leading to the term “Mozart Effect” which people interpreted to mean that listening to Mozart makes people smarter.

The effect was then transferred over to children as it was said to increase their brain development. Again, no it did not. Exposing children to music in their early years cannot be a bad thing, but the idea that just listening to one specific composer should light up the skeptic in all of us as being a bit far fetched. I’ve read that the reason children who are exposed to Mozart are typically smarter is because they are raised in an atmosphere where exposure to the arts is normal thus varying their experiences.

Think about it this way: if a man has a son, and that man watches a lot of football, used to play football, and interacts with his child using football, are we supposed to believe that just watching the sport made him want to play football? Or instead should we assume that the environment that he was raised in encouraged physical competition in one sport? It’s a question of long term nurturing not some magic component inherent in some Austrian’s music?

One researcher even compared Mozart to an audio recording of a Stephen King novel and saw the same effect. We have a bunch of the Baby Einstein books and toys, I’m willing to bet that they will have a much greater impact on her than the videos. I believe it’s about involvement and interaction rather than passivity.

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Categories: current events, philosophy
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