baby einstein, more harm that good, and how we’re failing our most brilliant kids

I was reading “Time” on the flight back from Atlanta. They had an interesting article on young geniuses and how we as a nation aren’t doing enough to encourage them and keep them intellectually stimulated. It appears that programs established to help keep them engaged, etc, have suffered massive cuts since the roll out of Bush’s No Child Left Behind program. Here’s a clip from the article:

…American schools spend more than $8 billion a year educating the mentally retarded. Spending on the gifted isn’t even tabulated in some states, but by the most generous calculation, we spend no more than $800 million on gifted programs. But it can’t make sense to spend 10 times as much to try to bring low-achieving students to mere proficiency as we do to nurture those with the greatest potential…

According to the article, funding for the education of gifted children in Michigan went from $5 million to $500,000 in the wake of No Child Left Behind, when the emphasis was shifted to the lowest common denominator.

The article also contained an interesting sidebar on the “Baby Einstein” phenomenon. Here’s what it says:

There are no shortcuts when it comes to learning, and that applies to becoming a prodigy as well. Popular videos such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby series have attracted millions of parents eager to give their babies an intellectual leg up. But a recent study shows that these products may be doing more harm than good. Experts at the University of Washington reported early in August that for every hour each day that infants watched the kaleidoscope of changing images and music on these DVDs, they understood an average of seven fewer words than babies who did not use such products…

One wonders how that one short blurb might effect the sales of Baby Einstein DVDs, which, last year, brought in over $200 million… I suspect we’ll see a hell of a lot of advertising over the next few months as the company tries to keep pushing their crap on new, insecure parents.

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  1. Dirtgrain
    Posted August 20, 2007 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    It figures Americans would plop their kids in front of TVs to make them smarter. How dumb can we be? Snake oil.

  2. Citizen Blogger
    Posted August 20, 2007 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    What? Listening to Bach while watching a televised lava lamp impedes babies’ linguistic skills? Dude…that’s, like, a total bummer.

    And, p.s., who the f*** reads to their kid from a “digital board book”. Is this really anything more than an excuse to get small children to watch more television – at $19.99 a pop?

  3. dan
    Posted August 20, 2007 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I was listening to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!” the other day and they talked about the Baby Einstein story. They said the study showed that babies actually gain more intelligence from watching American Idol than they do from those DVDs.

  4. Ol' E Cross
    Posted August 20, 2007 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Baby Einstein is for pointy-headed chumps which is why my daughter has been raised on Baby Rockefeller (TM).

    She may not have a lot of fancy words, but she knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it.

  5. Steph
    Posted August 21, 2007 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Can’t the Einstein estate get some kind of injunction against the company? Or, I wonder if maybe they licensed the rights to his name. That would be pretty shitty, me thinks.

  6. Robert
    Posted August 24, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    The toughest parts for me in following the Baby Einstein program was dropping out of school and never brushing my hair.

  7. mark
    Posted August 24, 2007 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Einstein was also, apparently, a serial womanizer.

    Actually that’s not fair. I don’t know that he was a womanizer. That has a bad connotation. Let’s just say he fucked a lot of women he wasn’t married to.

    Anyway, it’s at that point in the Baby Einstein tapes that I always feel a bit squeamish. I don’t need to see Baby Einstein in a silk smoking jacket talkin’ about his “crib.”

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