Monday, October 26, 2009

Learning Disorder

I never thought I'd see the day that I was defending Disney, but here goes:

The "Controversy™" over the company's "Baby Einstein" video series is just all kinds of dumb. For the uninitiated, the Walt Disney Company has now agreed to begin offering full refunds to pitchfork-wielding parents who claim that the videos didn't in fact spontaneously make their kids into little geniuses. Admittedly, and what should be to the surprise of no one, Disney did over-hype the intellect-enhancing capabilities of the videos -- which feature lots of moving shapes, hallucinatory colors, slightly creepy puppets and, in a clever meta-twist, the faces of aptly enthralled rugrats, all set to classical music. But really, how stupid and lazy do you have to be as a parent to think that all it takes is sitting junior down in front of a TV for a few hours to transform him or her into a surefire egghead? Like these things are some magic bullet that both babysits and educates your toddler so you can spend your day either trying to get work done or slipping in and out of a Valium coma, whatever your predisposition might be.

Disney is a multi-national corporate behemoth -- of course they lie to you. If you think differently, maybe it's you who could've benefitted from a series of quasi-educational videos as a kid. Only an idiot would believe that because a product is called "Baby Einstein" it'll actually turn your child into one.

For the record, Inara loves the Baby Einstein videos and I have no problem with her watching them in moderation; in fact, I often watch them with her. She loves the music and the colors; I love the acid flashbacks the images occasionally trigger.


DXM: Montana Uber Alles/11.20.07


Suzy said...

Sounds a lot like this one where the plaintiff claims that he though "FROOT LOOPS" were really made of fruit.

Stoopid people. Really.

Felis Femina said...

Do these morons also believe that if their kids watch enough Scooby Doo they'll become little detectives or that if they watch The Sound of Music over and over again they will become a troop of singing Austrian children?

See, this is why I hate people.*

*For the record, I don't actually hate everyone but I hate enough people that I feel justified in making that generalization.

VOTAR said...

I had part of a Slinky. I straightened it.

Anonymous said...

The true genius of Baby Einstein is the fact that my 4 month old can sit quietly from 5 to 6 AM while mommy and daddy catch up on a few more Z’s. Well worth the $19.95 we plunked down.

Shannon from Saskatoon said...

You know, as a regular, dull normal kid who grew up in the 60s I used to dream extravagantly of families of crowned sea monkeys. Comic books wouldn't lie, would they? 7 foot Frankensteins, X-ray specs, 100 dolls -- allfor a dollar! ah...bliss

Then you met some kid who had the cash to actually purchase these harsh introductions to reality. Whoo,instant economic education and a chance to hear some really good swears!!!

Hmmmm, innocent kids gulled of their grubby dimes?!?! Class action lawsuit anyone?

NinjaMom said...

Oh for fuck's sake. Talk about preying on parent's fears. Unless you lock a child in a closet (which I admit is tempting at times) they're going to get brain stimulation from their/parents or siblings talking to them.

And isn't all that intelligence stuff genetic? Some kids are tall, some are short. Some are smart and some take after Great-grandpa Bubba.

I do think it's funny that people thought the videos would make their kids smart. The videos are probably better than babies watching Jerry Springer, but I don't think they're a substitute for parental interaction.

And besides, those smart know-it-all kids are annoying.

domesticdisturbia said...

I'm not surprised by this at all. Do you know how many friends I have that are constantly telling me about what DVD they are playing ad nauseum in the car, at home, during dinner, etc. that taught their little shit to read or count? I can't believe people pay the kind of money they do for DVDs that are basically board books/flash cards. And they SWEAR it taught them things. And maybe it did. But is it THAT HARD to read to your kid instead of doing that? My son watches Sesame Street and Finding Nemo and I certainly to not believe he will soon become a muppet or a fish. It is just a way for mommy to play on the computer for a minute or cook dinner or shut him up on a bad day. I fear for our generation of kids sometimes.

Dan said...

Printed the forms to return two videos that we have never watched. I have received a fair number of these over time, and while I don't think they are "bad" I never assumed they would make my kids smarter.

They never watch for long, so why not make some money off Disney for a change?

Adrienne Saia said...

@Felis Femina: No need to clarify on hating people, I'm right there with ya sister (present company excluded). That is why I have a dog.

Anyway, why don't Americans try taking their kids outside sometime, eh? Maybe then we (well, not me, but the other 75% of America) wouldn't be so goddamn fat.

Benoit from Ottawa said...

Isn't the right to sue frivolously conferred by the 16th amendment? No?

Missy said...

Maybe if the President of the Fricking United States hadn't honored the creator of these things people wouldn't be so stupid about them... or maybe our electing him just reflected the stupid? Bah. either way, as long as you use them the same way you would the lights on a swing or bouncy chair, fine.

But I would say- not everyone is above average intelligence. In fact, i could be wrong, but what, like 50% of us are below average? :) Knowing that, I can see some poor stressed out mom think that putting her kid in front of a Baby Einstein video would be better than having the rugrat sit around while dinner was made or listen to older people talk. Then to find out the exact OPPOSITE is true- that would be frustrating.

brite said...

Ok. Now I want the Baby Einstein dvds so I can have acid flashbacks too!

kanye said...

I knew that it had to be out there, somewhere. Sure enough...

Baby Einstein, meet Baby Rammstein.

Stephen said...

I've found the complete seasons of the Muppet Show to be much more valuable to my daughter and myself. If you're going to camp them in front of the tv, at least put on something that will make you both laugh and sing (The Lou Rawls episode is our favorite).
When she wants to do anything remotely educational the TV goes off and we build, draw, look at flashcards, read, etc.
Besides, Einstein was a horrible student. Baby Fuller might have been a better choice of title.

Peter L. Winkler said...

The packaging and marketing strongly suggests that the videos are educational, which is a much more modest and superficially plausible claim than that they will make your child a genius.

The videos have no educational value, so are falsely advertised. The FTC's action is perfectly justified.

People should always exercise skepticism in purchasing products, but since it is possible for a video to have some educational value, parents who purchased them relying on that assumption, which was created by Disney, weren't necessarily being gullible.

It's a shame that the FTC, since Reagan, has been underfunded and politically hobbled. There are many other companies that are deserving of similar action.

greenveldt said...

To NinjaMom:
While there is debate about how much of intelligence comes from genetics only, it definitely does not only come from your genes.
I think intelligence is assumed to be about 50% genetic and 50% environmental. But I'll bet environment will be found to play a bigger role than thought.

There is also a combination type effect, like there is potential for high intelligence [or an aspect/type of intelligence] because you have the genes for it, but if you weren't introduced to certain learning opportunities it may not develop well.

From Huffington Post:
Inside the Tripper's Brain - Scientists Create 3D Maps Of Brains On Drugs.

Anonymous said...

As the mother of a two year old, I couldn't agree more.

Janean said...

If you're dumb enough to think a DVD will make your baby a genius, then your offspring are doomed to be stupid regardless.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, if you just get your kids to read early and enjoy that, they'll amazingly start learning things on their own.

That's how I got a Bachelor's degree at 19. Thanks mom for teaching me to love reading!

Deacon Blue said...

After the first time I watched a Baby Einstein vid with my girl, I put it away forever out of fear it would mess up her head. Too psychedelic for me.

Had a similar visceral reaction to a DVD of "The Big Comfy Couch" which freaked me the fuck out.

Some stuff they make for kids just seems like video heroin, I swear.

Now, letting her watch "Teen Titans" or "Scooby Doo" or "Spongebob Squarepants" THAT'S the shit that's making her into the genius she is destined to be.

Izar Talon said...

My girlfriend had those videos for her son and he watched them all the time, and he's a frikkin' smart cookie. I don't attribute his intelligence to the videos, but they can certainly possibly help.

All the genetic predisposition in the world won't mean a thing if the environmental conditions to make the most of the potential aren't met. That's why people with good nutrition are taller in general than people who don't get enough to eat. The potential's there, but the environment needs to be there, too.

Robyn said...

my 8 yo watches the baby einsteins on tv, loves the music. i wouldn't let my kids watch that stuff when they were toddlers; they had to make do with mr rogers, barney and the teletubbies. also rocky horror picture show, labyrinth and spirited away. but i have strange taste myself.
this lawsuit is right up there with the guy charged with indecent exposure in his own kitchen. WTF?
isn't there a law against frivolous lawsuits?

Anonymous said...

first of all-screw disney! I really don't feel bad for them for even a nanosecond.

Second of all-Ninjamom said "And isn't all that intelligence stuff genetic?" Keyword being 'all,' the quick answer for you is "no."

And finally, hasn't it been shown by neurologists what watching TV does to your brain? I'm not saying I don't watch it-I do-but I also drink, and I know what that does to my liver, so I'm not trying to set any examples here.

If you want a healthy, average, well-adjusted kid, turn off the TV and play them some music, read them a book, or take them to a park so they can play outdoors.

If you want a dumb kid, send them to the cheapest babysitter you can find (aka baby einstein videos) while you do whatever it is you do all day.